Childhood Studies Post-Modernism
by
Fiachra Long
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0187

Introduction

Jean Francois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition, subtitled “A Report on Knowledge,” explores the changed status of knowledge in advanced economies. His insights have led to a focus on the problem of information overflow as made possible by multimedia and web-based knowledge environments. The consequent challenge posed by postmodernism to the stability of knowledge is still a shock to educators. Knowledge that originates in less traditional sources creates less traditional people, and traditionalists who might have hoped that authorized and pre-selected knowledge might serve to transform the young into mature citizens are liable to be disappointed. On the other hand, progressivists interested in developing the child’s skills for an unpredictable future might also feel frustrated. Where modernism might have easily focused on the child’s development, even inventing accelerated programs to promote the child’s learning, postmodernism offers no guarantee that the more highly child-adaptive curricula of progressivism will be any more successful in promoting coherency than traditional accounts. Apart from knowledge, postmodernism also challenges the issue of being or reality, by which is meant that postmodernism impacts on the way children imagine their own reality. The child, of course, is real in a biological sense but usually struggles with this reality for developmental reasons, looking to adult society for appropriate signals that they are okay. In contexts of traditional communication from one generation to the next, the adult group would normally tell children what sex, tribe, language group are normal for them, sometimes what future lies before them, and often what skill-set or trade they might need to acquire. As technology in the 1990s began to open quite young children to a set of influences bypassing parents, young populations felt exposed to social pressures sourced in global trends. Contact with wider society via social media brought about definitive changes in the lives of children, exposing them to competing ideologies at an earlier age and leading parents to a sense of less control, greater fragmentation, fears of radicalization, etc. Reality checks between generations that traditionalists could rely upon in the past became less reliable, with the result that a sense of unreality could prevail, arguably extending the magical phase of childhood into adult fictional forms. Postmodernism has thus tended to set stable presentations of knowledge and being in children. Instead, in the partial absence of parental guidance, a ludic attitude became more normal, taking the form of bodily experiments, or a tinkering with radical ideologies and the like, while in educational settings, the realignment of teaching and learning with machine input/output processes may have coincidentally implied the deferral of recognizable social value-sets.

General Overview

The most visible impact of postmodernism in education is the access children have to computers and uncontrolled information. And yet the modern mind-set is still evident in the behavior of many educational commentators and teachers. Most teachers believe in values and improvement. No matter how the headmaster frowned upon the humble biro because of its presumed negative impact on handwriting, everyone could accept its marked advance over chalk on a slate. Similarly, everyone could agree that well-heated classrooms in well-insulated buildings marked an improvement on the drafty cold places that sometimes greeted children in a Victorian past. Modernist attitudes tended to blindly accept that tomorrow would be better than today and so this has led many to broadly welcome technologically enhanced learning. Indeed, everyone could point to improvements in the enjoyment of learning once these new technologies had been used, so that once more primal underlying values of concern, care, love and support had been added, all seemed well. What else could educators need? In a postmodern context, however, such basic optimism retreats behind a sense of fragmentation and alarming patterns of disbelief and unreality. Indeed, the postmodern era is one in which confidence in the future has begun to erode. The result is a trend to relocate values in the private sphere alone and to allow the public sphere of society or even the classroom to be subjected to performative coding and machine-measurable outcomes. The post-modern era is therefore marked by the suspicion of a dystopian future for human society and a kind of automation that may take hold to signal a redefinition of the contours of education itself. Butler 2002 offers a very short introduction to the general thrust of postmodern thinking while Kellner 1991 offers a more expansive view with presentations on some leading luminaries. Lankshear, et al. 2000 highlights the doubt that has now entered educational practices as a result of a digital culture, and Livingstone 2012 echoes these words of warning, even speaking about a “fundamental transformation.” Although perhaps not recognized as such a threat in the past, it is worth reviewing Papert’s early enthusiasm for introducing children to computer programming at an early age (Papert 1980). The context of social media has perhaps thwarted these early optimistic accounts, hence Turkle, once an enthusiast, now sounds warning bells about the isolating effect on children of social media (Turkle 2011). Turning to more philosophical texts on the same issue, Dreyfus 2008 examines the isolation of Internet users in a manner that Burbules 2002 finds overdrawn.

  • Burbules, Nicholas. “Like a Version: Playing with Online Identities.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 34.4 (2002): 387–393.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2002.tb00512.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In the context of deliberate or nondeliberate writing experiments on body and identity and in response to Dreyfus’s mildly hysterical reaction to the Internet, Burbules prefers to stress the positive uses of the Internet including the advantages for some of not having to negotiate an infirm body in an online contact.

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  • Butler, Christopher. Postmodernism—A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    Butler presents a readable account of postmodernism and uses frequent references to popular culture, film, art, architecture, literature, and thought frames to help the reader understand postmodernism as a general phenomenon. He notes the skepticism of postmodern approaches and the relativism of its results. Chapter 5 brings the writer’s doubts about postmodernism more plainly into the open, and many alternatives are announced. No reference to education per se but a good place to gain an overview.

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  • Dreyfus, Hubert. On the Internet. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Points to the dangers of the Internet to human embodiment and argues that nothing can quite replace face-to-face learning contact. This book takes account of the isolation of many Internet users and points up the other elements missing from such communication such as the salience of moods of various kinds and shared perceptions of contexts in which humans find themselves.

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  • Kellner, Douglas. Postmodern Theory. London: Macmillan, 1991.

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    This text takes the reader through some of the main philosophical protagonists of postmodernism. Beginning with the structural linguistics of Saussure, the authors present a careful account of Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Baudrillard, and Lyotard before an attempt is made to contrast these skeptical approaches with the critical theory approaches of the Frankfurt School, first Horkheimer and Adorno and then Habermas. This broad sweep offers the reader a welcome perspective on recent cultural theory.

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  • Lankshear, Colin, Michael Peters, and Michele Knobel. “Information, Knowledge and Learning: Some Issues Facing Epistemology and Education in a Digital Age.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 34.1 (2000): 17−39.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9752.00153Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers a survey of some current views by Thagard, Weston, Gilster, Heim, and Goldhaber on epistemologial implications of information and communication technology (ICT) and takes up the view that the postmodern age is marked by instabilities. Problematizes the thought that the Internet is just another source of information and suggests that it is an entirely new context for learning, expressed in terms of generalized dystopia with no commonly shared aims.

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  • Livingstone, Sonia. “Critical Reflections on the Benefits of ICT in Education.” Oxford Review of Education 38.1 (2012): 9–24.

    DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2011.577938Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Does ICT enhance traditional learning outcomes? The story is ambivalent. In keeping with the international Pisa survey, which found improvement only in some cases following ICT use, with more improvement paradoxically in English than in mathematics, it is the very variable combinations of factors, social and otherwise, that apparently continue to be central to achieving improved outcomes.

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  • Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. New York: Basic Books, 1980.

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    By now this text is something of a classic. Seymour presents a neo-Piagetian approach to learning and advocates active ways for children to learn as computer programmers. As a mathematician and psychologist, Papert presents several examples of children’s use of the “computer-controlled cybernetic animal” called “Turtle.”

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  • Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Shuster, 1995.

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    In this early work Turkle follows Papert in endorsing new age technologies for education and encourages programming by children as a creative use of computers.

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  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

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    In her later work, Turkle is more sanguine about the psychology of online life. Here she calls for reflection on the possibility that the connectivity of handheld devices may well simply camouflage loneliness.

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Textbooks

Students might look at Lyotard 1984 for an outline of the impact of postmodernism on knowledge and the legitimation crisis that is now with us. Kellner’s work on the media (Kellner 1995) presents insights into the theory and practice of media culture that is now the chief means of cultural transmission. Eagleton 2015 presents an interesting test case of the resilience of one grand narrative, the God narrative, despite the claims of atheism to have by-passed it and the apparent incoherency of radical religious expression in faithless societies. Usher and Edwards 1994 offers a more sustained examination of Lyotard and Foucault, among others, drawing on their implications for education, while suggesting useful counterpoints and critique. Buckingham 2007 provides a sociological focus on children’s learning in a digital age while Blake, et al. 1998, in the guise of a survey, presents witty applications of serious value concerns to curriculum and subject study. Long 2013 offers descriptions of childhood experiences in a postmodern age while Dahlberg and Moss 2005 note the impact of digital culture on early childhood education. Edwards faces the more general question about whether learning has now changed in the light of contemporary media culture.

