Chloe Brushwood Rose A Curriculum Scholar Review by Deborah Kealey for EDU 6102 Seminar in Curriculum Studies Research

Chloe Brushwood Rose A Curriculum Scholar Review by Deborah Kealey for EDU 6102 Seminar in Curriculum Studies Research

It’s the end of the day and I return to my office to deal with the paper part of my job.  I sit down and I look around my desk and see a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone – most of which are completely under-utilized mainly because of my lack of knowledge.  I think about where the time has gone today as with so many of the days and wonder when will I have a chance not only to ‘catch-up’ but learn, explore and ‘try-out’ technologies that would better connect me to what is current; to make my job more efficient; to connect with students.

Aside from time, I wonder if there are there other constraints to my learning and integrating this new technology?  How important is technology to the role of administrator, teacher student?  Learning and playing with technology should be fun, shouldn’t it?  I see students engaging with it constantly and actively sharing their knowledge and experiences with each other.  Technology is obviously important to them in both a social and academic context.  They are learning and immersing themselves in technology without the pedagogical structures of curriculum.   How does this translate to curriculum?  What are the implications for students and teachers using or not using technology within the classroom?

The educational challenges surrounding technology are numerous: implementation; pedagogy; change; technical; financial to name a few, and the importance of these challenges is varied based on role/perspective.  As it is such an important issue within the school I have selected a curriculum scholar that explores the use of technology within her research: Chloe Brushwood Rose.   She is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at York University.  Her research interests, as outlined in her biography page at York University, currently are examining questions of subjectivity, self-representation, and social difference in the context of community-based media pedagogies and psychoanalytic theories of learning.  She has a strong interest in feminist theory and feminist art practices (Brushwood Rose, 2012).  She is the co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies; an editorial member of PUBLIC; and is an executive member of the Centre for Feminine Research.

Ms. Brushwood Rose has authored several articles around the area of technology encompassing a variety of topics.  Her research is qualitative in nature and provides for authentic evaluations of what she observes.  What I enjoy most about her articles is her search for understanding by adopting an uncommon perspective.   A good example of this is evident in her article Artifice and Education: Re-mediating Curriculum.  Brushwood Rose explores the role of technology as “a visual object and the practice of visual art as a mode of expression” (Brushwood Rose, 2002, p. 50).  Here she questions about the existing curriculum and its linear representation of technology as a group of skills to acquire.  An example would be how to take a digital photo, transfer it to an independent image and even in some instances edit the image for the purpose of acquiring the skill.  What it fails to address is the more important question of what the image represents (to the student, to the class, to society). Brushwood Rose articulates these concerns through the lack of ‘aesthetic or epistemological dimensions” (Brushwood Rose, 2002, p. 51).  I agree that the engaging portion is not simply the use of technology, but the exploration and self awareness of why the object is appealing and questioning what it represents for that student.  This type of exploration is not linear and very subjective.  It promotes self-awareness and self-reflection in the student.  Brushwood Rose elicits two reasons for the lack of aesthetic: first because “technology is not situated as an object that exists across the disciplines and participates in the building of ideas in all domains,” and secondly, because, “there is an overwhelming contemporary preoccupation with the importance of science and technology in public education and a simultaneous marginalization or devaluation of the arts and humanities” (Brushwood Rose, 2002, p. 51).  This imbalance is evident throughout the education system, simply look at the budget and planning of a school to see the imbalance of spending, equipment and technology between departments. Even more obvious in the Province of Ontario is the graduation requirements; when you compare how many required courses are needed in the science and technology areas versus arts and humanities.   This is a clear message being sent to both the students and the parents that science has more academic value then art.

How can this imbalance be corrected then?  Brushwood Rose goes on to explore the idea that even though educators are ignoring the aesthetic qualities of technology they do provide for a ‘real time’ experience and solidify an authenticity for what is being watched.  She suggests that many students are missing out on true engagement and constructing meaning from a variety of perspectives/influences because they are still only engaged with the technology at the surface level with the ‘real’ image and the “immediacy” of the images (Brushwood Rose, 2002, p. 52).  Students may have a greater understanding than that of a written text, however it “does not address its work as art or artifice” (Brushwood Rose, 2002, p. 52).  This idea resonates with me and makes me think of all of the missed opportunities to facilitate to students the deeper meaning that these images from technology have in relation to themselves and others.  As she phrases it, “an understanding of the visual text as artifice locates the learner/viewer in an interpretive relation… [the artifice] demands that we not only see it, but also make meaning of it” (Brushwood Rose, 2002, p. 54).  These are the teachable moments that challenge a student to use higher order thinking skills and make important links from what they see with technology to their prior knowledge and what it means in context of individual, school and society.

