Forward & Introduction
“The most important attitude that can be formed in schools is that of the desire to go on learning.”
(John Dewey, 1938/1963)
The concept of Innovationism, as based in the objective and subjective aspects of the four primary education philosophies and their supporting theories, will be now be used as a foundation for the development and application of innovation education and learning pedagogical methodologies and curriculums. Once again the Innovationism thesis statement is:
Because of the rapid advancement of digital technology both inside and outside the K-12 classroom, it is believed that an educational concept which creates a balanced use of the objective and subjective educational philosophies and theories is needed to construct a framework for the creation of modernized K-12 pedagogical methodologies and curriculum.
Innovationism holds that only by combing the most effective element of the four main education philosophies of objective Essentialism and Perennialism with the subjective Progressivism and Reconstructionism can contemporary U.S. K-12 education move forward to realize an innovative learning environment that will accommodate every student regardless of venue. True educators seek to enlarge their vision and understanding, a process that begins as we enter the philosophical dialogue.
If K-12 education is to continue to progressively evolve to meet the sociological demands of a contemporary world community a harmonious blend of existing learning ideologies must be developed to maximize instructional outcomes. This K-12 education project has applied the systematic and thoughtful combination of these innovational elements, which are referred to in this study as Innovation Education and Learning, to provide all K-12 stakeholders with new and innovative tools to support blended digital and traditional education to specified learning outcomes and state standards. Included in this project is a look at some of the arguments found to support these positions.
The evidence found in the thesis “Innovationism: A Digital Age Pedagogical Concept” confirmed the need for a digital age education concept that is progressively flexible to keep pace with the rapidly changing U.S. K-12 education structure and yet conservative enough as not to lose sight of our traditional democratic values. The issues are complex but by identifying and examining their unique common denominating features it is visioned that new, self-adjusting digital age pedagogical methodologies and curriculums can be developed that will eliminated the continual ideological struggles that have retarded the advancement of student learning since the turn of the twentieth century.
It can be argued that digital technology has advanced the human condition as much, if not more so as the invention of the wheel, reading and writing and flight. It has advanced our ability to create, communicate, and educate and it is now up to us as educators to maximize its value. Progress is inevitable and digital technology has allowed us to more effectively control the application of the tools which affect the human condition.
The promise of Innovationism is that through the lens of a balanced, but not necessarily equal, approach of the objective and the subject new K-12 pedagogical methodologies can be built using digital algorithms that can self-adjust as new information is found, new techniques are developed and new awareness is realized. The common educational term of “scaffolding” (Vygotsky, 1978) is a good analogy. Rather than knee-jerk back and forth as an education ideology is challenged due to low test scores, graduation rates or drop-out figures, as new teaching learning education techniques are proven to be beneficial they are added to and built upon the existing education canon as the entire body work is strengthened.
In concert with the Innovationism concept this project will progress through the objectivity and subjectivity of: the developing child; learning theories; teaching and learning techniques and platforms; curriculum design; digital and on-line learning. Innovationism’s basic pedagogical methodology is grounded in the concept of Blended-based learning (see: Pedagogical Methodology Models) which is K-12 teaching and learning through the combination of on-line and off-line digital education tools with that of traditional paper-based learning materials.
The theoretical basis for this study is founded on the belief that because of the rapid advance of digital technology, contemporary K-12 education is in need of a canon of educational materials that reflect the requirements of a modern, world society. As Noll (2007) observed, “A careful analysis of contemporary education demands attention not only to the historical interpretation of developmental influences but also to the philosophical forces that deﬁne formal education and the social and cultural factors that form the basis of informal education” (p. xv).
Because the basic structure of the concept of Innovationism is the blending of several objective and subjective education philosophies and learning theories, it is necessary that these be put in context as the methodologies and curriculums of innovative education and learning materials and concepts are applied to a functioning contemporary pedagogical education program. As Kincheloe, et al, (2000) observed, “It follows from this realization that students and their context must be the focus of schooling and that education is a process rather than a product” (p. 47). Education is less a condition that we “impose” or “transmit” or “receive” than an experience – a process of uncovering, discovering, questioning, valuing, and consequently living a changed life.