  • Blake, Nigel, Paul Smeyers, and Richard Smith. Thinking Again: Education after Postmodernism. London: Praeger, 1998.

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    This book once again surveys the theorists of postmodernism but identifies the performativity consequences of instrumental learning and managerialism. Besides noting that some important educational values are being lost, these authors have found richly imaginative ways to discuss the impact of the postmodern mind-set on the areas of literacy, curriculum development, and moral education.

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  • Buckingham, David. Beyond Technology: Children’s Learning in the Age of Digital Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2007.

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    Buckingham is skeptical of claims that technology announces a new kind of utopia and so remains critical both of Seymour’s recommendation to promote coding in the classroom and reactionary views that would prefer to keep young children away from computers. He notes that in practice there is marked difference between the way these technologies are used inside school and outside school and argues for controlled access across the board.

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  • Dahlberg, Gunilla, and Peter Moss. Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Education. London: Routledge, 2005.

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    The authors build on a previous study that disputed the Enlightenment claim linking progress in technology to a better society by addressing the topic of ethics. They note how the ethical and political features of a child’s experience have been reduced by performative measurement techniques. They argue that there are alternatives to the “discourse of quality” currently in vogue, but this argument points beyond postmodernism to more generally agreed principles.

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  • Eagleton, Terry. Culture and the Death of God. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.

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    Perhaps one of the most enduring features of modernity has been the persistence of God as a grand narrative despite Nietzsche’s announcement of the death of God. Eagleton’s account here of a grand narrative displaced and of faithless societies that spawn radical Islam presents an interesting test case illustrating a general dissatisfaction with grand narratives. Eagleton applies his customary erudition to a complex weave of cultural insights.

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  • Kellner, Douglas. Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Post-Modern. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203205808Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is a readable account of the centrality of media culture. Kellner opens up various avenues that link media, particularly television and advertising, with the construction of postmodern identities. It exposes the difficulty of achieving a critical stance with respect to media messages, especially where there is dramatic information overflow, itself a social phenomenon that is on the increase today. It argues for more emphasis on cultural studies to counter de-politicization.

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  • Long, Fiachra. Educating the Postmodern Child: The Struggle for Learning in a World of Virtual Realities. London, New Delhi, New York, and Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013.

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    This book articulates some of the inflected impacts of postmodernism on the learning child. The author argues that postmodern children, in contrast to their traditional forebears and in a context dominated by digital literacy, are the first generation to manifest posthuman responses of body and mind. These effects are both visible and invisible as children attempt to accommodate themselves to the many influences communicated via the worldwide web.

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  • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1984.

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    This is perhaps the most famous account of the postmodern turn. It presents a report in a series of fourteen sections, examining different aspects of this turn as they impact on knowledge and on the discourses now required to legitimate knowledge. It argues that the postmodernism, having banished any acceptable grand narrative, inevitably leads to an acceptance of performativity as the dominant philosophy.

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  • Usher, Robin, and Richard Edwards. Postmodernism and Education. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203425206Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A well-considered examination of some plausible postmodern features of education. Besides taking individual writers like Lyotard, Gadamer, Lacan, and Foucault, there are two interesting inputs on Lyotard and the application of postmodern knowledge in education. Chapter 9 offers some interesting reflections for educators on the implications of Lyotard’s contention while offering some valuable critique.

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Anthologies

Best and Kellner 1991 links postmodernism to a sense of cultural theory. Drolet 2004 offers the reader access to some of these original texts and is therefore useful for more in-depth study. Jencks 2011 is contains a stimulating collection of chapters on the postmodern from subject areas as widely separated as architecture and theology while both Aronowitz and Giroux 1991 and Peters 1995 present critical theory and neo-Marxism as a possible antidote to postmodern trends. Sarup and Raja 1989 presents a feminist (and hence modernist) response to the way knowledge has seemingly lost its status in postmodernism. Willet, et al. 2009 reflect on the intertextuality of young children’s play patterns in the context of digital marketing while Parker 1997 advocates increasing reflective practice as a counter move to current postmodern performativities. Smith and Wexler 1995 argues for a form of theory that is anti-post-modern.

  • Aronowitz, Stanley, and Henry A. Giroux. Postmodern Education: Politics, Culture, and Social Criticism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

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    Authors provide a critical pedagogy perspective on education. There are many useful chapters including one on Educational Criticism (Chapter 3) and Border Pedagogies (Chapter 5). Authors explain how faith in rationality, science and technology, as well as the ideology of permanent change, have been shattered by a transformation that does not focus adequately on its own pedagogical bases. Authors suggest some lines of approach from a critical theory perspective.

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  • Best, Steven, and Douglas Kellner. Postmodern Theory. London: Macmillan, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-21718-2Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This text takes the reader through some of the main philosophical protagonists of postmodernism. Beginning with the structural linguistics of Saussure, the authors present a careful account of Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Baudrillard, Lyotard before an attempt is made to contrast these skeptical approaches with the critical theory approaches of the Frankfurt School, first Horkheimer and Adorno and then Habermas. This broad sweep offers the reader a welcome perspective on recent cultural theory.

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  • Drolet, Michael, ed. The Postmodernism Reader: Foundational Texts. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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    This introductory book also contains excerpts from Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Baudrillard, Lyotard, and others. The introduction is a useful starting point for student readers, tracing the origins of the term to Bernard Iddings Bell (Postmodernism and other Essays, 1926) and in its hyphenated form “post-modern” to the eighth volume of Toynbee’s History (1954).

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  • Jencks, C. The Post-Modern Reader. Chichester, UK: John Wiley, 2011.

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    Jencks in his preface argues that after thirty years, a deeper phase of postmodernism has been announced by modernists who want to step outside their current ideological platform. He favors the hyphenated term post-modernism on this account. This rich collection of essays and original excerpts moves beyond philosophy and presents reflection not only on the “isms” and “wasms” but also provocative insights on literature, architecture, sociology, science, and theology.

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  • Parker, Stuart. Reflective Teaching in the Postmodern World: A Manifesto for Education in Postmodernity. Buckingham, UK, and Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1997.

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    Claims to steer a course between the rigid demands of techno-rationality and the vague imperatives of anti-rationalism. Construes postmodernism as a skeptical form of epistemological idealism that, if misunderstood, becomes both “administrator-friendly” and “intellectually and educationally disastrous” (p. 145). Advocates locally based strategies as an antidote to exaggerated relativism.

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  • Peters, Michael, ed. Education and the Postmodern Condition. Westport, CT, and London: Bergin and Garvey, 1995.

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    Contains a number of very insightful articles on the implications of postmodernism for education from the perspective of critical theory. A poststructuralist reading may accord with early Foucault and Lyotard’s more revolutionary stance in education. A very good chapter by James D Marshall on the outfall of May-June 1968 is worth a careful read, as is Bill Readings’s commentary on Lyotard’s insight into the pedagogic relation.

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  • Sarup, Madan, and Tasneem Raja. An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989.

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    Sarup and Raja use the thought of Lacan, Baudrillard, and Foucault to explain the key concepts of post-structuralism. Chapter 6 of the second edition presents a general chapter on postmodernism and deals with Lyotard’s contention that knowledge in computerized societies no longer has the humanizing influence it once enjoyed but has assumed the profile of performativity.

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  • Smith, Richard, and Philip Wexler, eds. After Postmodernism: Education, Politics and Identity. London and Washington, DC: Falmer, 1995.

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    Spurred on by the fact that policymakers are no longer calling for advice, these editors take the position that theory in the philosophy of education must be made relevant to policymakers, and hence they conclude that in view of the challenge of postmodernism, serious attempts must be made to produce theory that is “after post-modernism” and therefore that could in a sense be construed as anti-postmodern.

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  • Willet, Rebekah, Muriel Robinson, and Jackie Marsh, eds. Play, Creativity and Digital Cultures. London and New York: Routledge, 2009.

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    This volume offers an interesting collection of articles focused particularly on the early years and dealing with games, creativity, and the digital marketing of children’s identity. The complex interactions between child and digital environment is noted and considered an enrichment or an asset rather than a deficit despite the complexity of commercial pressures.

