Pedagogical Praxis: The Professions as Models for Learning in the Age of the Smart Machine

WCER Working Paper No. 2003-6

David Williamson Shaffer

June 2003, 18 pp.

ABSTRACT: Successful curricula are not collections of isolated elements; rather, effective learning environments function as coherent systems (Brown & Campione, 1996; see also Papert, 1980; Shaffer, 1998). The theory of pedagogical praxis begins with the premise that computers and other information technologies make it easier for students to become active participants in meaningful projects and practices in the life of their community. Rather than designing from first principles, pedagogical praxis suggests that professional practices such as architecture, mediation, and journalism can provide constructive models for helping students learn from such experiences. In this vision, new technology reinvigorates Dewey's (1915) idea of linking school with society. Technology builds a bridge that allows young people to participate to the learning practices of professionals; in the process, they develop epistemological frameworks that organize the skills, habits, and understandings they need to thrive in a complex, postindustrial society. Although further work needs to be done to explore the processes through which such learning can take place, studies suggest that this perspective may be a productive avenue for continuing study. This paper presents an overview of the theories and methods that inform such work.

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keywords: Technology; Epistemology; Professional Practice; Learning Theory