All educational practices are based upon philosophical assumptions regarding the nature of students and the mechanisms that give rise to human learning (Ernest, 1995; Gergen, 1995). An educational pedagogy is only as meaningful as the education philosophy that guides it. It’s in the classroom where philosophy transcends the hypothetical to become practical and then functional. Without a strong pedagogical foundation it is impossible to develop or select an effective subject curriculum and deliver that curriculum to motivate and engage students.
Just as the Eastern concept of the “ying” and “yang” provide a harmonious balance to life, objectivism and subjectivism provide a balance to pedagogical practices in the classroom. Instructionism refers to an objective collection of educational practices that are teacher-focused, skill-based, product-oriented, non-interactive, and highly prescribed (Jonassen, 1996). In contrast, Constructivism refers to a subjective collection of innovative educational practices that are student-focused, meaning-based, process-oriented, interactive, and responsive to student personal interests and needs (Goodman, 1998; Honebein, 1996). Instructionism and Constructivism reflect polarized assumptions regarding the nature of human learning (Jonassen, 1991).
Since the pedagogical subjects that are now taught in K-12 are fairly well establish such as the STEM subjects in math and science and the liberal arts such as of history, social studies, languages and the arts, what makes teaching and learning effective is a motivational pedagogic methodology and curriculum design. The Innovationism pedagogical foundation is based on two words – “what” and “why.” There are no greater motivational learning concepts that these two terms. They are the root of all curiosity. The “what” and the “why” of a phenomenon stimulate the curiosity that motivate critical thinking.
Digital technology has opened contemporary K-12 education to virtually unlimited possibilities of teaching and learning. Traditional academics such as language arts, mathematics, sciences, and social studies are now being redesigned to be a more modern, personalized, interdisciplinary, curriculum that reflects the knowledge and skills needed in real world work environments. The 2015 the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) mandates that our education system prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and provides more children access to high-quality state preschool programs. This change is from a two tract system (i.e., academic or vocational) to a philosophy of readying high school graduates for BOTH college and careers (as cited in The White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/12/10/white-house-report-every-student-succeeds-act).
Because of current rapid advances in K-12 pedagogical methodologies, and over the past twenty years digital innovation’s in the application of those advances, as mentioned, an education philosophy is needed to ground the validity analysis of such rapid change. Such a philosophy has to be flexible and adaptive as all innovations are situational (Merickel, 1999) and are naturally evolutionary. Meanwhile, new technologies offer hope for more effective ways of teaching and learning, but also engender confusion and even fear; too often the shiny new technology is used as little more than window dressing (Khan, 2012).
The challenge is to create a classroom environment and experiences that are equal to what is realized by today’s youth at home and after-school online activities. As time goes by, cultures, especially those surrounded by technology, change rapidly. Unfortunately, too often, schools and curriculum are not capable of keeping pace by making the changes necessary to match the changing culture in a timely manner.
Kincheloe, et al, (2000) found that “if schools hope to help improve society and resist injustice, educators must enter contemporary social debates and move beyond the “transmission of knowledge” model that currently dominates schooling. Rather than isolate pieces of memorized information readily available at the touch of a computer key, students need to navigate the maze of conﬂicting ideologies and understand the complexity of living in our postmodern society” (p. 38). However, a seamless remedy to this problem seems as problematic as ever.
Some Problems and Solutions
In public schools throughout the U.S. k-12 schools are filled with lifeless children and teachers. A kind of numbness shrouds them as they drag themselves into schools waited down by not only by backbreaking backpacks of textbooks but also a joyless pedagogical methodology and assessment standards that are devoid of any motivational excitement and creativity. If we are ever going to see our civilization advance to its full potential it has to start in our schools. As with any illness the underlying problem is one of balance and, as was pointed out in “Innovationism: A Digital Age Pedagogical Concept” what’s causing this lack of balance is the continual conflict between the objective and subjective elements of today’s K-12 education environment.