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Journals

Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education offers an issue on “Digital Childhood and Youth: New Texts, New Literacies” (Carrington and Marsh 2005), and another issue of Discourse (Harwood and Wright 2012) that examines the impact of the new health imperatives on educational policy and schooling is also relevant. The Journal of Philosophy of Education offer a full issue in 2000 on the proposed impact on learning of the new technologies. Educational Philosophy and Theory (Semetsky 2004) has a special issue on rhizomatics and is a useful resource for anyone working on the cognitive impact of postmodernism. Studies in Philosophy and Education (Stone 1999) focuses on assessment implications and particularly Lyotard’s contention that the postmodern impact on learning will be to drive performativity in assessment. A special issue of Educational Philosophy and Theory Michael A. Peters (2006) focuses on the issue of government and the power relations that can operate in educational institutions, now that authority structures have become distributed. The Journal of Philosophy of Education ran a special issue on the issue of enhancement in learning (Cigman and Davis 2008), and it is here that the trans-human implications of learning in a technologically transformed environment moves from outside to inside the biological composition of learners. Lynda Stone’s edited a special issue of Studies in Philosophy and Education (Stone 1999) which identifies and critiques the salience of performativity as a logic of learning while Harris’s special issue of the Peabody Journal of Education (Harris 1996) identifies postmodernism as a liberation from the violent thrust of most modernist schemes and ally in the teaching of peace studies. The Journal of Educational Technology and Society published a special issue on the flipped classroom concept and its implications for particular subject areas (Song, et al. 2017).

  • Blake, Nigel and Standish, Paul, eds. Journal of Philosophy of Education 34.1 (2000).

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    A full issue that deals with the implications of the World Wide Web for learning. The debate centers on whether this new resource signifies a radical or a moderate change with protagonists arguing either way. Blake has an interesting piece on “Tutors and Students without Faces or Places” But there is much food for thought in this valuable collection of articles.

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  • Carrington, Victoria, and Jackie Marsh, eds. Special Issue: Digital Childhood and Youth: New Texts, New Literacies. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 26.3 (2005).

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    This special issue focuses on digital literacy and presents essays that show how literacy is mired in cultural politics as the shift from print to screen opens up new vistas for the learner. Educators still have an expectation that they should show the young how to navigate through this complexity.

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  • Cigman, Ruth, and Andrew Davis, eds. Special Issue: New Philosophies of Learning. Journal of Philosophy of Education 42.3–4 (2008).

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    This special issue deals with a broad range of topics, including neuroscience, information and communication technology (ICT), and enhancement. Some of the essays deal with what is called the “enhancement” agenda, which is sometimes associated with the human capacity for happiness but which writers here examine in more practical terms such as an increasing dependence on medical pills and mechanical implants.

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  • Harris, Ian M., ed. Special Issue: Peace Education in a Postmodern World. Peabody Journal of Education 71.3 (1996).

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    This special issue allies peace education in schools with postmodernism’s ability to open a new nonviolent lens for learning. The writers see the advantage of postmodernism’s ability to break down the violence of modernism’s discourses of power, drawing examples from different parts of the world, noting that global experience can also lead to peace.

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  • Harwood, Valerie, and Jan Wright, eds. Special Issue: The Impact of the New Health Imperatives on Educational Policy and Schooling. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 33.5 (2012).

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    This issue presents several articles on the impact of performative culture on children’s bodies. Reflects especially on government-led initiatives concerning health, healthy eating, and general fitness. It offers different reflections on the impact of these directives for children.

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  • Semetsky, Inna, ed. Special Issue: Deleuze and Education. Educational Philosophy and Theory 36.3 (2004).

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    This special issue presents a number of articles on the topic of rhizomatics, showing how contemporary knowledge presents a tangled web of possibilities without any necessary shape or direction. This theme follows the work of Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus.

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  • Song, Yanjie, Morris Jong, Maiga Chang, and Weigia Chen, eds. Special Issue: “How” to Design, Implement and Evaluate the Flipped Classroom? A Synthesis. Journal of Educational Technology and Society 20.1 (2017).

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    This special issue contains a set of articles on the use of the flipped classroom for specific subject areas like science, business, and foreign language teaching, while there are also articles on the contemporary use of computer-aided learning.

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  • Stone, Lynda, ed. Special Issue: Educational Reform through an Ethic of Performativity. Studies in Philosophy and Education 18.5 (1999).

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    This special issue examines the issue of performativity in the wake of Lyotard’s claim that performativity inevitably follows from the postmodern perspective. There are some original insights from Marshall, Gregoriou, and Stone herself.

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Reference Works

From these works we form the impression that postmodernism suggests an absence of norms and exemplars. A strong sense of relativism or a certain “absence of theory” prevails. In engaging with children, adults hesitate to teach about the stabilities of adult society and culture because everything is changing so rapidly. Yol Jung 1997 stresses the ambiguity of postmodernism and the focus on difference over concerns for certainty. Dreyfus 2006 points to the roots of the postmodern condition in the development of existentialism while Ermarth 2000 provides a concise historical account in the wake of a failed Enlightenment project and in the absence of any generalized belief in progress. Duignan 2014 also gives a strong historical account showing the tension between the postmodern approach to knowledge and scientific claims to evidence-based knowledge. Aylesworth 2013 traces links as far back as Kant before ending up with Habermas’s more measured critique of postmodernism. Lawlor picks up the multiple selves theme launched by postmodern objections to stable accounts of self, while Protevi 1999 makes a valuable contribution on individual authors under the heading of “post-structuralism.” Burbules, et al. 2006 announces elements of the posthuman that seem quite pertinent now.

  • Aylesworth, Gary. “Postmodernism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition). Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2013.

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    This entry presents an extensive philosophical account of the historical predecessors and current exponents of postmodernism. Extending from Kant’s Copernican Revolution to Vattimo and Perniola, this account pays particular attention to Lyotard and the notion of performativity. The article concludes by noting some telling objections from the German social theorist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas.

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  • Burbules, Nicholas C., Joel Weiss, Jason Nolan, and Jeremy Hunsinger, eds. The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Dordrecht: Springer, 2006.

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    Contains over 1,600 pages of reflection on various areas of virtual learning environments (VLEs), including speculations about new and upcoming learning environments. There are articles here on what one might categorize as the post-human context, that is, the context of learning that shares a human-machine interface. There are also other examples of the use of VLEs.

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  • Dreyfus, Hubert L. The Roots of Existentialism. In A Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism. Edited by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark A Wrathall, 137–161. Blackwell, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1111/b. 9781405110778.2006.00014.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Dreyfus presents a historical overview of the roots of existentialism from classical through modern to contemporary existentialist thinkers. There is an interesting analysis of Dostoievski’s Karamazov brothers and the piece ends with an interesting link to Nietzsche.

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  • Duignan, Brian. “Postmodernism.” In Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2014.

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    The entry argues that postmodernism is a late-20th-century philosophy that favors skepticism, subjectivism, and relativism and is acutely sensitive to the totalizing effect of ideology. The claim is that postmodernism reacts against the unproblematic status of scientific propositions, opening them to a field of advocacy movements and democratic structures that support minority and ethnic rights.

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  • Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds. “Postmodernism.” In The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig, 699–700. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    Ermath links postmodernism to a wide variety of cultural phenomena and aspects of architecture, literature, literary theory, philosophy, and fashion, drawing its inspiration from the structuralism of de Saussure. Focuses on discussions about the end of philosophy and the absence of any common ground as well as a nonrepresentative model of language.

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  • Lawlor, Leonard. “The Postmodern Self: An Essay on Anachronisam and Powerlessness.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Self. Edited by Shaun Gallagher, 696–714. Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    Locating the beginnings of postmodernism in Bergson, Lawlor examines the notion of selfhood in the context of Lyotard’s rejection of grand narratives. The author critiques totalitarian visions of selfhood and society.

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  • Protevi, John. “Post-Structuralism.” In Edinburgh Encyclopedia of Continental Philosophy. Edited by Simon Glendinning, 583–592. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.

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    This encyclopedia presents an entry on “post-structuralism” that includes insightful studies on Foucault by David Owen, Levinas by Diane Perpich, and postmodernism by Iain Hamilton Grant. This latter entry features a discussion on Lyotard and Baudrillard. The inputs are comprehensive and offer a good starting point for the serious reader.

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  • Yol Jung, Hwa. “Post-Modernism.” In Encyclopedia of Phenomenology. Edited by Lester Embree, et al., 558–561. Dordrecht, Boston and London: Kluwer, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-5344-9_126Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Contains an entry by Hwa Yol Jung on postmodernism. This entry singles out ambiguity as distinct from certainty as a key operational stance in all postmodern inquiry. There is further reference to Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard, and Irigaray, who singles out the importance in this context of touch and a feminist ethic of care.

