On Display: An Interview with Diane Kashin

Today it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to an inspiring educator named Diane Kashin.  I met Diane a couple of years ago at an Acorn School Presentation, and remember her kindness and positive encouragement to this day.  Diane teaches the Bachelor of Child Development (BCD) degree program at Seneca College and has co-authored the book Play and Learning in Early Childhood Education, among other accolades which you will discover below.

Could you provide our blog visitors with a bit of background about your role and connection to ECE?

First of all, let me say how honoured I am to be featured in your blog, Joanne! I am so impressed and inspired with the work you are doing with children and your willingness to share. What I would like your visitors to know above all else, is that the theory that grounds my practice is social constructivism. As Vygotsky (1981) said, “It is through others, that we develop into ourselves”. This perspective has defined not only my professional work but also my life! I came into ECE after completing an undergraduate degree in history. I had hoped to become a high school history teacher but at the time, schools were affected by declining enrolment and jobs were scarce. I decided to take a couple of years off and have babies! It was after the birth of my second son, that I decided to continue my studies but because of my new role as a parent, I found myself drawn to early childhood education. I began taking courses at Seneca College and by time my daughter was born, I had an ECE diploma. With diploma in hand, I went to work at a community child care program. There I struggled with the theme approach. It didn’t feel right to me. It didn’t feel authentic. I searched in books for alternatives but found none. It was through dialogue with colleagues that I began to think that there was a better way to program for young children. At this time, I also started teaching part time at Seneca in the ECE program. After a few years, I was able to secure more teaching hours at Seneca and I stopped working with children. I still kept searching for answers and enrolled in a Masters program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Somewhere around this time, I was introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach and the Project approach. I now had direction for my search. In 1998, I was able to find full time work at the College and began working on my doctorate. In 2006, I was able to visit Reggio Emilia, Italy and in 2007 I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation: Reaching the Top of the Mountain: The Impact of Emergent Curriculum on the Practice and Self-Image of Early Childhood Educators. In 2008, Seneca began offering a degree program with an early childhood education focus and I have been teaching exclusively in the Bachelor of Child Development (BCD) degree program since. In 2009, my dissertation was published and in 2012 my first textbook (co-authored with Beverlie Dietze) entitled Play and Learning in Early Childhood Education was also published. Currently, Beverlie and I are writing a new textbook on programming and curriculum frameworks. My inspiration for my work is and will always be my students and those early childhood educators and kindergarten teachers whose practice with children has helped me to recognize that when there is a utopian vision for what is possible, anything is possible.

After having followed you on Twitter and Pinterest I've noticed your passion for ECE and social media. Can you elaborate on this shift?

Again I have my students to thank for my addiction to social media as a form of professional learning! In January 2012, I posed a problem to my students. I was teaching two sections of the same course to students in their eighth and final semester. I wanted the two groups of students to be able to collaborate and did not have an effective platform. I had resisted social media up until that time and felt that Facebook was for people much younger than I! My students convinced me otherwise and helped me to set up my own Facebook account, a Facebook group for past and current BCD students and a Facebook page for the BCD program: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bachelor-of-Child-Development/174797312625364 Before long, I realized how powerful this medium was as a way to collaborate and share. I began talking about Facebook as a vehicle for professional learning every chance I got. Before long, people began suggesting Twitter as another source and while I was resistant at first, soon realized how well Twitter and Facebook function together. Then I started seeing my Facebook friends, on something called Pinterest and I was intrigued. I signed up for an account and started pinning and haven’t stopped since. Now every morning, I read my Facebook newsfeeds, and the latest tweets and pins from my followers. When I find interesting resources on the web, I make a decision whether to share it on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter. Recently, my colleague and friend, Louise Jupp and I have started a blog: tecribresearch.wordpress.com connected to a research project that we are doing with three Reggio-inspired schools. I am thankful everyday for the opportunities that I have to learn from Louise who often serves as more knowledgeable other – helping me cross my own zone of proximal development to scaffold my professional learning!

If an early childhood educator or teacher would like to engage in an online professional network where do you advise they begin?

A professional learning network should be a group of educators who support each other. Early childhood educators and teachers need to see themselves as collaborators and be willing to share and promote each other. Be open to following others. Focus first on finding those to follow and don’t worry so much about getting lots of followers. It is a bit of game and I have to admit I enjoy building the numbers of followers but the key is to find sources of professional learning to expand your professional knowledge so you need to be picky about who you follow. A good beginning would be to follow me on anyone one of the social media platforms that I use. I welcome all teachers and early childhood educators, especially those who are Reggio inspired! The key is to find like-mind individuals to follow. You can find these when you look at who other people are following. It took me hours and hours to build up the hundreds that follow. Take advantage of the work I did and follow some of the people that I follow. Look for similar interests and areas of specialization. Throw caution to the wind and let go of any misconceptions that may be holding you back as I did. You will find inspiration for your work with children. I recommend Pinterest as a good place to start. What I love about Pinterest is that it so visual and the images of learning environments and provocations/invitations for play so inspiring that it makes it all seem possible to do.

What are your current research interests?

I am very fortunate to be on a sabbatical this year. I am lucky that my sabbatical research is to explore the potential of social media as a form of professional learning. I am six months into my leave and I have come to realize that the potential is infinite! Aside from writing my dissertation and the two visits I have made to Reggio Emilia, Italy this is the most significant professional learning that I have done in my long career. I have expanded my professional knowledge on so many topics. I have thought about the implications this has on my practice and look forward to returning to teaching in the fall so that I can bring social media into my classes as a way to learn and to assess students. I tend to focus my professional learning research on topics related to the courses that I teach including leadership, play, Reggio-inspired practice, emergent curriculum, pedagogical documentation, social constructivism, adult learning, ethical practice, portfolio development and professionalism.

I also have a very strong interest in professionalism as it relates to early childhood education. I am a long standing devoted member of the professional association for early childhood educators in Ontario (AECEO). I am currently writing an on-line learning module for the AECEO on professionalism and portfolio development.

What resources have inspired your work and thoughts?

I am inspired by children and their potential. I am inspired by early childhood educators and teachers and their capacity to help children reach their potentials. This is what fuels my professional reading and research. I love anything by Margie Carter and Deb Curtis. I adore Lella Gandini and will forever remember the three days I spent chauffeuring “Miss Lella” around when she was in Toronto last spring. I was profoundly impacted by the book, Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Education by Dahlberg and Moss and my new favourite resource is a video from Reggio Children called “Everyday Utopias”. Another source of inspiration that I have is the idea put forth by David Hawkins, the famous scientist who suggested that adults need time to “mess about” with materials before presenting them to children. I find loose parts inspiring. I love walking the beach near my cottage in Grand Bend and looking at rocks, pebbles, driftwood, sand and water for their learning potential. And when I have colleague/friend to join me on the beach and we talk together – that is when I know that it is truly from others that we develop into ourselves.

Thank you, Joanne for this opportunity!

Thank you to Diane Kashin for allowing me to display this interview onto my blog, as well as for her continued support and inspiration through social media.  It is a true priviledge to know her and learn from her!

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