Different Media, Different Languages
by George Forman

Representational media such as drawings made with markers, paper constructions, clay sculpture, and wooden constructions are used in the Reggio Emilia schools to deepen the children's understanding of a theme or concept. Typically, a small group of children will work together in a team, each making a version of his or her idea in several media. In the "Field Project" at La Villetta, one of the schools in Reggio Emilia, the children first talked about a plot of ground outside in their yard, drew what they remembered, made wire and paper models of the ecosystem of spiders, birds, and crickets, and even made noise machines for the sound of rain and of the animals living in the field. In the project called "The Amusement Park for Birds," a group of children at La Villetta discussed what they knew about water wheels, drew them, and made them in paper, clay, and finally wood and wire. At each passage, their questions about how water wheels work and where they are used deepened and broadened.

Summary:

  • Children learn more deeply when they represent the same concept in different media.
  • Each medium has different affordances.
  • Each affordance provokes a special orientation to the problem to be solved.
  • Children learn to make compromises with what the medium does not easily afford.
  • Other aspects of media, such as modularity, persistence across time, and amount of feedback affect representational bias.
  • Sequences across media affect the child's success.
  • Children should be encouraged to revise earlier representations because of discoveries made with more recent representation.
  • Some media are better suited for theory construction and others for theory testing.
  • We need to consider the child's level of media literacy.
  • We need to accept the partial theory as if it were complete.

Continue to the excerpt from the next section of the Reggio publication.

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