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History

Commentary on the movement from order to disorder characterizes the history of the postmodern. In one sense, it seems that freedom is beckoning, freedom from old taboos and ensconced power mechanisms; on the other hand, the fragmentation of established power centers has not abolished power but has instead made its appearance more unpredictable. Norris uses a deliciously ironic title to query the benefits of postmodernism. Supporting it in one sense as a method of disturbing settled power regimes, he notes the vacuity of what it leaves in its wake. Harvey 1990 notes the transformation of educational practices into consumer practices, subject to the influence of capitalist economics. This theme is taken up by Poster 2004, which draws on certain writers to study the economics of urban spaces, their relative freedoms, and constrictions, while Lemert 1997 notes that we are moving from Euro-American hegemony to a state of fragmentation centered in social micro-movements. Stronach and MacLure 1997 follows Lyotard in highlighting the influence of performativity in school affairs and in the management of students while also leading to the compression of research time and space. The authors note the constrictions in operation when practice needs to be transparent to policymakers. Elkind 1995 explains the change in terms of a crisis in reason itself while Marshall 2000 offers post-Foucauldian reflections on the exercise of power in language related to the communication of information. Bloland 2005 provides a smooth historical overview touching on the central writers.

  • Bloland, Harland G. “Whatever Happened to Postmodernism in Higher Education? No Requiem in the New Millenium.” Journal of Higher Education 76.2 (2005): 121–150.

    DOI: 10.1353/jhe.2005.0010Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The late Harland Bloland offers a survey of the development of postmodern thought from the 1970s into the 21st century. In polished prose he speaks about postmodernism’s critique of the Enlightenment’s belief in inevitable progress and agrees that some kind of deep-rooted transformation has taken place signaled by dislocation, complexity, ambiguity, and globalization.

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  • Elkind, David. “School and Family in the Postmodern World.” Phi Delta Kappan 77.1 (1995): 8–14.

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    This is a very clear historical piece that traces the chronology of the postmodern child from Descartes to the present day. It argues that notions of progress, universality, and regularity that once characterized modernity have disappeared, to be replaced by ideas of difference, irregularity, and particularity. Elkind says that schools need to present a wider range of services today than they once did.

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  • Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990.

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    An iconic text that posits a link between the rise of a new set of cultural forms named postmodernist and new ways of accumulating wealth, thereby generating a new kind of space-time experience. Takes a broad sweep between art, poetry, and architecture but is primarily concerned with the economic rise of modernity and its current fault lines as viewed by critics.

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  • Lemert, Charles. Postmodernism Is Not What You Think. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1997.

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    Chapter 2 axiomatically distinguishes radical postmodernism associated with Lyotard’s critique of metanarratives in addition to Baudrillard’s presentation of the culture of hyperreality from radical modernism (sometimes called postmodern) stemming from the Critical Theory movement of the Frankfurt School. Lastly, there is strategic postmodernism associated with Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan. Useful glossary given, pp. 65–68.

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  • Marshall, James D. “Electronic Writing and the Wrapping of Language.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 34.1 (2000): 135–149.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9752.00161Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article presents a commentary on Mark Poster’s The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context (University of Chicago Press, 1990) and is very illuminating on the issues of the fragility of social networks and the authority of knowledge in the new “wrapping text” maneuvers of web knowledge. Argues that this new medium simply enhances the view that all meaning is indeterminate. What effect would being written by an indeterminate language have on us? Would we too not become indeterminate?

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  • Norris, Christopher. The Truth about Postmodernism. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1993.

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    This is a complex book, elaborating on the intellectual history of postmodernism. Drawing on Dubois, it focuses on the violence of the Enlightenment mind-set and supports the critique of the disciplinary regimes identified by Foucault, noting the way disciplinary regimes have impacted on everyday life. Norris neverthless questions the postmodern (post-structuralist) culture of suspicion that has supplanted power regimes.

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  • Poster, Mark. “Consumption and Digital Commodities in the Everyday.” Cultural Studies 18 (2004): 409–423.

    DOI: 10.1080/0950238042000201581Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presents a reflection on consumption in the contemporary world. Interestingly argues that objects no longer represent status but rather identity. Considers the paradox of urban space devoid of advertising compared to fundamental need for branding in a society awash with information and images. Using Veblen, Baudrillard, and De Certeau, the article claims to echo more robust resistance in the practice of the everyday consumer.

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  • Stronach, Ian, and Maggie MacLure. Educational Research Undone: The Postmodern Embrace. Buckingham, UK, and Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1997.

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    Stronach and MacLure advise against restricting postmodernism to any particular meaning (p. 1), arguing against pinning down its meaning in order to accept the deconstructed paths it opens up. The benefit of this approach is to explain the lack of cohesiveness that plagues most educational systems which, despite incoherence, seem to survive. Postmodernism is itself an “impossible object” (p. 72). Yet this book is rewarding for its examples of grounded theory and broken narrativity, postmodern traces in contemporary educational research.

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Key Themes

While some of the loftier accounts of postmodernism seem far removed from children, the impact of postmodernism can be clearly felt in the way knowledge is understood and in children’s identity patterns. The evaluation of information and communication technology (ICT) simply as a new external resource that adds variety to the learning process can no longer be sustained. While computer-based learning opens many new possibilities, it also acts as a challenge to underlying philosophies of education. To explore this challenge further, one might address the following themes: Postmodern Childhoods, ICT Use and Children, Postmodern Curricula, Digital Learner, Digital Divide, Performative Childhoods, and Post-Human Learner.

Postmodern Childhoods

Karl Mannheim noted that children in his day had begun to identify more with children worldwide than with adults or carers Taking up this theme of generational identity, Mayall and Zeiher 2003 examines some of the implications of this apparently innocent switch, which also leaves children more vulnerable to social media pressures. James and James 2004 makes use of sociocultural theory to counter the theme of intergenerational strife. The authors are more optimistic about the resilience of childhood in its sociocultural context and argue that postmodern influences eventually form back around the stronger normative positions of society. This optimism is shared by Lee 2001, which claims a greater impact for social networks on the young, speaking about children as “agents” rather than passive recipients of adult models. Janzen 2008 shares this general optimism and points to research from classrooms that have revealed the ability of children to retain their independence of mind. Rather more negative is Neil Postman’s idea (Postman 1994) that childhood per se only appears when the need for literacy appears and that with the advent of new communication technologies, the need for traditional literacy and a fortiori the need for childhood is no longer acute. Should this eventuality not mean the disappearance of childhood, Postman asks? Marsh 2007 returns us to the more optimistic view and follows Basil Bernstein in claiming that children are very resilient and capable of accommodating themselves to new information streams while also retaining value connections to adult society. Leander and Rose 2006 shows how rhizomatic learning benefits children as learners by the manner in which it allows them to contribute to the knowledge base. Murphy and Hall 2008 presents chapters that broadly support the sociocultural perspective, arguing largely against the postmodern mind-set on grounds of normalization and adaptation to change.

  • James, A., and A. James. Constructing Childhood: Theory, Policy and Social Practice. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-0-230-21427-9Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The writers frame childhood in the complexity of change. They claim that since no single discipline can claim privilege, there is need for an interdisciplinary approach. They lay stress on the socially and culturally constructed character of childhood but without explicit reference to postmodernism. Generational thinking is downplayed while local diversity is highlighted. The authors prefer the concept of law as a stabilizing concept.

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  • Janzen, Melanie D. “Where Is the (Postmodern) Child in Early Childhood Education Research?” Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development 28.3 (October 2008): 287–298.

    DOI: 10.1080/09575140802393827Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Janzen notes how postmodern children become co-constructors of knowledge in contrast to the modern child, who is still treated as an object and is acted upon. The author surveyed seventeen journals that included qualitative early childhood research articles showing that children in their own right show intrinsic features and values.

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  • Leander, Kevin M., and Deborah Wells Rose. “Mapping Literacy Spaces in Motion: A Rhizomatic Analysis of a Classroom Literacy Performance.” Reading Research Quarterly 41.4 (2006): 428–460.

    DOI: 10.1598/RRQ.41.4.2Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    These writers develop a rhizomatic analysis of various performances where the learner is constructed as performing whatever knowledge he has achieved. The authors attempt to blend Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the rhizome with Latour’s notion of an assemblage, a combination of disorder and order. They describe the benefits of this combined approach with a group of high school kids in a midwestern U.S. school over a two-year period.

