eBook Review: Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom

Let me disclose a few things:

  • I know a lot of these editors and writers through my connections in the National Writing Project;
  • I hung out with the editors in Seattle as they were working on their drafts (and I was working on some resources for the Making Learning Connected MOOC). I knew they were up to something cool, even as they worked in other rooms;
  • Last spring, I had only a vague idea of what Connected Learning was (other than I like having connections and I am a big fan of learning … thus, Connected Learning sounded like something I should know about);
  • And, finally, I stole a paper copy of this ebook from the table at the Digital Media and Learning Conference when NWP friend Christina Cantrill turned her back. (I am sure she didn’t mind).

All that said, I highly recommend a read of this important collection around teaching and learning.

Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom is in many ways a classic National Writing Project production through and through: Teachers sharing their classroom experiences (successes and trials) through the lens of inquiry and writing, all viewed through the overarching frame of Connected Learning principles. What are those principles? These ideas emerged from extensive research done by Mimi Ito and others on the ways that young people are learning in this digital age, and center on a few main concepts (better seen in this infographic).

Connected learning is:

  • interest-powered
  • peer-supported
  • academically-orientated
  • production-centered
  • openly-networked
  • shared purpose

Watch this video:

Which is all good  and everything but what does that mean for the classroom teacher (like me)? Editor Antero Garcia and the fabulous writers and curators here try to answer that question by focusing the lens on classrooms with stories from teachers grouped around those themes, with curation editors framing those specific stories in the light of inquiry.

“I believe connected learning principles can provide a vocabulary for teachers to reclaim agency over what and how we best meet the individual needs of students in our classroom,” Garcia writes in the introduction. “With learners as the focus, teachers can rely on connected learning as a way to pull back the curtain on how learning happens in schools and agitate the possibilities of classrooms today.”

And so as educator Christopher Working shares how his third graders took blogging to new levels, and how their writing flourished as a result, other teachers (such as Chuck Jurich, Gail Desler, and Danielle Filipiak) explore the dynamics of multimedia production and global audiences and collaboration for student work that goes above and beyond expectation.

“… I was able to see firsthand how centering production afforded opportunities for students to construct affirming identities, make authentic connections to classroom texts, and develop new and specialized technical skill sets,” writes Filipiak, of  projects undertaken by her students that merged media and culture together for a social justice message.

Still others are pushing boundaries, even if they are still grounded in literacy. Jason Sellers has his elementary students creating interactive fiction games and stories, mixing in the overarching lessons of programming with the lessons of writing stories. “The unforgiving nature of programming languages was a frustrating but valuable experience for some students, ” Sellars admits. “Small mistakes in a line of code often would render their games unplayable” and yet, lead to revision and iterative design.

One of the more fascinating projects here is the Interactive ‘Zine project, and Christian McKay’s insights into the merging writing, publication and fabrication/maker techniques to create bound collection of writing that has electronic elements built right into the design (with Makey Makey circuit boards and Scratch programming systems). “The Interactive ‘Zine provides opportunities for learners to consciously engage in the creation of their artifact for a public audience, ” writes McKay. “The public entity is developed through the written word that the students share — at a minimum, within the classroom, and more broadly, through public sharing of their Scratch projects at the Scratch website.”

There’s more, much more, that I could share here, but I think you’d be best to get your own copy. And you won’t need to pilfer it from the table off an unsuspecting friend, as I did. Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom is a free PDF and a relatively cheap ebook for Kindle right now.  It is published through the Digital Media and Learning Hub.

Oh, did I mention that just about every article here has a link to a media resource at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site? That alone is worth the free price of admission. Links are embedded right into the ebook itself, allowing you to see student samples and teacher resources and more, so what are you waiting for? Get connecting.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

 

Emergent Ideas from the #CLMOOC

CLMOOC Emergent Branches
One of the themes of our presentation about the Making Learning Connected MOOC at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston last weekend was the planned learning versus the unplanned, or the emergent, learning. I found it incredibly exciting over the summer when the unexpected happened. It was something we facilitators hoped might happen but when you are planning, you can only lay some groundwork. You can’t force unknown ideas to emerge.

You can, however, notice it and focus the spotlight on it.

For our session, I went in and created this visual, showing what we planned (the trunk) and what emerged naturally (the branches) from each of the Make Cycles of the CLMOOC. I like that this kind of illustration allows me to document and remember the emergent ideas from participants, and values their innovative ideas.

