Two Articles, Two Looks at History

There are many ways to approach a subject, and history is one of my favorites. Two very different articles about very different subjects take opposing historical directions in analyzing the issues they set out to understand. Grant’s (2010) Tearing down the walls: Creating global classrooms through online teacher preparation programs looks at the present in order to prepare for the future, whereas Millei’s (2011) Governing through early childhood curriculum, “the child,” and “community” looks to the past in order to understand the present.

A Look At The Present In Preparation For The Future

Preservice teacher preparation has become a hot topic, with some researchers defending a complete redesign of education curriculum and practicum, while others defend that traditional teacher preparation at established universities is a proven way to ensure quality in the classroom (Téllez, 2011). Grant (2010) asserts that teachers would be better prepared for their professions if they were trained using online education. This is due to a globalized world in which diversity is becoming the norm and no longer the exception, and technology has become crucial to the learning process.

One of the main arguments in Grant’s (2010) article is that online collaboration opens the doors to true global learning with the potential to involve students from different cities, regions or even countries (pp. 38-39). I certainly agree with his position because I have for years now utilized technology to collaborate online in various projects. As Publisher of a Christian publishing company in Brazil, I have on-going book projects involving translators, editors and artists who live in several different regions of Brazil and one book cover artist who lives in Finland. We all collaborate via Skype, WebEx and use GoogleDocs for text revisions. Technology is deeply embedded in what we do as a company and without it our activities would be severely hindered due to time constraints and the inability to actually “see” what each collaborator is doing or has done.

Grant (2010) believes that traditional teacher preparation shows a disconnect between the technology available today and the way technology can be used by teachers in the classroom or by students wherever they happen to be. According to the author, “online teacher education programs are a natural vehicle for illustrating authentic uses of instructional technology, with their preservice teachers becoming experienced in the technologies found in today’s classrooms” (Grant, 2010, p. 39). Teachers are shown or introduced to different technologies, but are not shown first-hand how that technology is implemented and refined in the classroom. It is one thing to know that GoogleDocs allows users to collaborate online and track the revisions done by each project participant; it is another to know how to harvest the power of that tool to build team presentations that are superior in terms of subject integration and flow, as well as flexibility of format output.

The question of access to training and education also factors in Grant’s (2010) article. The author believes that online teacher preparation allows individuals who would otherwise not be able to attend a traditional program to take advantage of such training. In my work at University of Phoenix, I see students every day who could not be in college were it not for the flexibility that our University provides in terms of schedule and format. Students can choose between local campus and online courses. The local campus format is accelerated with disciplines being offered every five weeks. The online format allows students to study whenever their schedule allows them to and wherever they happen to live or work. This flexibility is allowing a large segment of our country’s population to attend college and earn a degree.

A Look At The Past In Order To Understand The Present

Millei’s (2011) article is a sharp contrast to Grant’s (2010) in that it looks to the past in order to understand the present. The author was born in Communist Hungary, having been educated in her early years under a Socialist curriculum, which influences her to this day (based on the reading of the article). The fact that the author refers to Hungary as “Socialist Hungary” (p. 33) and not “Communist Hungary” signaled to me an attempt to soften the possible resistance to the ideas that she would present in the article. It also signaled a certain bias in favor of those ideas when contrasted with “Neoliberal Australia.”

The method chosen by Millei (2011) to discuss a comparison between Hungary and Australia was the Foucauldian genealogy. When I attended the University of Sao Paulo in the late 1990s, I was exposed to Paul-Michel Foucault’s ideas (Olssen, 1999), which are highly influential in Brazilian scholarship via French mentors of Brazilian professors at the University. In this article, the author focused on the ideas of “the child” and “community” to attempt to show how both school systems, Hungary and Australia, attempt to control and regulate the formation of children as citizens of their nations.

Millei (2011) traces the changes and development of the Hungarian curriculum, showing that it was a well-developed and targeted effort prior to the Russian liberation during World War II, and that it became more structured and focused thereafter, seeking to “prepare children for schooling as an uppermost political task” (p. 39). A brief overview of the Az óvodai nevelés programja (Educational program for kindergartens, or Program) demonstrates how the role of early education in Hungary shifted to become an integral part of forming socialist citizens who could contribute to society and help it continue in its trajectory toward the socialist ideal (p.42).

The Australian early education system is also briefly analyzed by Millei (2011), focusing on how it has changed throughout the years from a caretaking service to what it has now become: a stage in which the foundations of lifelong learning are instilled in the student. This shift is explained by the author as a result of globalization and the realization by Australian authorities that it was of pivotal importance that Australians learn to quickly adapt to new political, economic and social realities (p. 45). As a result of this shift, Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (AGDEEWR, 2009), the current document that guides curriculum strategies in Australia, focuses on the child as a strict “learner” and seeks to prepare learners to acquire the tools to continue to learn and adapt as they encounter new and challenging situations (p. 46).

Conclusion

Both articles, Grant (2010) and Millei (2011), present interesting takes on education. Grant (2010) defends the idea that teacher preparation programs should embrace technology and use that technology in the training of new teachers so that they can be better acquainted with current resources and methods via a hands-on approach to learning and teaching (Keser, Uzunboylu, & Ozdamli, 2012). Millei (2011) looks to the past to understand how government views of education were used to build a socialist nation and a neoliberal society. Contrasts are pointed out, but the stark differences show an underlying common goal of regulating learning and forming citizens in accordance with what the government believes citizens should be like (Brayfield & Korintus, 2011).

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References

Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [AGDEEWR]. (2009). Belonging, being & becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Retrieved from http://www.deewr.gov.au/earlychildhood/policy_agenda/quality/pages/earlyyearslearningframework.aspx

Brayfield, A., & Korintus, M. (2011). Early childhood socialization: Societal context and childrearing values in Hungary. Journal Of Early Childhood Research, 9(3), 262-279. doi:10.1177/1476718X11402444

Grant, A. (2010). Tearing down the walls: Creating global classrooms through online teacher preparation programs. Distance Learning, 7(2), 37-41.

Keser, H., Uzunboylu, H., & Ozdamli, F. (2012). The trends in technology supported collaborative learning studies in 21st century. World Journal On Educational Technology, 3(2), 103-119.

Millei, Z. (2011). Governing through early childhood curriculum, “the child,” and “community.” European Education, 43(1), 33-55.

Olssen, M. (1999). Michel Foucault: materialism and education. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin & Garvey.

Téllez, K. (2011). A case study of a career in education that began with “Teach for America.” Teaching Education, 22(1), 15-38.

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