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  • Lee, Nick. Childhood and Society. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2001.

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    Lee generally follows James and Prout’s characterization of children as “agents” rather than passive recipients of adult models. He recognizes the complexity, even ambiguity, of an actor network theory whereby the more agentic a person is, the more tightly reliant on the system or network that gives them agentic power.

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  • Marsh, Jackie. “New Literacies and Old Pedagogies: Recontextualizing Rules and Practices.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 11.3 (2007): 267–281.

    DOI: 10.1080/13603110701237522Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author rejects some narrow concepts of literacy that have now taken grip. She speaks about a mind-set that has not caught up with new kinds of learning made possible by Web 2.0 technology and follows Bernstein’s notion of an Official Recontextualizing Field to speculate about ways children might become producers of content via online multimedia blogs.

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  • Mayall, B., and H. Zeiher. Childhood in Generational Perspective. London: Institute of Education, 2003.

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    This collection celebrates the memory of Karl Mannheim and explores the prevalence of the idea of a generational unit in children’s experience. Chapter 4 by Heinz Hengs refers to a study of Norwegian children who identified more with other children from around the world of the same age or “generation” than they did with their own older siblings or adults.

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  • Murphy, Patricia, and Kathy Hall, eds. Learning and Practice: Agency and Identities. Los Angeles, London, Delhi, and Singapore: SAGE, 2008.

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    Seely Brown’s chapter suggests a new literacy of learning marked by information navigation, including strategies of information gathering marked by bricolage, the action of assembling information from disparate sources. Returning to the sociocultural assumptions underlying this book, it is claimed that new learners can form pretty instant links with new ad hoc communities of learners, successfully blending in expert with non-expert discourses.

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  • Postman, Neil. The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Vintage, 1994.

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    The author presents a polemical account of the changes to childhood evident in a televison culture. He points to the idea that preparing the young to be useful in the marketplace predominates in educational settings and argues that family and schools are a last defense against the disappearance of childhood (p. 152) and yet notes that these institutions have been weakened because they have “lost control over the information environment of the young” (p. 150). Originally published in 1982.

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ICT Use and Children

Evidence suggests that more and more children have access to the Internet and make use of this resource for information retrieval and for learning. These trends are becoming more pronounced not only in Europe but further afield. Valcke, et al. 2011 gives Belgian figures, noting that 91.2 percent of primary school children surf the Internet at home, and this figure is roughly replicated not only in other areas of the developed world. Sook-Jung and Chae 2007 describes an even more saturated profile in Korean society, while Zevenbergen and Logan 2008, for Australia; Somekh and Mavers 2003, for the United Kingdom; and Colás-Bravo, et al. 2013, for Spain, describe similar levels of usage inside and outside schools. Goldfarb and Prince 2008 notes comparable if not higher figures for the United States while Brandtzaeg, et al. 2011 draws upon an extensive survey of Eurostat figures to reinforce the conviction that extensive Internet use by children is now the norm. Williamson 2012 asks about the changing nature of teacher-pupil relationships given this new context and points to the need for a renewal of inquiry to combat the possibility of more passive results.

  • Brandtzaeg, Peter Bae, Jan Heim, and Amela Karahasanović. “Understanding the New Digital Divide−A Typology of Internet Users in Europe.” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 69 (2011): 123–138.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2010.11.004Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Using Eurostat data, (2008) this study attempted a typology of Internet users across Europe and found surprisingly that up to 60 percent of the population are either non-users or sporadic users. Used a self-assessment approach with elaborate statistical measure but no focused study on the use of computers by children.

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  • Colás-Bravo, Pilar, Teresa González-Ramírez, and Juan de-Pablos-Pons. “Young People and Social Networks: Motivations and Preferred Uses.” Scientific Journal of Media Education 20.4 (2013): 15–23.

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    A study on the social networking of Spanish youth confirms the view that at least in Western Europe computers have become part of a new literacy affecting children as young as five or six. The authors importantly note not only the Internet as a source of information but also the networking that Internet connection makes possible for the young.

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  • Goldfarb, Avi, and Jeff Prince. “Internet Adoption and Usage Patterns Are Different: Implications for the Digital Divide.” Information Economics and Policy 20 (2008): 2–15.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.infoecopol.2007.05.001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study that used Forrester Research data (2001), which surveyed 18,439 Americans about their daily Internet use. While high-income and highly educated populations were the first to be connected, others, particularly low-income groups, were found to use the Internet more extensively. The authors claim that the cost of leisure outside the home may account for this higher volume use among the lower paid.

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  • Somekh, Bridget, and Diane Mavers. “Mapping Learning Potential: Students’ Conceptions of ICT in Their World.” Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice 10.3 (2003): 409–420.

    DOI: 10.1080/0969594032000148217Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this UK study, Somekh, et al. found that 10–12-year-olds spent three times as long on their computers as they do at school while, by age 16, they spend four times as long. The authors make the claim that this new access to information has a direct impact on learning.

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  • Sook-Jung, Lee, and Young-Gil Chae. “Children’s Internet Use in a Family Context: Influence on Family Relationships and Parental Mediation.” CyberPsychology & Behavior 10.5 (2007): 640–644.

    DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2007.9975Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presented a survey of 222 Korean primary school children to determine their Internet usage in family settings and advises in favor of parental mediation. The study found Internet usage by school-goers in a family context at 92.8 percent.

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  • Valcke, M., B. De Wever, H. Van Keer, and T. Schellens. “Long-Term Study of Safe Internet Use of Young Children.” Computers and Education 57 (2011): 1292–1305.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.01.010Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Details some of the changes in children’s use of the Internet from 2005 to 2011 and uses an “Unsafe Internet Usage Index (UIUI)” to conclude that Intenet usage by children in the Belgian sample continues to be relatively safe although there seems to be a constancy to the fugure for unsafe usage. Belgian figures note that 91.2 percent of primary school children surf the Internet at home, and there has been an increase in Internet use of 342.2 percent from 2000 to 2011.

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  • Williamson, Ben. “Effective or Affective schools? Technological and Emotional Discourses of Educational Change.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 33.3 (2012): 425–441.

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    This article, based on the Enquiring Minds initiative in the United Kingdom, studied links between technological use and well-being in post-primary children. It found that an inquiry approach that includes teachers and students collaborating together on projects proved most successful. The article gives some interesting interview data from teachers seeking to “humanize” the technology of ICT.

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  • Zevenbergen, Robyn, and Helen Logan. “Computer Use by Preschool Children: Rethinking Practice as Digital Natives Come to Preschool.” Australian Journal of Early Childhood 33.1 (2008): 37–44.

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    Focus on the topic of computer use in an Australian context, noting with Prensky that our current children are “digital natives” and thus “more connected,” more linked to “global experience,” and more vulnerable to “marketeers” than children in past generations. A survey of Australian contexts shows a widespread uptake of computer use by children in the home (87.31 percent) rising to 95 percent overall if one takes school settings into account.

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Postmodern Curricula

The postmodern curriculum identifies a social environment that has been marked by the shift from stable to unstable, from fixed textbook resources to unfixed multimedia resources. The environment is now very much “multiple.” Hence “multiple identities,” “multiculturalism,” “multiple intelligences,” “multiple settings,” “multiple authorities,” “multiple worlds,” and “differentiated learning” contexts. This shift from singular to plural affects the nature of knowledge, identity, and cultural exchange, as knowledge becomes embodied in a new multiple relation of body to mind and as identity becomes established in a new avatar culture with ludic switches between private and public part-identities. Summed up briefly, where “modern” children might have constructed themselves according to some ideal, the postmodern child is being exposed to plural forms of identity. Children have less experience of stable knowledge benchmarks and so turn to Google searches, games, and multiple non-authorized avenues to seek their knowledge and form their attitudes. Pacini-Ketchabaw and Pence 2011 argues that the postmodern curriculum in early childhood opens up indigenous lenses, and this view is supported by Powers’s reflection on Banks’s advocacy of multiculturalism (Powers 2002). This view is extended by Elkind 1998 to include children with special needs in mainstream classrooms. Zembylas 2008 welcomes the chance to engage creatively with science. Yilmaz 2010 raises the issue of history and argues that a postmodern perspective can release learners from exaggerated norms while Pariser 1997 notes the usefulness of ICT for art and Wilson 2003 presents a test case of the positive uses of global interest in manga for art homework. There are also interesting reflections on other curricular areas like math and ICT itself, where Mavers, et al. 2002 points to the inevitability of adopting social media in the curriculum.