Peace (along the branches),
Kevin

Making Maps, Making Meaning

map collage
We had folks in our workshop session at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston “making maps” as part of our presentation around the Making Learning Connected MOOC. It was so cool to see the different approaches to ideas and to representing pathways of discovery. Some folks created flowcharts of their conference learning. Others did mind maps of where they want to go next with some ideas. A few built three-dimensional representations of their online worlds and connections.

Since I had already done a learning map the other day, I went into another direction: representing my affiliation with bands that I have been in over the years. (that’s mine, on the right). This is my learning map:

My Immersion Map

The image on the left is the collection of maps from participants, as we lined them up together at the end, stitching together our learning into one larger map. The pattern on the rug helped …

I guess maps are having a moment, right now. In my RSS feed yesterday, I found two interesting links around mapmaking as learning. The first showed maps as an example of “digital empathy” and the other focused in on sharing of maps as the new meme.

Peace (along the lines),
Kevin

Slice of Life: My Immersion Learning Map

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

This morning, after I blog, I am heading out for the drive into Boston, for the Digital Media and Learning Conference. I am co-presenting a session around open learning, with the focus on last summer’s Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC), and how the philosophies and ethos of the National Writing Project and Connected Learning Principles helped us create and facilitate learning opportunities. I was one of the facilitators, and enjoyed every minute of it as we engaged hundreds of teachers in making, creative fun and inquiry.

I’ll share more in the coming days, no doubt, but one of the activities in our session is a Mini-Make, in which we are going to be asking folks to make a learning map. What they choose to illustrate in their map is up to them, but the idea is to chart out and probe deep about aspects of learning, and represent it in a map format of some kind.

I decided to do my own, using Coggle, an online mind-mapping tool. It worked great (and I think I owe Ian a shout-out for using it this summer and sharing the tool with CLMOOC). This map shows “my immersion” into open learning and networks over the past year or so, and some of the offshoots that have occurred as a result. It’s not a perfect representation, but it does capture a lot of footholds of my learning life.
My Immersion Map

What would be on your learning map? How would you design it?

Peace (in the mapping),
Kevin

The CLMOOC Reverberations

More Education Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with NWP radio on BlogTalkRadio

Last night, I took part in a National Writing Project radio show about our summer’s Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. With my friend Paul Oh at the helm, the hour-long discussion was less about how the MOOC came to be (although NWP Program Leader Christina Cantrill and I did that) and more about how the CLMOOC experience has come to impact teachers and writing project leaders.

I did my part and then listened as Jenn Cook, of the Rhode Island Writing Project, and Michael Weller, of the Los Angeles Writing Project, and Rosie Slentz, of the Redwood Writing Project chatted about how their experiences over the summer have come to inform their teaching and their work with other teachers.

As one of the facilitators, it was not just gratifying to hear these stories on the radio broadcast; it was touching in a way that I can’t quite express here. We spent many hours planning the CLMOOC and many, many more hours helping to facilitate it. With hundreds of teachers involved, we knew folks were engaged in our Make Cycles. And I suppose we assumed that there would be some residual benefits after the summer ended.

But here, Jenn and Michael and Rosie brought to light stories of those experiences, and with Paul’s masterful questions, we come to see how CLMOOC continues to live on in spirit. Not that it wasn’t an interesting enough experiment, but hearing personal stories really does bring the whole adventure of the MOOC back to life, and — not to get too sappy — warmed my heart as I listened. I suspect my co-facilitators would say the same thing. The MOOC had an impact. We sort of knew it but to hear it makes that observation real.

And of course, we want others to remake and remix our MOOC.

Peace (in the appreciation),
Kevin

 

Remix The MOOC/Make Your Own MOOC

The Making Learning Connected MOOC ended many months ago, but the ideas behind the open learning project continue to resonate in some of the learning spaces I inhabit, including Make/Hack/Play and the Deeper Learning MOOC. Now, over at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site, the facilitators (I was one) have pulled together our thinking of what went on behind the scenes of the CLMOOC in hopes that others will take our ideas and remix the MOOC for their own projects.

You can go directly to the resource (expertly pulled together by Karen) or you can use this Thinglink clickable image that I created as a visual connection point to all the resources.