This idea of making or interpreting meaning from an artifice is also examined in Brushwood Rose’s article The (Im)possibilities of Self-Representation: Exploring the Limits of Storytelling in the Digital Stories of Women and Girls.  In this more recent article, Brushwood Rose describes her qualitative observations with digital storytelling.  She explores the idea of technology enhancing and layering the storytelling experience.  Brushwood Rose describes her participation with young socio-economic disadvantaged girls and new immigrant women in digital storytelling (http://edu.yorku.ca/digitalstories/).  These qualitative experiences provide insight into how technology can enhance learning.  Digital storytelling in this article provides the student/participant to convey a personal story and allow it to have added meaning by using visual imagery and hearing the author recount the story.  While reading these stories I could easily see why it would have a bigger impact both for the author and the reader as it touches the senses and allows for further interpretation based on those senses and the creating of ‘meaning’.

Brushwood Rose provokes thought in the idea that aesthetic qualities need to be included in the discussion of “multimedia or multimodal composition creates new forms of meaning” (Brushwood Rose, 2009, p. 214).  She argues that the aesthetic quality “that is the spaces and gaps between media, the spaces that hold the productivity of juxtaposition” (Brushwood Rose, 2009, p. 214) is central to this discussion.  She uses the example of a digital story that did not follow the traditionally accepted forms of grammar and punctuation.  This improper format, intentional or not, became part of the evidence/tension within the story – it added meaning to the story.  The aesthetics are integral in the overall products and they “offers us the possibility of a space where we can work through complex experiences, both found and created” (Brushwood Rose, 2009, p. 219).

Brushwood Rose first explored the idea that these spaces can provide an opportunity for learning through experience in an earlier article, “Virtual Curriculum: Digital Games as Technologies of Aesthetic Experience and Potential Spaces”.  Here she is probing the non-linear idea of what is learned as one plays a digital game.  More specifically, she is looking at digital games from an experiential learning viewpoint: What is the reasoning and interpretive choices being made and how does this impact a students learning?  Again, Brushwood Rose chooses a mainstream topic but selects an alternate exploratory path of discovery and inquiry versus the more common outcome-based inquiry.  She challenges the standardized outcome-based approach as it places more value in the transferring of knowledge versus exploring and digesting knowledge.  She links this to digital games by focusing on the experience of the game versus the outcome (levels, points etc…) of the game:

Digital games and other virtual media are characterized by tensions between technique and experience, between the real and the imaginary, and between the external world and inner reality.  These tensions produce a context in which students may learn how to learn, not as a consequence of the game’s content, but as a consequence of its aesthetic qualities and the nature of the aesthetic experience. (Brushwood Rose, 2006, p. 99)

Brushwood Rose uses the theory of object relations to further explain how digital games and their virtual experiences can contribute to learning and curriculum.  Object relations theories look at relationships between the external reality and the inner self.  She contends that we negotiate between these areas throughout our lives and that it is in these ‘potential spaces’ that we practice experiences, “which allows us to remake our relation to external reality, interminably” (Brushwood Rose, 2006, p. 104).  These ‘potential spaces’ are found in creativity, imagination and play and are high in aesthetic value.  Brushwood Rose suggests that these spaces can easily be found in digital media and it is in the negotiation of these spaces that she believes we can learn how to learn.

Even if we successfully negotiate within these aesthetic spaces for learning, there still exists other challenges regarding the use of technology.   Brushwood Rose suggests that it is the structure of the school system itself that limits the ability of technology.  In an article Brushwood Rose co-authored with Jenson, Finding Space for Technology: Pedagogical Observations on the Organization of Computers in School Environments, they looked specifically at technology within the structure of the school and how it is geographically situated and accessed and what if any impact this had on the use of computers.  Brushwood and Jensen highlight the issues of organization, distribution and usage of technology through qualitative review of case studies.    Jenson and Brushwood Rose used the research from thirty-six school visits across Canada to identify areas of impact for “whether and how teachers made use of computers with their students” (Jenson, 2006, p. 2).  The three organizational examples reviewed included the designated computer lab; flexibility and diffusion the computers at various sites around the school; and the idea of new school design with technological architecture in mind.