  • Elkind, David. “Children with Special Needs: A Postmodern Perspective.” Journal of Education 180.2 (1998): 1–16.

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    Elkind argues that the move from fixed definitions to ideas mediated by language has enabled children with special needs to find their place in mainstream schooling. He is particularly interested in the way new emotional descriptions have become possible in this postmodern environment.

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  • Mavers, Diane, Bridget Somekh, and Jane Restorick. “Interpreting the Externalised Images of Pupils’ Conceptions of ICT: Methods for the Analysis of Concept Maps.” Computers and Education 38 (2002): 187–207.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0360-1315(01)00074-4Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors used a phenomenographic approach to analyze student maps of their ICT environment in the age categories of 10–11, 13–14, and 15–16 in June 2000. They refer to European studies to provide some contemporary (2000) understandings by children of their “computer” environment. Authors conclude that teachers and policymakers will need to adopt these new technologies in schools.

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  • Pacini-Ketchabaw, Veronica, and Alan Pence. “The Postmodern Curriculum: Making Space for Historically and Politically Situated Understandings.” Australasian Journal of Early Childhood 36.1 (2011): 4–8.

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    Authors argue that the postmodern curriculum in early childhood opens up indigenous lenses and makes localized knowledge more central to curriculum design. Situating their study within Canada, they claim that new curriculum is or should be locally constructed rather than created out of a centrist agenda.

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  • Pariser, David A. “Conceptions of Children's Artistic Giftedness from Modern and Postmodern Perspectives.” Journal of Aesthetic Education 31.4 (1997): 35–47.

    DOI: 10.2307/3333142Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Pariser contrasts a postmodern perspective on children’s artistic giftedness with the modernist approach by showing how postmodernism in art allows for pluralist and nihilistic origins and thus opens other avenues and recognitions of artistic expression. The author wonders whether this type of flexibility might be a step too far.

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  • Powers, Thomas F. “Postmodernism and James A. Banks’s Multiculturalism: The Limits of Intellectual History.” Educational Theory 52.2 (2002): 209–221.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-5446.2002.00209.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Considers a version of James A. Banks’s critical race theory account of multiculturalism, linking it to the postmodern movement. Banks recognizes the particularities of knowledge and the fact that understandings are culture bound and economically compromised. The subject component also plays a large part in understanding differences and the need to overcome discriminatory practices.

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  • Wilson, Brent. “Of Diagrams and Rhizomes: Visual Culture, Contemporary Art, and the Impossibility of Mapping the Content of Art Education.” Studies in Art Education 44.3 (2003): 214–229.

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    Following Elliot Eisner, Wilson argues for the relevance of popular visual art and narrativity to the construction of the art curriculum. What pedagogical problems might this suggest? Image overload certainly but in view of the popularity of the Japaneese Comiket 58 market where 100,000 artists sold their work to approximately half a million buyers (summer 2000), evidence suggests that young people are attracted to such complex, nonhierarchical systems.

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  • Yilmaz, Kaya. “Postmodernism and Its Challenge to the Discipline of History: Implications for History Education.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 42.7 (2010): 779–795.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2009.00525.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Yilmaz explains how postmodernism operates in the social sciences and in history education and sets out to show the benefits of postmodernism’s critique of foundationalism for history. She argues for its power to dismantle ideological approaches.

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  • Zembylas, Michalinos. “The Unbearable Lightness of Representing ‘Reality’ in Science Education: A Response to Schulz.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 40.4 (2008): 494–514.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2007.00360.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Zembylas welcomes the chance to engage in a contest for the basic ground of science education in the spirit of Latour’s monumental Science in Practice. This involves the postmodern belief that science is not a discrete rational practice but rather an assemblage of complex interests.

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Digital Learner, Digital Divide

With an increasing focus on the role of the digital media and communication in postmodern culture, a “digital native” type literacy is now evident and digital media are radically altering the ways in which the subject (person) and the subject (discipline) are constructed. It seems a cliché now to say that a new economic age has emerged, mediated not only by capital itself but also by digital modes of communication. If we consider the impact on education of this new connectivity, more impressive in the young than in the old, one can see quandaries for teachers and parents. Prensky 2010 has reflected further on the implications of the “digital divide” between “digital natives” and others. Edwards 2005 notes how concerned Melbourne parents were that their children would not fall behind and how, as a result, they advocated increasing use of digital media in pre-school. Gibbons 2006 notes similar concerns in New Zealand. In this context, an earlier debate involving Levin and Rosenquest 2001 is worth reviewing because these authors argue for limiting digital media in pre-school while Marsh 2002 argues against this response on the grounds that it exaggerates the evils of the Internet. Beastall 2006 notes how the digital literacy of teachers themselves might be a significant obstacle to the beneficial use of online sources and argues for proper teacher training. Broadbent and Papadopolous 2013 presents the results of a multi-method study showing the positive impact of introducing a disadvantaged community to ICT, while Goodfellow and Wade 2007 questions the sacred cow of the competence of “digital natives” when the authors find a high proportion of college students lacking confidence in the use of these media.

  • Beastall, Liz. “Enchanting a Disenchanted Child: Revolutionising the Means of Education Using Information and Communication Technology and e-Learning.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 27.1 (2006): 97–110.

    DOI: 10.1080/01425690500376758Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Casts doubt on the potential of ICT to transform English schools until the level of ICT skills in teaching staff has been addressed.

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  • Broadbent, Robyn, and Theo Papadopolous. “Bridging the Digital Divide—An Australian Story.” Behaviour & Information Technology 32.1 (2013): 4–13.

    DOI: 10.1080/0144929X.2011.572186Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    These writers present an Australian study that shows the positive impact of having access to the Internet on people’s lives. The study involved a multi-method analysis to examine how the digital divide disconnects you from the world especially if one belongs to an uneducated minority group who lives on the margins of society without the sense of self-belief that might enable them to engage in work.

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  • Edwards, Suzy. “The Reasoning behind the Scene: Why Do Early Childhood Educators Use Computers in Their Classrooms?” Australian Journal of Early Childhood 30.4 (2005): 26–33.

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    Edwards argues that researches have moved beyond the question whether to exclude computers from early childhood use to the question of why computers are used. The study concludes by doubting whether pragmatic advantages, such as keeping children up to date or giving them added advantages as they are perceived by parents, actually amount to valid educational reasons for their inclusion in an early school curriculum.

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  • Gibbons, Andrew N. “The Politics of Technology in Early Childhood in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Fitting Early Childhood Educators in the ICT Grid.” Australian Journal of Early Childhood 31.4 (2006): 7–14.

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    Looks at the integration of new technologies in early childhood services in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Argues that an over-emphasis on upskilling educators takes the focus away from critical engagement with the materials used by these age groups.

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  • Goodfellow, Marianne, and Barbara Wade. “The Digital Divide and First-Year Students.” Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice 8.4 (2007): 425–438.

    DOI: 10.2190/0655-01Q3-2113-22JQSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Surveyed over 800 first-year university students only to find that half of them rated themselves as relatively unskilled in ICT. This evidence runs counter to the generally assumed truism that young people are by definition experts in digital maneuvers and online self-management.

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  • Levin, Diane, and Barbara Rosenquest. “The Increasing Role of Electronic Toys in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers: Should We Be Concerned?” Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 2.2 (2001): 242–247.

    DOI: 10.2304/ciec.2001.2.2.9Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    These writers propose that electronic toys can be harmful for young children and that their use should be regulated. They claim this on the basis that electronic toys tend to be preprogrammed and quite predictable and thus do not allow for the open-ended character of child’s play.

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  • Marsh, Jackie. “Electronic Toys: Why Should We Be Concerned? A Response to Levin and Rosenquest (2001).” Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 31.1 (2002): 132–138.

    DOI: 10.2304/ciec.2002.3.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Marsh elicits Stanley Cohen’s 1987 phrase “moral panic” to describe Levin and Rosenquest’s fears. She counters these arguments by saying that children play with toys in many ways and that we can trust parents to do what is best in selecting appropriate toys for their children in ways that introduce children to the contemporary world.

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  • Prensky, Marc. Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning. London: SAGE, 2010.

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    This text is further commentary on Prensky’s well-known idea of the “digital native,” asking what teachers can do to optimize pupil engagement in the learning process. The text provides innovative and well-tested techniques of engaging teacher and learner together in a partnering model of learning.

