Computers and the End of Progressive Education

Computers and the End of Progressive Education

David Williamson Shaffer (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-322-7.ch004
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Multiculturalism is an essential tool for democratic citizenship in a world made ever more closely interconnected by information technologies. In this paper, I propose a model for progressive multicultural education in the computer age. I begin by describing the Pragmatic Progressive model of learning implicit in Dewey’s writing on education. I then discuss two revisions to the model in light of technological developments and theoretical work over the last few decades. Taken together, these revisions suggest that we might profitably revisit—and revise—Dewey’s ideas in the post-industrial era. I bring these ideas together to describe a theory of pedagogical praxis that offers an opportunity to move from multiculturalism to multisubculturalism: a view of education that focuses on diverse educational goals rather than diverse pathways to a single pedagogical end—and thus a view of learning more suited to the diverse ways of thinking and living that characterize our increasingly integrated world.
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As information and communication technologies bring people, places, and events from around the world to our desktops, telephones, and televisions, the economic, social, and cultural issues of the globe are becoming increasingly, unavoidably, our own (McLuhan, 1964). The concept of diversity is thus a broader and more complex concept than ever before (Ladson-Billings, 2001a), and preparing young people for citizenship in such an interconnected world necessarily means helping them develop the ability to understand complex cultural issues from multiple perspectives. Multiculturalism is an essential tool for democratic citizenship in an interconnected world.

This is not a new idea, of course. Over a century ago the Pragmatists—including perhaps the best-known Pragmatist in the field of education, John Dewey—saw the essence of democracy in the idea that there is no one truth. Personal beliefs—however deeply felt—were but one possible perspective among many, and as Menand (2001) explains, the central political tenet of Pragmatism was that “the moral justification for our actions comes from the tolerance we have shown to other ways of being in the world” (p. 440). Dewey’s Progressive pedagogy, which—based on this Pragmatic view of truth—emphasized learning as a process linking personal interest with activities meaningful in the world outside of school, would therefore seem to be a likely candidate for the development of a multicultural education for the digital age.

In what follows, I will argue that this is both true and untrue. It is true in the sense that computers and other new technologies can help make learning engaging and relevant in some of the ways Dewey suggested. But it is also untrue in the sense that while Dewey embraced diversity philosophically, his pedagogy allowed for only a weak form of multiculturalism. Dewey’s multiculturalism celebrated multiple pathways to understanding, but multiple pathways to a single form of understanding. His multiculturalism, I will argue, was a multiculturalism of means, rather than a multiculturalism of ends.

In what follows, I make this distinction between multiculturalism of means and multiculturalism of ends for three purposes. My first purpose, rather transparently, is to argue that a multiculturalism of ends provides the political and epistemological underpinning for a new structure of education suited to a world made broader and more complex by new technologies. My second purpose is to use this critique to understand why, despite numerous attempts to implement it, the Progressive agenda that Dewey outlined beginning with School and Society (1915) has not transformed American education in the century since it was first articulated. My third purpose builds on these first goals to suggest that two important changes at the close of the century—one technological, and one epistemological—provide an opportunity to reinvigorate the Pragmatic Progressive educational agenda as we enter a new social and cultural era.

I begin by describing the model of learning implicit in Dewey’s writings, and then discuss two significant revisions to the model in light of technological and theoretical developments over the last few decades. I bring these ideas together to describe my own theory of pedagogical praxis (Shaffer, 2004b) that revisits Dewey’s ideas in the post-industrial era. In the final section of the paper, I return to the theme of multiculturalism, and argue that pedagogical praxis offers an opportunity to move from multiculturalism to multisubculturalism—and with that move, to shift focus from pedagogical means to pedagogical ends as a first step toward a system of education more suited to the diverse ways of thinking and living that characterize our increasingly interconnected world.

