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Learning to Teach in the Digital Age

New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools


Sean Justice

Learning to Teach in the Digital Age tells the story of a group of K–12 teachers as they began to connect with digital making and learning pedagogies. Guiding questions at the heart of this qualitative case study asked how teaching practices engaged with and responded to the maker movement and digital making and learning tools and materials. Over the course of one school year, Sean Justice attended to the ebb and flow of teaching and learning at an independent K–12 girls school the northeastern United States. Teachers and administrators from across grade levels and academic domains participated in interviews and casual conversations, and opened their classrooms to ad hoc observations. In conducting the study, Justice interwove a sociomaterial disposition with new materialism, posthumanism, and new media theory. Methods were inspired by narrative inquiry and actor-network theory. Findings suggested that digital making and learning pedagogies were stabilizing at the school, but not in a linear way. Further, Justice suggests that the teaching practices that most engaged the ethos of twenty-first-century learning enacted a kind of learning we hear about from artists, writers, scientists, and mathematicians when they talk about what innovation feels like, leading to the proposition that a different kind of language is needed to describe the effects of digital materialities on teaching practice.
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Chapter 12. After Research


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How the findings of this study matter in practice depends on whether digital making and learning is held as an educational good in a given learning ecology. In fact, an assumption of the value of digital making and learning has been explicitly central to this book. But based on many conversations with teachers who were skeptical of it, I don’t think its worth or efficacy can be assumed ahead of time for any particular school, even if school leadership or an enterprising teacher has established a makerspace or FabLab. That is to say, simply agreeing with the underpinnings of constructionist artistic development and socially centered learning—the assumptions of Dewey’s progressivism, Piaget’s constructivism, Papert’s constructionism, and Lowenfeld’s developmentalism— does not presume effective practice, or offer much guidance in the enactment of maker pedagogies in a specific classroom. Further, the assumptions of these 19th- and 20th-century traditions are knotted up in the complexities of digital networks and new media materials that are basic to the emergence of 21st-century teaching. Simply, the maker movement and socially centered learning depend on the internet and other digital networks. As such, digital network dynamics, including digital materiality and its peculiar affordances, need to be theorized as thoughtfully as any other aspect of maker education. On the basis of these caveats, then, I would propose the following: ← 237 | 238 →

Implications for Practice

First, to establish digital making and learning pedagogies, teachers,...

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