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Learning to Teach in the Digital Age

New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools

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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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Field Notes (Robots)

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For the third graders seated on the rug in their bright, fourth-floor science classroom, the challenge is to make a robot that can kick or pull or push a small bouncy ball a distance of four feet. Grace explains the only constraint: You can’t add any extra parts to your Lego robotics kits, and you have to use the motor. One girl says “Easy,” and another replies, “Of course,” and then Grace tells them that they’ll have today’s class for planning and sketching, and tomorrow’s for building and sharing.

“Let’s talk about motors,” Amber, her co-teacher, says. Seated at the whiteboard with large, colorful markers, she asks the girls what they already know about motors—how they spin, start, and stop. Hands go up immediately, and she calls on a student in the middle of the rug.

“Well, there’s this thing that you attach to the motor…?”

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