Throughout, I hope it will be clear that my purpose is neither to praise Dewey nor to bury him. Rather, I use his work to outline some of the logic that underlies much of Progressive pedagogy. This outline is a basis for critique (in part) but even more serves as a foundation for a new and potentially more inclusive approach to education for the information age.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Rhonda Christensen, Gerald Knezek
Chapter 1
A Simulation Primer  (pages 1-24)
Katrin Becker, James R. Parker
This chapter provides an introduction to digital simulations for those interested in using or designing them for instructional purposes. There has... Sample PDF
A Simulation Primer
Chapter 2
Youngkyun Baek
This chapter expands upon the definition of a simulation with two categories: experiential and symbolic. It discusses the interactive, experiential... Sample PDF
Digital Simulation in Teaching and Learning
Chapter 3
Peter R. Albion
Interaction is fundamental to the learning process and game-like 3D online spaces present opportunities for enhancing learning through supporting a... Sample PDF
Virtual Spaces for Teaching and Learning
Chapter 4
David Williamson Shaffer
Multiculturalism is an essential tool for democratic citizenship in a world made ever more closely interconnected by information technologies. In... Sample PDF
Computers and the End of Progressive Education
Chapter 5
Celina Byers
The desired outcome of instructional game design is to combine the powerful attraction of games and the proven effectiveness of instructional system... Sample PDF
Combining Instructional Design and Game Design
Chapter 6
Helyn Gould, Michael Hughes, Paul Maharg, Emma Nicol
Game-based learning and simulation is a powerful mode of learning, used by industries as diverse as aviation and health sciences. While there are... Sample PDF
The Narrative Event Diagram: A Tool for Designing Professional Simulations
Chapter 7
David Gibson
In order for a digital simulation to provide an artificial teaching environment there needs to be a computational model of the act of teaching... Sample PDF
Modeling Classroom Behaviors in Software Agents
Chapter 8
Sara Dexter
The new technology-enhanced conception of assessment stands in contrast to the traditional view of assessments as tests of a learner’s ability to... Sample PDF
Design Principles for Interactive Learning Environments with Embedded Formative Assessments
Chapter 9
Penny deByl
Three-dimensional virtual learning environments provide students with pedagogic experiences beyond traditional two-dimensional textbook and Web page... Sample PDF
Hybrid 2D/3D Development of Interactive Simulations
Chapter 10
Len Annetta, James Minogue, Shawn Holmes, Meng-Tzu Cheng, Elizabeth Folta, Marta Klesath
This chapter will provide concrete examples of how a research group at North Carolina State University is using case studies as the... Sample PDF
Using Case Studies as the Narrative to Game Design and Development
Chapter 11
Mark Girod
Teacher education is currently facing pressures to demonstrate efficacy in preparing teachers who can affect P-12 student learning gains. Teacher... Sample PDF
Exploring Teacher Problem Solving Using Simulation
Chapter 12
Donguk Cheong, Bokyeong Kim
A computer simulation for improving teaching is expected to remove the potential negative effects on real students while creating an environment... Sample PDF
A Simulation for Improving Teachers' Motivational Skills
Chapter 13
Damián Piccolo, Anna Oskorus
Nearly half of all new teachers leave the field of education within the first five years (Ingersoll, 2003; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005).... Sample PDF
Designing Commercial Simulations for Teachers
Chapter 14
Scott J. Warren, Richard A. Stein
This chapter discusses the design and use of simulated teaching experiences contextualized through role-play in a multi-user virtual environment as... Sample PDF
Simulating Teaching Experience with Role-Play
Chapter 15
Bokyeong Kim, Donguk Cheong
This chapter presents the theory, structure, and development process used in designing a teaching simulation. simClass was designed to help teachers... Sample PDF
simClass: Simulate Your Class Before You Teach
Chapter 16
Karen Schrier, Charles K. Kinzer
Teacher education that emphasizes the understanding and assessment of ethics can support the creation of an ethically aware and critically engaged... Sample PDF
Using Digital Games to Develop Ethical Teachers
Chapter 17
Shelby P. Morge
Recently adopted 21st Century goals stress the importance of preparing students for a globally competitive society by providing them with... Sample PDF
Modeling in the Classroom Using Squeak Etoys
Chapter 18
Mary Jo Dondlinger, Scott Joseph Warren
This chapter discusses Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) as simulated experiences, and presents the conceptual framework that informed the design and... Sample PDF
Alternate Reality Games as Simulations
Chapter 19
Caitlin Kelleher
Self-directed, open-ended projects can enable students to pursue their own interests and lead to deep learning. However, it can be difficult to... Sample PDF
Supporting Open-Ended Programming Assignments
Chapter 20
Kay Kyeongju Seo, Aimee Byk, Chris Collins
How can one bring cognitive apprenticeship into the virtual world? This chapter addresses how to construct a 3D online digital environment that... Sample PDF
Cognitive Apprenticeship Inspired Simulations
Chapter 21
Jae Yeob Jung, Hyung Sung Park
The purpose of this chapter is to explore how learning, by making games, can provide opportunities for higher-order thinking such as problem... Sample PDF
Learning by Doing via Game Making
Chapter 22
Christian Sebastian Loh, Jae Hwan Byun
Game Modification, or Modding, is a unique and valuable way of learning with digital games as well as a means to earn beginners’ stripes in the game... Sample PDF
Modding Neverwinter Nights Into Serious Games
Chapter 23
Teresa Franklin, David Chelberg, Chang Liu
Virtual environments are a topic of discussion for many in the business and commerce fields. However, K-12 school systems have been slow to embrace... Sample PDF
Changing Middle School Science through STEAM
Chapter 24
David Gibson
This chapter discusses how a teaching simulation can embody core characteristics of a complex system. It employs examples of specific frameworks and... Sample PDF
Complex Systems Concepts in Simulations
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