Shaffer on Multisubculturalism: Computers and the End of Progressive Education

Multisubculturalism: Computers and the End of Progressive Education. (Via David Williamson Shaffer.) This article also contains some sections that provide a good overview of Shaffer’s epistemic frames. I was also thrilled to discover that it stands squarely on the work of Dewey, who is the starting point for the breadth portion of my next KAM (Shaffer appears in the depth). It was also nice to discover some citations of Papert, who was in the depth portion of my last KAM. Come time to pull my lit review together these connections will be important. Incidentally, I just put in my absence requests for the rest of the calendar year, including the first week of September off to finish up my lit review – and the first week of November off to finish the write up of my study! It suddenly got more concrete. I think I can tell people 9 months now instead of a year when they ask how long I have left to finish my dissertation!

At any rate, I pulled a lot of gems out of this one and I’ve shared them below. These quotes are categorized based on the section of my own paper they might appear in. They appear with minimal annotation, and they appear sans any formating – I’ve dragged and dropped from my outliner.

Motivation and Engagement

– [ ] “computers and other new technologies can help make learning
engaging and relevant in ways Dewey suggested.” (Shaffer, 2005,
p. 6)

Context Embedded

– [ ] “computational microworlds, which Hoyles, Noss, and Adamson
(2002) define as ‘environments where people can explore and learn
from what they receive back from the computer in return for their
exploration’ (p. 30). (Shaffer, 2005, p. 18) Note Papert cited
in this paragraph, too.
– [ ] “Epistemic frames are a form of knowing with that comprise, for a
particular community, knowing where to begin looking and asking
questions, knowing what constitutes appropriate evidence to
consider or information to assess, knowing how to go about
gathering that evidence, and knowing when to draw a conclusion
and/or move on to a different issue.” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 22)
– [ ] “new computational media in the form of video games, simulations,
and other microworlds expand the range of domains that can be
made accessible to students as a medium for meaningful activity”
(Shaffer, 2005, p. 28)

Inquiry Driven

– [ ] “multisubculturalism: a view of education that focuses on diverse
educational goals rather than diverse pathways to a single
pedagogical end—and thus a view of learning more suited to the
diverse ways of thinking and living that characterize our
increasingly integrated world” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 2)
– [ ] “while the Pragmatic Progressive Dewey embraced diversity
philosophically, his pedagogy allowed for only a weak form of
multiculturalism. The Pragmatic Progressive Dewey’s
multiculturalism celebrated multiple pathways to understanding,
but multiple pathways to a single form of understanding. His
multiculturalism, I will argue, was a multiculturalism of means,
rather than a multiculturalism of ends.” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 6)
– [ ] “Progressives believe that curricula must be adapted to the needs
and abilities of learners.” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 7)
– [ ] “the challenge is in finding a way to channel students’ inherent
interests into the development of ‘discipline, culture, and
information’ (Dewey, 1915a, p. 37)” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 8)
– [ ] Incidental v. Intentional Learning: “Dewey’s theory of experience
(and therefore philosophy of education) was to take a child’s
initial intentions and expressive impulses and move them down
productive lines of inquiry” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 9)
– [ ] “The Pragmatic Progressive model of learning thus depended on
channeling individual intentions into reflective media—that is,
into media in which the constraints and affordances are relevant
to the processes of inquiry being developed.” (Shaffer, 2005,
p. 10-11) Consider the relationship of this quote to the
read/write web, too.
– [ ] “”In the year 2005, it is hard to imagine that publishing the
work of students for others to read might be expensive or
troublesome. Any school equipped with a computer and printer (or
rudimentary access to the Internet) could accomplish Parker’s
goal with ease. More generally, computers expand the range of
what students can realistically do—and thus the range of concepts
that can be “experienced”—far beyond what the Pragmatic
Progressive Dewey might ever have imagined. Computers and other
new technologies accomplish this by making it possible to create
virtual worlds (Barab, Hay, Barnett, & Squire, 2001; Shaffer, in
press; Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, & Gee, 2004).” (Shaffer,
2005, p. 16-17)
– [ ] “This freedom to explore can be both meaningful and motivating
for students, affording them a sense of control and personal
investment in their inquiry” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 28)
– [ ] Shaffer was interested in opening “multiple legitimate pathways
to learning: a multiculturalism of inclusion and diversity
(Milner, Flowers, Moore, Moore, & Flowers, 2003), in which the
different backgrounds and perspectives of students are
respected as legitimate points of entry into the educational
landscape.” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 28-29)

Socially Negotiated

– [ ] Shaffer discusses “virtual worlds in which students can interact
using a wide range of practices
in real and imagined spaces… computers do make it possible for
students to participate in adult
activities that are hard to access, or even inaccessible with
traditional materials” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 19)
– [ ] “ make it possible for more students to learn about
the world by
participating in a broader range of meaningful activities…
computers make it possible to dramatically expand the reach of
… Dewey’s ideas” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 20)
– [ ] Shaffer writes about “learning as a process of participation in
communities of practice”
– [ ] shaffer: “learning environments can be developed based on valued
communities of practice” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 32)
– [ ] ” Pedagogical praxis suggests that new technologies provide an
opportunity to give students access to a wide variety of
communities of practice; that these communities are orchestrated
by distinct ways of knowing (and deciding what is worth knowing);
and that these epistemic frames of socially-valued communities of
practice, made approachable by new technology, may provide a more
inclusive model for learning in a technological society.”
(Shaffer, 2005, p. 33)

21st Century Skills

– [ ] “a necessary (though not by itself sufficient) component of
multicultural education is systematic opportunities to
‘investigate and determine how cultural assumptions, frames of
references, perspectives and the biases within a discipline
influence the ways that knowledge is constructed’ (Banks, 1996,
p. 21). ” (Shaffer, 2005, p. 30) Games can help… consider Peace


– [ ] Shaffer on Dewey (Shaffer, 2005, p. 3-6)
– [ ] Shaffer cites Papert (Shaffer, 2005, p. 7) See also the
discussion of microworlds on p. 18 & 27)


Shaffer, D. W. (2005). Multisubculturalism: Computers and the end of progressive education. Under review by Teachers College Record.