To my delight, this week’s readings speak directly to my dissertation topic and in an extremely affirming way. For before Giroux, before Freire and Foucault, way before Manovich and the New London Group… there was Maria Montessori, ripping the bolted school desks from the classroom floors and tossing them to the curb. Montessori identified “the interface” of the brick and mortar classroom not only as problematic to the physical and psychological development of children (not to mention educational development), but as symbolic and real means of suppression and oppression. Her focus was on “interface”–the design and architecture of the environment, the larger classroom environment, and the “environment” of “the lesson.”
All of the readings this week bring attention to computer/web/digital interfaces as designed, and thus culturally informed and shaped, spaces. The Carpenter article employs genre theory in an attempt to challenge the boundary between what we count as “academic,” and thus worthy of study and use, and what we count as “popular.” What is particularly Montessorian in this article is Carpenter’s notion that students are writers already before they enter the Composition classroom (143, 146); they possess already knowledge and skill–literacy–outside of the classroom. This respect for the students’ natural tendencies, skills and knowledge, is quintessentially Montessorian. So is the metacognition which seems a goal of Carpenter’s Comp classroom (“…what students lack in those [digital] environments is not so much skills…as what I would call critical awareness,” 146), to cultivate in students a “critical awareness” of what students already do. This is Montessorian. I’m not sure she wasn’t the first educator in Western tradition to identify this as what should be the ultimate goal of education.
The Rosinski and Squire article also speaks to Montessori, particularly in terms of the notion of “prepared environment.” The notion of HCI is exactly what I need when I think about a pedagogy and methodology for understanding interface as pedagogical space. And that’s what is missing from ALL of these discussions! These articles conceive of the interface as text (Selfe & Selfe 499, “…to involve composition teachers and students in composition classes in an ongoing project to revise interfaces as texts”). I want to conceive of the interface as teaching space, as classroom. That is Montessorian! Of course the space can be both things at once, but turning our attention to the space as teaching space (as opposed to text) opens lines of discussion about the role and value of teachers, the role and value of students’ knowledge and experience, etc.
Wysocki’s gesturing toward interface arrangements intended to capitalize on human tendencies speaks to principles behind Montessori’s designs of lessons (56). Her work makes me question how teacher training can be leveraged as a tool against “naturalized tendencies”; we often understand students as being moldable, and needing to be molded. What about the teachers we prepare and train? Montessori’s conception of the teacher (“guide”) and teacher training speaks to this in interesting, and I would say vital, ways.
There’s more… But I’ll yack about it in class.