In his book Taking Sides: Clashing views on Educational Issues (2007) James Wm. Noll points out that:
The schools often seem to be either facing backward or completely absorbed in the tribulations of the present, lacking a vision of possible futures that might guide current decisions. The present is inescapable, obviously, and certainly the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the present situation must be understood, but true improvement often requires a break with conventionality – a surge toward a desired future. The radical reform critique of government-sponsored compulsory schooling has depicted organized education as a form of cultural or political imprisonment that traps young people in an artiﬁcial and mainly irrelevant environment and rewards conformity and docility while inhibiting curiosity and creativity. Constructive reform ideas that have come from this critique include the creation of open classrooms, the de-emphasis of external motivators, the diversification of educational experience, and the building of a true sense of community within the instructional environment (p. xix).
In his book The Best Schools, author Thomas Armstrong (2006) contrasts two educational discourses of speech and communications, the objective “Academic Achievement Discourse” and the subjective “Human Development Discourse,” that have immediate, practical, and signiﬁcant impact on classroom practices. Armstrong argues that “educational discourse engaged by educators and politicians today – at least in public settings – are predominantly and increasingly Academic Achievement Discourse which views the purpose of education primarily as supporting, encouraging, and facilitating a student’s ability to obtain high grades and standardized test scores in school courses, especially in courses that are part of the core academic curriculum” (p. 10).
Science and rational thought become our arbiters of reality, and we lose our connection with other ways of experiencing the world. We become more analytical and serious and learn not to believe without evidence. That rational skepticism has its place, of course; the tragedy of modern life is that objectivity and reason do not develop in us to complement our sense of mystery and wonder, but to replace it. The better course, and the key to mental health, may be in resisting an all-encompassing rationalism, and as Shelley Taylor advises, “Balancing reason with a sense of the magical world of the child that promotes a positively biased, “unrealistic” view.” If we can minimize sense of self and preoccupation with objectivity and rationalism we can eliminate attempts to isolate education from individual experiences and social reality. Subjective pedagogical methodology occurs far less frequently than it did in decades past but needs to be quickly resuscitated if our schools and our culture are going to have a chance of retaining their humanity. (Armstrong, 2006)
Erich Fromm echoed the same sentiments, observing, “We have to become like children again, to experience the unalienated, creative grasp of the world; but in becoming children again we are at the same time not children, but fully developed adults.” Play renews us, enhances feelings of youth and vitality. But we may need some help in remembering how. The first step could be in becoming careful observers of children, who can teach us the skill of being present in the moment. As Jacobs (2003) tells us, “Children can give us an excuse to have fun and look outside ourselves, living a life that is fully awake to all possibilities.”
One of Innovationism’s primary pedagogy methodological tenets is grounded in the concept of fun. Fun is the aspirin of education in that it cures so many learning ills in ways that many times we haven’t the slightest idea of how it works both consciously and subconsciously. Fun may point to stress relief but it may go a lot deeper into the realm of human cognition and motivation. Some say life isn’t all fun so neither should be education. To that one must respond life may not be all fun but it should be and maybe life can’t be made to be all fun but education can be and should be. Fun is a state of mind or better put, an attitude. There is no reason why educational rigor can’t be fun-based.
The definition of fun is: someone or something that is amusing or enjoyable; an enjoyable experience or person; an enjoyable or amusing time; the feeling of being amused or entertained; what provides amusement or enjoyment; a playful often boisterous action or speech; a mood for finding or making amusement; amusement, enjoyment; derisive jest; sport, ridicule; violent or excited activity or argument. Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary
As people mature their perception of fun, just like a person’s sense of humor, changes and becomes more and more personalized. However, the younger the person the more uniform their sense of humor is. This relative conformity allows for early childhood learning methodologies and curriculum to be standardized in order to take advantage of what we know about how the human brain develops to create a sound pedagogical foundation in each child. This foundation is upon which all future education is structured or, as Vygotsky (1962) put it, education “scaffolding.”