The concept of having a designated computer lab is still very common in today’s schools.  They are convenient in that they house enough computers for a class of students, and are convenient for large group instruction.  However, they require a designated room, are not always available due to demand and supply and do not encourage shared project based activities.  The alternative to having a designated lab is instead to distribute the computers throughout the classrooms.  Jenson and Brushwood Rose saw that in either case the amount of computer use was dependent on the teacher and classroom setup.  In addition, they noted that integration and implementation of technology was significantly impacted by the age and layout of the physical building (Jenson, 2006, p. 2).  The layouts of schools are changing within the newer schools.  These schools include the plan for technology and all of its wiring and technical requirements within the initial plans for schools.  Jenson and Brushwood indicate that the process and consultation with the staff is important in determining the plan for integrating technology.  This idea of consultation with staff on the technology plan for a school recurred even within a school with limited resources.

In this study, what was striking in conversations with teachers, administrators and technology support staff was how often the location and arrangement of computers not only enabled or disabled use of those machines, but often also re/structured and re/defined in significant ways the kinds of instruction and tasks teachers envisioned with their students. (Jenson & Brushwood Rose, 2006, p. 7)

The authors presented an example of a school which diffused their technology to various parts throughout the building.  This school, to which the authors credited a significant amount of thought, planning and consultation between staff and administration, chose to allocate technology according to their educational goals.  The teachers and administrators identified the type of technology available to them and the use or learning they wanted to accomplish.  As such, they used the older computers for repetitive skill building programs and located these computers in the public spaces outside of classrooms.  They opted to use the newer computers in classrooms and a designated lab area.  These computers were “explicitly located and identified for use in project-based exploration and production” (Jensen, 2006, p. 5).  They also grouped other computers and placed them on carts and assigned them to grade levels for facilitating as needed.  The biggest impact was the discussion among the staff in how they were going to use and integrate the technology within their school and classrooms and because of this discussion a creative and focused plan was implemented.

Brushwood and Jenson have clearly identified within this article that the use and level of engagement with technology within a school can be varied; influenced by location and accessibility and more successfully integrated and used if staff are part of the process for where and how technology should be used in their schools.  The notion that technology is an essential part of curriculum and that it can be integrated into schools successfully with consideration of the structural limitations/opportunities adds to its value in education.

Technology has grown exponentially over the past two decades and it is difficult for policy, curriculum and pedagogy to keep up.  Brushwood Rose explores technology from a variety of viewpoints using qualitative data and a clear, original voice that challenges scholars, administrators, and educators of all subject areas to go beyond task based and standardized outcomes to the “negotiated spaces” of aesthetics, creativity and self-discovery within technology.  This challenge has already been embraced by the students through social media, collaboration and expression of creativity.  Schools can follow suit by reviewing and discussing their technology plan and encourage pedagogy in the area of exploration and creativity.  I now look at my tablet, smartphone and laptop sitting on my desk and see opportunity, discovery and potential.

Bibliography

Brushwood Rose, C. (2011, July). York university faculty of education.

Brushwood Rose, C., & Krasny, K. (2011). Challenging traditions: Curriculum theories that refuse the “central story”. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 9(2), 1-4.

Brushwood Rose, C. (2010). Representation,(re)mediation, and curricular forms: Multimodal possibilities and challenges for curriculum studies. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 8(2), 1-5. Retrieved from https://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/jcacs/article/view/31273

Brushwood Rose, C. & Krasny, K. (2010). Foundering on the shores of curriculum: The risks and rewards of interdisciplinarity. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 8(1), 1-5.  Retrieved from https://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/jcacs/article/view/30961

Brushwood Rose, C. (2009). The (im)possibilities of self representation: Exploring the limits of storytelling in the digital stories of women and girls. Changing English, 16(2), 211-220.  Retrieved from https://edu.apps01.yorku.ca/profiles

Brushwood Rose, C., & Krasny, K. (2009). Upsetting ourselves: Readings, relations, and other unsettling practices. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 7(1), 1-5.  Retrieved from https://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/jcacs/article/view/23378

Brushwood Rose, C. (2006). Virtual curriculum: Digital games as technologies of aesthetic experience and potential spaces. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 4(1), 97-110.

Brushwood Rose, C. (2002). Artifice and education: Re-mediating curriculum. Public, 24, 50-55. Retrieved from http://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/public/article

Brushwood Rose, C. (2000). ‘Monsters, tools and quasi-objects: The many faces of technology in educational computing’, Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 22:3, 267-284.

Jenson, J., & Brushwood Rose, C. (2006). Finding space for technology: Pedagogical observations on the organization of computers in school environments. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 32(1).  Retrieved from http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/59/56.