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Performative Childhoods

Where institutions have lost any “grand narrative” as a guide, they can revert, as Lyotard suggests, to other forms of legitimacy. Hargreaves 1999 warns about this result. Viliani 2001 focuses on the way some social media can encourage violence in the young and the lack of resistance of the young to such influences. Rich 2012 comments on the influence of the same media on the construction of the body, especially among young girls, in whom normativities are often both mandatory and violent. Rich speaks about performance-in announcing the invisible realm characterized by scare stories about body shape, calorie intake, eating control, and acne management and performance-out announcing the visible realm, fashion, dress codes, the parties to go to, the brand names to wear, and the right moves to make in order to belong. Harwood 2012 comments pointedly about fatness while Chittenden 2010 speaks of the symbolic self-representation made possible by Internet dress-up sites. Hakanen 2002 reflects quite philosophically on the implications of belonging to a brand in the psychic life of young people. Klepp and Storm-Mathison 2005 speaks of the pressure experienced by youth to link up with fashion trends. Curtis, et al. 2010 examines snacking habits among young people, how they are justified and rationalized, and how they demonstrate an exposure to global persuasion via relevant media outlets.

  • Chittenden, Tara. “Digital Dressing Up: Modeling Female Teen Identity in the Discursive Spaces of the Fashion Blogosphere.” Journal of Youth Studies 13.4 (2010): 505–520.

    DOI: 10.1080/13676260903520902Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Chittenden presents a study in the use of social network sites as blog resources for teenagers who want to experiment with body image by focusing on ten female fashion bloggers who had been identified through the snowball sampling strategy. There is an examination of symbolic wealth underlying these blog exchanges. Drawn from different countries, these bloggers nonetheless established a “global” sense of appropriate dress and fashion.

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  • Curtis, Penny, James Allison, and Katie Ellis. “Children’s Snacking, Children’s Food: Food Moralities and Family Life.” Children’s Geographies 8.3 (2010): 291–302.

    DOI: 10.1080/14733285.2010.494870Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines food moralities in the home and attempts by the central government to normalize children’s eating habits. In this morality there is a constant distinction between proper food and snack food according to the children interviewed. The article offers an interesting perspective on eating and snacking from the perspective of children.

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  • Hakanen, Ernest. “Lists as Social Grid: Ratings and Rankings in Everyday Life.” Social Semiotics 12.3 (2002): 245–254.

    DOI: 10.1080/10350330216372Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An intereting reflection on the function of grids and lists in contemporary life, using the insights of Foucault and Baudrillard as they apply to consumer behaviors. The article reflects on the way that participating in lists gives consumers the illusion of identity and of being in control.

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  • Hargreaves, Andy. “Schooling in the New Millennium: Educational Research for the Postmodern Age.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 20.3 (1999): 333–355.

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    Hargreaves speaks of people being seduced into a new and dangerous form of relativism as a result of the postmodern turn or, in more concrete terms: the creation of community, which once acted as the basis for children’s learning, has become less valued. The article points to a type of performativity that may result while also identifying some new forms of assessment.

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  • Harwood, Valerie. “Neither Good nor Useful: Looking ad vivum in Children’s Assessment of Fat and Healthy Bodies.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 33.5 (2012): 693–711.

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    The article considers young people’s superficial view of health, their equation of fat with ill-health, and their reliance on looks to scan for health. Looks at the history of this problem and draws on 2,636 surveys, 212 interviews, and detailed field observations. Strikingly juxtaposes Gessner’s ad vivum descriptions of animals in 1551 with these findings and finds that contemporary judgments were even more based on hearsay.

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  • Klepp, Ingun Grimstad, and Ardis Storm-Mathison. “Reading Fashion as Age: Teenage Girls’ and Grown Women’s Accounts of Clothing as Body and Social Status.” Fashion Theory 9.3 (2005): 323–342.

    DOI: 10.2752/136270405778051329Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of Norwegian verbal accounts of clothing practices in the late 1990s and a good test of the power of fashion norms to shape appearance. Interviews with teenage girls show acute awareness of the difference between appearing as children or as adults. Often, if not always, the performance imperatives invade the adolescent’s space directly, despite the counsel of good-enough mothers.

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  • Rich, Emma. “Beyond School Boundaries: New Health Imperatives, Families and Schools.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 33.5 (2012): 635–654.

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    Adding to work with Evans and Holroyd, this article speaks to the UK policies that have impacted heavily in recent years on the bodies of children in the wake of the so-called obesity epidemic. Rich uses concepts like surveillance (Foucault), assemblages (Latour), and deterritorialization (Deleuze) to interrogate children’s eating habits. It notes the cultural impact of messages describing normal bodies.

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  • Viliani, Susan. “Impact of Media on Children and Adolescents: A 10-Year Review of the Research.” Journal of the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 40.4 (2001): 392–401.

    DOI: 10.1097/00004583-200104000-00007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Viliani summarizes ten years of research on the influence of violent media on children based on medical sources. The article highlights sexual content, music videos, and techniques of advertising, including brand logo recognition, and concludes by warning against the overreliance by children on various media.

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The Post-Human Learner

The post-human learner arises as a further step beyond the loosening of norms represented by the general fragmentation of knowledge announced by Lyotard. What is the role of knowledge in bringing about the human being? If no norms attach to knowledge, reason, norms, local laws, and guidelines, then what is it to be a human being? The post-human announces a new kind of biological interface made plausible by technology and describing learners who are not content to be limited by human biological norms. Instead they seek by chemical or other means to enhance their experience and dispense with their limitations. They are attracted by new forms of Manicheanism designed to split mind from body because this split reinforces their hope in a limitless, nomadic kind of life. The rhizomatic learner has changed the character of knowledge from a linear and ultimately rooted type of phenomenon to one that is circular, non-directional and sporadic. Sensing this phenomenon, some educators have drawn the term rhizome from A Thousand Plateaus, by the French thinkers Deleuze and Guattari. A rhizome, they say, is a taproot that has “a multiple, lateral, and circular system boasting all the tactile associations that this connectivity brings” (Deleuze and Guattari 2014, p. 5, cited under The Rhizomatic Learner). What researchers and practitioners want to catalogue are the effects of this kind of knowledge on the styles of learning that children now prefer.

The Rhizomatic Learner

The rhizome is a better concept to describe web surfing and the haphazard collection of information than the linear structure of traditional rationality. Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (2014) has served as a constant source for scholars attempting to pin down the nomadic traces of knowledge in the contemporary environment The impact of this text (originally published in 1987) has been considerable because what the rhizome gains in speed and extension, it loses in thoroughness and comprehension. Gregoriou 2004 finds that the rhizome implies teaching without metaphor and suggests that to teach in this way requires a different way of construing aims and objectives. Edwards and Carmichael 2012 turns to Latour for a theory of the complexity required while Long 2014 notes the rhizomatic change in learners’ knowledge behaviors and identity. Walters and Kop 2009 draws some lessons from Heidegger’s worries about the impact of technology for the way in which memory is trivialized and forgetfulness promoted. Edwards 2006 links the fragmentation of this new epoch to performativity itself while Bogue 2004 returns to the issue raised in Deleuze and Guattari’s book of the impact of images on pedagogy.

  • Bogue, Ronald. “Search, Swim and See: Deleuze’s Apprenticeship in Signs and Pedagogy of Images.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 36.3 (2004): 327–342.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2004.00071.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that for Deleuze, learning does not mean the acquisition of a new skill or content but a new kind of perception arising from current culture and its images. Helpfully links Deleuze to Bergson’s separation of time and duration, as this switch suggests that most curriculum is time and memory based rather than duration based, which is what the writer means by “Deleuze’s apprenticeship in signs.”

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  • Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. London: Bloomsbury Revelations, 2014.

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    This insightful book is not intended to be accessed in a linear manner from start to finish. It contains notable insights and an unusual analysis of complex contemporary epistemology. It offers reflections on current nomadic patterns of thought and describes some of the implications of the multilayered patterns of knowledge set in place by the rhizomatic turn.

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  • Edwards, Richard. “All Quiet on the Postmodern Front?” Studies in Philosophy & Education 25.4 (2006): 273–278.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11217-006-9001-7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explains the effect of the postmodern condition on knowledge and learning in terms of stuttering. The postmodern may be passing because postmodernism has been transformed into performativity itself. While modernism measured performance against a recognized mastery of some kind, postmodernism measures performance against a strategy of stuttering, which might be taken to imply the strategic measurement of oneself against the flexible demands of shifting systems.

