A Visit to Reggio Emilia : a reflection on innovation and technology
I recently had the opportunity to visit the renowned Loris Malaguzzi International Center located in the beautiful Reggio Emilia, Italy. I felt incredibly lucky to be one of the many educators that visit year round to learn about some of the most creative and innovative methods used in education today. While the Reggio teachers touched on several ideas during my visit, my particular focus was on use of technology and digital tools in the classroom. I left feeling very inspired and eager to share what I’d learned.
A Walk Through the Ateliers
I checked out several of the Reggio ateliers or learning spaces, which centered around the theme of light exploration. These ateliers were intentionally setup to invite children to ask questions, construct hypotheses, and verify inquires through experimentation and discovery learning.
Throughout the ateliers, there were various lighting fixtures, projectors, document cameras, webcams, and microscopes. There were also many objects such as mirrors, feathers, plastic reflectors, and other sensory, hands-on items to help children explore concepts of light. These tools, which were each selected purposefully by Reggio teachers, are meant to be touched, moved, and explored by children to provoke thinking and deeper questions.
Check out some of my favorite ateliers below.
Ray of Light
In this learning space, children experiment with light through interaction with different environments and materials. Students have plastic material and various colored objects available to them to use with light, a single laptop, a document camera, and a projector. They can explore shadows, color, light refraction and reflection, and other questions they are wondering about.
Glow in the Dark
In this atelier, students use objects made of different materials to experiment with how glowing in the dark might work. In addition to experimenting with light, children also explore darkness. Children can observe their own bodies and objects in a special tunnel created by Reggio staff to see how colors and materials behave with light. They can also compare what is happening to objects inside verses outside of the tunnel.
Reggio teachers setup their very own camera obscura so students can explore hypotheses about how light moves, travels, and reflects. Teachers use this learning space as a starting point to lead to deeper discussions about how cameras or vision works.
Innovation is not about having the latest or fanciest technology at your fingertips. In fact, most of the devices I saw at the education center were not the most current. Innovation is about what teachers and students actually do with these tools. The use of technology needs to be purposeful and provide hands-on experiences. Students should use their hands to think and explore as it serves as the basis to build up their knowledge.
When children interact with digital and non-digital tools, they need to be able to explore independently, be actively involved, think and reason for themselves in an environment that allows for experimentation.
I think educators, regardless of what grade they teach, should have the opportunity to visit or learn about Reggio practices. Although I'm not a pre-k teacher, my experience visiting has been wonderfully enriching. There are brilliant ideas for everyone to learn from Reggio teachers regarding technology, innovation, and creativity.
If you feel inspired and want to try some of these ideas out, but are concerned about the space or cost, no need to worry! All if these learning spaces can be recreated on a smaller scale. For example, there are many resources out there to help you create your own camera obscura using cardboard and simple household items. In addition, many of the materials used in these learning spaces are actually recycled materials. Check out The Hundred Languages of Children or Working in the Reggio Way for more on the Reggio Emilia approach.