We can find several archetypes depending on the role played by technology in education. According to Pannabecker (1996), these archetypes –associated in one way or another with the different pedagogical renewal movements in the late 19th century and early 20th century– fall broadly into two categories: one, inspired by the ideas of Diderot, conceives technique as a means to achieve technical, political and economic progress; the other, inspired by the ideas of Rousseau, conceives technique as a means to achieve the progress of the individual and moral goals aimed at the improvement of society.
As summarized in the table, the first category mentioned before considers technology as a means to achieve progress (see Progress on this blog), assigning it a political and economic function. The second one encompasses several trends, each of them aimed at improving a particular aspect of the situation of the individual, but having the common aim of achieving a better society.
One of these trends, in the purest Roussonian tradition, attributes to technical training the role of increasing both the individual’s personal development and its moral status, keeping him away from an idle life. A second one, also inspired by the ideas of Rousseau, values the tacit knowledge (see Experience, action & artefacts on this blog) transmitted through the observation or manipulation of technology according not only to its usefulness, but also to its contribution to a comprehensive training of the individual.
This last trend is comprised of a series of diverse educational movements aimed at introducing changes in traditional pedagogy, and encompassed in a broad and heterogeneous current called the New Education movement.
There was no conscious “school” united under one banner, and the views of individual reformers often differed widely. One group, the “practical educationist”, advocated manual training as a means of promoting educational values. Another, the “social reformers”, placed more emphasis on ways of improving the physical well-being of children. The “naturalists” expounded the theories of Froebel and Pestalozzi, whilst other looked to Herbart’s teachings. There were also the “scientific educationists” who based their work largely on psychological research, as well as those who looked to moral education as a replacement for religious instruction. The ideas of the New Educationists helped to provide a basis for the later progressive education movement (Gordon and Lawton, 2003, 170-171).
This New Education movement, emerged around the French journal L’Éducation nouvelle, was especially reinforced after the First World War with the creation in 1921 of the Ligue internationale pour l’Éducation nouvelle (LIEN), an institution that was driven by the idea of ensuring the peace of nations through the education of young people in solidarity, brotherhood and respect for humanity (Gutierrez, 2010).
In many of these movements, a prominent educational role was indirectly assigned to technology, since it was considered of great interest to familiarize students with technical knowledge through manual work or through visits to factories.
This was the case of the New School movement, a term that often leads to confusion, not only because sometimes it’s used generically, in the sense of “novel”, but also because his meaning varies from country to country according to the differences in cultural contexts and social needs. In Spain it was called “Escuela Nueva”, in France “École Nouvelle”, and in England “New School (or schools) movement”. In the latter case, we prefer this term to that of “Progressive education”, used by some authors, because it does not mean the same in all English-speaking countries.
The precursor of this movement and founder of the first truly “new” school (Abbagnano and Visalberghi, 1992, 655) was Leon Tolstoi, who in 1859 opened an educational center for the peasant children based on the principle of non-intervention and on the promotion of student’s interest as opposed to the imposition of a specific kind of knowledge or of moral habits.
In Abottsholme, in the county of Derby (England), an attempt was made to carry out this principle of the promotion of interest: it was the school institute founded in 1889 by Cecil Reddie, New School –the first to bear this name–. In this institution, explicitly inspired by the Herbartian theories on the interest and continuation of the tradition of the English Public Schools –in the adoption of activities to strengthen the body, the sense of responsibility and social skills–, science was studied from observations, and technology was implicitly present through handicrafts and visits to farms and workshops. Reddie’s school was frequently visited by other teachers and was followed as a model for the creation of other similar centers in different parts of the European geography.
A major contribution to the definition and unification of the movement occurred in Switzerland in 1899 when Adolphe Ferrière founded the International Bureau des Écoles Nouvelles (International Bureau of New Schools). This institution sought to articulate the various trends and tried to establish the conditions under which an institution could use the name of “New school” to help “à un père de famille de diagnostiquer si l’école à laquelle il voudrait confier son enfant est, ou non, une Ecole nouvelle” (Ferrière, 1925-1934, 622). Thus, in order to distinguish the authentic from those who fraudulently used this title, and on the basis of actual experiences observed in schools considered “New”, he established thirty principles of which it was essential to meet at least fifteen.
Three of them, included in the sections “physical life” (numbers 6 and 7) and “intellectual life” (number 13), are especially interesting because of its relationships to technology. They reflect the educational importance that this and other trends of the time grant to technological activity (although this term is never used), due to its relationship with real life and with the initiative and active participation of the student:
L’École nouvelle organise des travaux manuels.
a) Ces travaux sont obligatoires pour tous les élèves et ont lieu généralement de 2 à 4 heures; b) Ces travaux poursuivent non pas un but professionnel, mais éducatif; c) Ces travaux présentent une utilité réelle pour l’individu ou la collectivité.
L’Ecole nouvelle attribue une importance spéciale à :
1º) La menuiserie qui développe : a) l’habileté et la fermeté manuelles; b) le sens de l’observation exacte; c) la sincérité et la possession de soi.
2º La culture du sol : a) contact avec la nature; b) connaissance des lois de la nature; c) santé et force physiques; d) utilité de premier ordre.
3º L’élevage, sinon du gros bétail, du moins de petits animaux :
a) protéger et observer des êtres plus petits que soi; b) habitudes de persévérance; c) observations scientifiques possibles; d) utilité.
L’Ecole nouvelle base son enseignements [sic] sur les faits et les expériences.
a) Observations personnelles de la nature; b) Observations des industries humaines et des organisations sociales; c) Essais scientifiques de cultures et d’élevages et travaux de laboratoires — travaux qualitatifs chez l’enfant, quantitatifs chez l’adolescent. (Ferrière, 1925-1934, 622-623).
The repercussion of the movement remained almost completely in the theoretical plane because it was mainly applied in private and elitist schools not having much influence on the traditional education. Nevertheless, some of its elements transcended, and some of those mentioned here, especially the ones related to the formative value associated with technology (related to the growing expansion of industrial systems with which the future citizen should become familiar), can be found not only in various pedagogical trends considered “new”, but also in some current education systems, like the Spanish one.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
ABBAGNANO, N. y VISALBERGHI, A. (1992), Historia de la pedagogía, México D. F., Fondo de cultura económica (1st. Italian edition, 1967).
FERRIÈRE, A. (1925-1934) “École”, in Sébastien Faure, Encyclopédie anarchiste, La Librairie internationale, tome 2 (link).
GUTIERREZ, Laurent (2010), « La Ligue internationale pour l’Éducation nouvelle », Spirale. Revue de recherches en éducation, n.° 45 (Pédagogies alternatives. Quelles définitions, quels enjeux, quelles réalités ? sous la direction de Rémi Casanova et Cécile Carra), pp. 29-42 (link).
GORDON, Peter and LAWTON, Denis (2005, 1ª ed. 2003), Dictionary of British Education, Londres, Woburn Press.
PANNABECKER, John R. (1996), “Diderot, Rousseau, and the Mechanical Arts: Disciplines, Systems, and Social Context”, Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, vol. 33 n. 4 pp. 6-22.
PANNABECKER, John R. (1995), “Rousseau in the Heritage of Technology Education”, Journal of Technology Education, vol. 6, n. 2, pp. 46-58.