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  • Edwards, Richard, and Patrick Carmichael. “Secret Codes: The Hidden Curriculum of Semantic Web Technologies.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 33.4 (2012): 575–590.

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    Influenced by Latour’s notion of “assemblages,” this analysis argues that web technology is not simply content-bearing as much as norm-bearing. The postmodern preference for fragmented norms enters this debate. Behind the “openness” of the instrument and the “hiddenness” of a code’s complexity, there is a presumed but questionable sense of support across media and sources.

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  • Gregoriou, Zelia. “Commencing the Rhizome: Towards a Minor Philosophy of Education.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 36.3 (2004): 233–251.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2004.00065.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Gregoriou argues that the realist norms of traditional education have been replaced to the benefit of educators in the postmodern curriculum by nonfoundational elements. Gregoriou suspects that the student who changes her mind weekly about her research topic is a product of the postmodern, hence manifesting the instability of knowledge and the lack of linearity of thought. She argues that the rhizomatic era is an era without metaphors and invokes Kafka as a forerunner.

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  • Kennedy, David. “The Child and Postmodern Subjectivity.” Educational Theory 52.2 (2002): 155–167.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-5446.2002.00155.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that children in postmodernity learn to operate a new form of subjectivity, which Kristeva called the “subject in process” and which is reframed here by dialectical maneuvers of a pluralist sysem of avatars in place of one singular traditional identity dutifully fashioned and controlled. What would it be like to re-imagine childhood under such conditions? Would it result in a Regio Emilia child, a Sumerhill child?

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  • Long, Fiachra. “Trials of the Rhizomatic Learner.” RicerAzione 6.1 (2014): 81–97.

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    Long draws on post-structuralist writings, particularly Deleuze and Guattari, to speculate on the pedagogical effects of web learning. He applies the concept of rhizome to the context of learning, revisiting elements in Lyotard and concluding that these effects announce elements of a post-human culture where neither memory nor experience are to form the basic building blocks of learning.

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  • Walters, Patrick, and Rita Kop. “Heidegger, Digital Technology, and Postmodern Education: From Being in Cyberspace to Meeting on MySpace.” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 29.4 (2009): 278–286.

    DOI: 10.1177/0270467609336305Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    These writers argue that the technological presentations of knowledge lose any feeble aspiration to form a cultural being in the 19th-century sense of Bildung. Instead self-constructs are defined in relation to surface changes such as changes in fashion, fiction, and images rendered popular by the media. Togetherness and connection in this collective space enlarges the trivializing context affecting children.

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The Enhanced Learner

The second feature of a trans-human or post-human learning environment involves the enhancement of the biology of the learner through chemical or other means. The use of drugs to improve concentration or enable longer working periods without sleep has been around for some time, but it is the general acceptance of such practices as normal that typifies the postmodern learning environment. Enhancing learning now may include machine wearables or neural implants, possible forms of cyborgism made possible by the latest neuro-techniques. Partly influenced by science fiction and partly by research into military capacity on the battlefield, more possibilities are being funded that enhance sensory performance; these practices promote the idea that the mind can be isolated from the body, while to do so presents a competitive advantage. Miller and Leger 2003 discusses the use of Ritalin to control disruption and promote good learning results. The authors wonder at the way drugs have been normalized in learning environments. Jünker-Kenny 2005 argues that parents need to reassert their claims to be the proper moral educators of their children and should resist trends toward chemical enhancement. Taylor, et al. 2013 takes a contrasting view and embraces the Haraway view of a post-human world that links us back to a more primitive and more feminist-compatible model of the world. Moving in a different direction, Pedersen 2010 looks at these changes from the perspective of the machine-human interface, while Bendle 2002 counsels an end to any hyperbolic science fiction flights of fancy but a more actual focus on the competitive culture these fictions serve. Gough 2004 returns us to Deleuze and comments on the attractiveness of cyborgism in the context of systems identification and Actor Network Theory. Dahlin 2012 appeals for a move away from the model of human learners as bio-computers, claiming that education needs a spiritual understanding of the human, while Long 2017 contrasts the material humanism of Sloterdijk with the mystical humanism of Heidegger in order to comment on the viability of Sloterdijk’s materialism for educators.

  • Bendle, Mervyn F. “Teleportation, Cyborgs and the Posthuman Ideology.” Social Semiotics 12.1 (2002): 45–62.

    DOI: 10.1080/10350330220130368Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers a general overview of post-humanism that is extensive if not sympathetic. Apart from the hyperbole of computer-aided cognitive functions and a renewal of an older dualist pattern of embodiment, the context of posthumanism may not be quite the cybogism and teleportation characterized here as science fiction but rather the context of high competition where young people have to find some edge, chemical or otherwise, to succeed.

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  • Dahlin, Bo. “Our Posthuman Futures and Education: Homo Zappiens, Cyborgs, and the New Adam.” Futures 44 (2012): 55–63.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2011.08.007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Dahlin argues that current educational interest in superfast computers and the enhancement of brain capacity must be contrasted with the strong expression of alternatives. He suggests that the Steiner Waldorf axis offers such an alternative by proposing a spiritual construction of the human being as distinct from the mechanical model. This piece presents an engaged confrontation with Ray Kurzweil and trans-humanism in general.

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  • Gough, Noel. “RhizomANTically Becoming-Cyborg: Performing Posthuman Pedagogies.” Educational Philosophy & Theory 36.3 (2004): 253–265.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2004.00066.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Connects Deleuze’s rhizome to Haraway and Bruno Latour’s Action Network Theory (ANT). Studies the complexity of situations and symbols precipitated by ANT and shifts rhizomatically to discussion of robotic ANT invented by Mayakovsky. Comments on the general complexity required for thinking and the attractions of cyborg pedagogy.

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  • Jünker-Kenny, Maureen. “Genetic Enhancement as Care or as Domination? The Ethics of Asymmetrical Relationships in the Upbringing of Children.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 39.1 (2005): 1–17.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0309-8249.2005.00416.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Raises the question of human enhancement from a moral point of view drawing on Rawls and Habermas. How can parents moderate their expectations if enhancement drugs are available to “improve” their children or if some new implant technologies are available? This is the question underlying Junker-Kenny’s analysis, where a child’s autonomy is the key issue.

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  • Long, F. “Transhuman Education? Sloterdijk’s Reading of Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 51.1 (2017): 177–192.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9752.12192Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Although Heidegger rejected technology as yet one further sign of the decadence of the West, Sloterdijk wants to embrace technology and the enhancement of the human body and mind as the next great step forward not only for society but for educational theory also. Is education in these times a partner or an opponent of the technological enhancement of the human being? This article queries the viability of Sloterdijk’s materialism for education.

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  • Miller, Toby, and Marie Claire Leger. “A Very Childish Moral Panic: Ritalin.” Journal of Medical Humanities 24.1–2 (2003): 9–33.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1021301614509Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article argues that the drug Ritalin reflects modernity’s impulse to turn people into compatible adults. Compatible in what way? People are right to worry if their child is pathologized beause he or she does not fit with the usual social norms. Although the term postmodern is not used in this article, it comments on the ever-increasing fuzzy boundaries at the heart of this debate and notes how drugs have been excessively normalized.

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  • Pedersen, Helena. “Is ‘the Posthuman’ Educable? On the Convergence of Educational Philosophy, Animal Studies, and Posthumanist Theory.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 31.2 (2010): 237–250.

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    This article presents an interesting brief history of post-humanism and suggests three main lines of inquiry: a cybernetic inquiry into the human as a kind of human-machine hybrid, a kind of human-animal ecology that situates the human back into its animal ground via a kind of “systems theory,” and critical post-humanism, which views it as an extension of liberal humanism. It asks whether post-humanism can be cast as a new kind of critical theory.

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  • Taylor, Affrica, Cindy Blaise, and Miriam Giugni. “Haraway’s ‘Bag Lady Story-Telling’: Relocating Childhood and Learning within a ‘Post-Human Landscape.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 34.1 (2013): 48–62.

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    Interesting foray into the post-human landscape through the use of three separate examples. Uses Haraway to draw up a feminist analysis of the new ecology of learning, broader than that which gave rise to the individualist and human-centered accounts of learning in modernist discourse post 1600. Develops some interesting ideas on post-humanist responsibility.

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