Learners' Voices: Navigational Play as Metacognitive Integration

Learners' Voices: Navigational Play as Metacognitive Integration

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7400-3.ch008
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In this chapter, the authors examine examples of local, national, and global adaptations of UC Links programs to explore university and community engagement over time and across a range of contexts. The authors describe the development of a number of programs, including two Brazilian programs, two programs working with gitano (Roma) communities in Spain, and perhaps the most enduring Fifth Dimension program – the Whittier College Fifth Dimension. They examine the collaborative development of these programs in relation to the ways that they co-constructed activities to support the navigational play of children and university students in creating and participating in collaborative learning activities. The authors also describe the “border activities” – the sustained collaborative work of adults from different backgrounds and communities – crucial to developing these programs as themselves forms of navigational play that serve to integrate participants' metacognitive understandings of their collaborative work.
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In 2003, at the invitation of Professor Michael Cole (UC San Diego) and his Brazilian colleague and collaborator Dr. Lúcia Braga (Director, Projeto Sarah), Charles, one of the authors of this book, had the opportunity to witness the extraordinary work of the Rede Sarah de Hospitais de Rehabilitação (Sarah Network of Rehabilitation Hospitals). At this time, the Brazilian partners were just beginning to develop the educational program in Brasília, Brazil, that came to be called Dimensão Metacognitiva (The Metacognitive Dimension). Director Lúcia Braga had developed a family-oriented approach to treating young people with acquired brain injuries. Dimensão Metacognitiva was developed in collaboration with Michael Cole and other colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, as a program for the neuropsychological rehabilitation of children and adolescents with cerebral lesions. Like the Fifth Dimension, the Brasília program engages children with undergraduates from the Universidade de Brasília in interactive activities using hands-on tools and digital media as means to promote young people’s metacognitive development and position themselves as agentive learners.

Visiting the hospital in Brasília, Charles found that the staff there were not hesitant in immersing him directly in their work with the young people. When Ricardo (a pseudonym) was wheeled into the room, Elena (also a pseudonym), one of the Rede Sarah educators, greeted him warmly, and he responded with pleasant, if vulnerable expression. Ricardo was about 11-12 years old and triplegic. He was wearing loose pants and a short-sleeved red shirt. He was thin but not emaciated. It appeared he could only move one of his limbs – his right arm, whose musculature was lean but extraordinarily well defined – although he could also move his neck and head and was able to produce a brilliant, fragile smile, and had some capacity for movement of his torso. His right hand was severely bent inward and was almost flat against his wrist; his speech was impaired, but he tried to communicate verbally nonetheless.

Elena guided his wheel chair to the computer table. Elena then sat on Ricardo's left and Charles sat down on his right. Before beginning work on the computer, Elena first started an activity using cards. On a flat surface in front of Ricardo, she asked him to match a card with a particular image (a bird, a dog, a horse), first with a card with the initial letter of the word for the image, then with the whole word. Ricardo was good at it. He used the prominent bone of his wrist to point at the correct card and make the appropriate match. Elena and Charles encouraged him as he played this game. But Ricardo was impatient. He wanted to get on the computer. He spoke to Elena in a complaining tone, not able to enunciate the words with lips and tongue, but moving his jaw tightly and turning and angling his head as he spoke. Charles could see the muscles in his neck flex as his head turned and his voice rose and fell. He could make out no words, but Ricardo’s intonation seemed to express frustration with the simplicity and the banality of the card game. His chin and shoulder edged forward and appeared to point at the computer as he expressed himself. For a minute or two, Elena encouraged him to finish the card game, but soon smiled at Ricardo and told him he had done well with the card game. She said it was time to play on the computer.

Ricardo nodded, not just with his head but also with the entire upper part of his torso. He smiled and turned to look at Charles. “Agora podemos usar o computador, não?” [“Now we can use the computer, no?”] Charles said. Eagerly, Ricardo smiled at Charles, mostly with his right jaw and cheek. He nodded again, and said, “Sim!” [“Yes!”]

Elena guided Ricardo through a game on the computer. It was similar to the card game they had just played. An image appeared on the screen (again, a kind of animal – a cat, a pig, a dog) and Elena asked Ricardo to spell the name of the animal. The auxiliary computer interface that enabled Ricardo to type was set up as a grid of letters in columns and rows. The pace of the cursor’s passage could be timed to move down a vertical column, space by space, shadowing each space (and the letter it contained) for a chosen number of seconds. Ricardo had to use his wrist to click the mouse within the designated period of time to keep the cursor on the row of letters he wanted; then, as the cursor moved laterally across the row, he again had a limited period of time to click the mouse for the letter he wanted to select.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Metacognitive Integration: The cognitive process by which people engaged in an activity come to link their diverse views and perspectives into a shared orientation toward their common activity.

Third Space: A social setting or space that both suspends the hierarchical frameworks historically imposed by formal institutions and establishes new frameworks for shared learning that draws on the motives and experiences of all participants.

Formative Intervention: A collaborative expansive learning process which positions participants in an activity as active agents in their own transformative rethinking of their work together and its objectives.

Navigational Play: The process in which the players or stakeholders engaged in an activity explore their own and each other’s positionality through time and space, assessing where they are in relation to each other and where they might be if they continue interacting in a particular way for a specific period of time; also, a form of deep creative exploration among participants in an activity – a testing of the other’s and one’s own abilities to find and pursue a common course toward a shared destination or goal.

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