Academic journal article Language Arts

Drama as Serious (and Not So Serious) Business: Critical Play, Generative Conflicts, and Moving Bodies in a 1:1 Classroom

Academic journal article Language Arts

Drama as Serious (and Not So Serious) Business: Critical Play, Generative Conflicts, and Moving Bodies in a 1:1 Classroom

Article excerpt

As part of a longitudinal classroom ethnography project, I explored what happens when drama pedagogy is mobilized in relation to a classroom conflict. The findings from this work suggest that drama encounters can move the classroom frame of criticality from talking about to creating, as children's bodies are positioned as generative and complex sources of knowledge creation (Giambrone, 2011). Here I present some aspects of my emergent work with children within a performative pedagogy that functioned to disrupt and splinter current assumptions and societal norms about how children's bodies are expected to take up technological tools in schools. These dramatic ruptures prompted lines of flight that push us to consider "expansive and powerful literacies in our unjust world" (Jones, 2013, p. 536) within the growing nexus of classroom literacy practices and technological tools. Rather than ignoring or downplaying conflict, performative pedagogy positioned conflict as generative-a means of using bodies to engage differences in perspectives, interests, needs, and experiences in a way that created meaning for children, teachers, and researchers.

The dramatic inquiry work shared here was part of a larger ethnographic project, one where I spent four years engaged in documenting the collective literacy practices, development, and knowledge production of children in a multiage classroom located in a "low performing" public elementary school. The classroom was atypical in that children remained in the same room for many years alongside their two teachers, allowing children to build a classroom community over multiple years.

Context of the Study

As part of my ethnographic work, I had the unanticipated opportunity to observe and document the lived experiences of teachers and children as they negotiated the new realities of a districtwide one-to-one (1:1) iPad initiative. Education technology is now a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States, and tablets/iPads are the newest "must have" device for K-12 classrooms. The New York Times satirically described the current education technology movement as "no child left untableted" (Rotella, 2013). With increasing pressure from tech companies and educational leaders to integrate tablets into elementary classrooms, qualitative inquiry is needed to understand what happens within classroom ecologies when tablets are introduced as a shiny new tool.

Observations over the first year of the 1:1 iPad implementation revealed that while the devices appeared under the pretense of a new tool that would be simply additive to an already stable curriculum, teachers and children in the multiage classroom found themselves thrust into a state of constant negotiation over how and when the tool should be used. Clear tensions emerged as children's relationships with and discourses about technology outside of school came into conflict with school expectations for literacy and learning (e.g., Should children be able to listen to music on the iPads? What websites are appropriate to view during class time?). Rather than resorting to restrictive policies in order to gain control of children's practices, the classroom teachers, steeped in critical literacy pedagogy (Comber & Simpson, 2001), encouraged open discussions concerning these emerging questions and tensions. Children actively participated in these critical classroom conversations, but there was a disconnect between children's reflective talk about iPads and their embodied actions with the new tool. It became difficult to discern whether children were simply performing the evolving cultural script of the "compliant student" or whether they were critically interrogating their personal relationships with technology across the boundaries of school and home.

Theoretical underpinnings

Embodiment: The Experiential Body as a Source of Knowing

In light of these limitations of talk, performative pedagogy was explored as a means to invite children's bodies into the classroom meaning-making process. …

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