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

Hacking Four Corners

Hacking Four Corners

Each morning, my sixth graders and I gather up for our morning meeting, which we call Circle of Power and Respect. Our routine of checking in and sharing and connecting at the start of the day is built off the tenets of the Responsive Classroom. I really like how it brings us together in a positive way, and the students are ones to lead the meeting, not me. I turn over the responsibility to them as much as possible.

Part of the routine is an activity that can merge cooperative learning with play, and we have a growing list of about 15 to 20 activities and games that we pull from. By January, some of the activities start getting a little old, so I encourage my students to mess around with the rules once we’ve learned them and hack the activities as they see fit. (Soon, I will have them design and write out rules for their own activities).

On Friday, that’s what happened with our game of Four Corners. I’ve tried to represent in a chart what happened as students began to change the rules of this rather simple game to make it more interesting. First of all, the basics of Four Corners is that one person is “it” — they close their eyes and count to ten. Everyone else makes a beeline for one of the four corners of the room, which have been numbered, and the “it” person calls out a number. Anyone in that corner is out of the game. Another round ensues. It’s elimination. The last one standing in a corner wins and becomes “it” for the next game.

On Friday, the student leader started to add corners to the game in the second round, going from four spaces to ten, and changed the entire flow of the room and the game. Then, in the third round, this student decided that only odd number corners were “in play” and again, the flow was altered as kids had to think in their heads which were odd and which were even. In the last round, the even corners were “in play.” More scrambling and thinking.

There was playful mayhem as the leader kept changing things up, taking Four Corners into new terrain for everyone. I just watched from a distance, giving some help here and there. For the most part, I was an observer of play and admirer of the nimble thinking of the students. It was all over in about ten minutes yet the laughter and sense of fun lasted throughout most of the rest of the day.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

Book Review: Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab

http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1376508502l/17345277.jpg

Check out the cover, right? It’s pretty cool. This book — Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab — is co-written by a science teacher (‘Science Bob’ Pflugfelder) who brings the ethos of Making, Learning and Exploring right into an unfolding mystery story with the two siblings — 11 year-olds Nick and Tesla — tinkering in their role of childhood detective. The story involves the two kids coming to live with a nutty uncle for the summer, only to discover something odd going on in a nearby house.

Curiosity, and a desire to recover a failed rocket, drive the story forward. And while the plot is fairly predictable for this kind of novel, there’s plenty of humor and action to keep the reader engaged. What makes this book particularly cool is not just the way that science and experimentation and engineering are brought into the story (the kids build things to help them solve the mystery) but that the step-by-step schematic plans and drawings for all of the experiments and devices are written right into the book itself. (Note to self: my son wants to build his own electromagnet now).

I think this book would fit in nicely with a shift towards Maker Spaces in our schools, connecting stories to engineering, and back again. There’s even a good site for teachers and parents, with some downloads and videos (and I see another book is being  published, too.)

 

Peace (in the tinkering plotline),
Kevin

Shaken, Stirred and Remixed: A Poem on Tap

This is the poem that I remixed the other day, with Terry. I turned to Tapestry for merging our poems together because I think it allows for interesting movement of text on the page. Plus, I love the clean design and feel to Tapestry. For the most part, the left side of the screen is Terry and the right side is me, and the middle is where lines merge, converge and become one. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace (in the tap),
Kevin

Combined Voices: Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams

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My good friend, Terry, released a poem into the wild yesterday, and he asked that we remix it. I am not one to pass up a remix invite, and so I requested that he podcast his poem and share the file with me. What he didn’t know was that I was recrafting his words as a poem for two voices. In Audacity, I cut up his audio file, adding my own, and used sounds from his farm and from my own saxophone as the soundtrack.
The result is this collaboration known as Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams:

This is what my page of writing looks like, with Terry’s words on the left and my word on the right, with arrows showing how I imagined I would lay out the audio files. Yeah, it’s a mess. But it was a plan, a map, a poem all of itself.
Poem with Terry: Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams
One of the things I found interesting and difficult was how to connect the themes together in some way that made some semblance of truth. While he was writing metaphorically (I think) about life on his farm in winter, I shifted into music in the midst of winter. His “honey memory” became my “blues memory.” There are also a few places where I had our voices overlap. It didn’t work exactly as I imagined, and the quality of sound from his to mind is a sort of jolting shift (which I had to accept and move on with.)

But, I am pleased with how it came out and love that I could give a remix to a friend, particularly Terry, who spent the summer with me in the CLMOOC making crazy things together, including memories.
Peace (in the poem),
Kevin