S7S +1 for thinking about my Final Make
April 19, 2015.
1. A main area of learning for me this year is what it means to be a connected educator. First I had to learn what connected learning is and what it means. That took me a while but feel like I got a handle on it and represented that in slide 6. I realize that to be connected means to be continuously learning, reflecting, questioning, experimenting critically thinking, sharing and discovering through peer supported networks of people with similar interests and passions. Here is a video of a young student that is an excellent example of the meaning of connected learning. I have been reaching out via the internet and in other ways to become more connected. When I find a group or network through a website or blog that helps me learn, I follow it. I am in the process of selecting and building my networks. I learn so much from reading the comments people have from their own authentic experience, for example, how different people took something or an idea and modified it (remixed or hacked it) in a different way to serve their purpose.
2. This is one way new knowledge is created-each person learning from others by trying things in their own way, experimenting with them and then sharing what they have discovered. Connected Learning is about having a certain openness and willingness to try new things, experiment and play with things and ideas. Katie Salen expresses this well in her video on Connected Learning: Playing, Creating, Making. An example of this is that even though I read a lot of blogs and books about making and visited several makerspaces in schools and libraries, I still have to create a maker space for my specific students that meets their particular needs in the particular institutional setting they are in. So mine will have its own special flavor and what I learn and share may help someone else.
3. Being a connected educator is not just about using technology to do cool things with students, it is about tapping into new ways of sharing and learning collectively through the networks that are developing around common areas of interest.
In a maker space I am creating at a school where I volunteer this is the theme I am going for. I want kids to not feel afraid of making mistakes and to nurture their developing interests in different areas of interest. One of my students wants to create a wearable head scarf that lights up. This falls within a DIY movement called e-textiles that involve students sewing actuators into fabric with conductive thread, and using Arduinos to control them. The maker community has been very helpful and if I discover tips or new ways of doing something I will contribute to this community. Along the way I have been discovering new ideas to add to my toolbox that I can use to empower my students. Here are some of the places I have frequented to learn about this: www.craftzine.com, www.fashiontech.com, www.kobakantat/DIY, http:///www.instructables.com, http://lilypond.media.mit.edu, http://www.makerzine.com/, www.talk2myshirt.com/, www.arduino.cc/playground.
4. These open source blog sites, are where people put videos of their projects, ask and answer questions and collectively learn. Each person carries an idea through his or her own steps of creation, reflecting and learning in an iterative process that gets shared in the community. I am even trying this out with my students by having them publish their maker projects to a class website. Once we get the website more established I will send it to specific maker networks. They will be able to participate in the maker community through this project with a real audience. By writing about their science experiments and engineering projects they will be expressing their identities as scientists and engineers. By choosing projects they want to make, they are finding out who they are.
5. The collective nature of this type of learning is very powerful. An example of this synergistic effect is our class. I have felt like we have been moving forward together as a team, even though each of us teaches in different places, our connection to each other through our blogs, hangouts, and shared makes along with the give and take has been inspirational. In the past, I have often felt alienated as a classroom teacher, all by myself closed off in my classroom with my students. I don’t feel like that anymore because of building these new kinds of relationships, not only with my classmates, but with other groups of educators I have been finding along with way.
6. When put into a larger context of how we come up with knowledge, run our governments, and the wider historical, social, cultural, economic, and political contexts, connected learning is about equity. In today’s world there are many barriers to equity in our educational system and in our civic participation in society. The dominant groups in our society who have the most power and resources, control what kind of education is available to which people. Oppressive educational structures control, repress and severely limit particular groups of students, for example marginalized students in urban and rural areas. Our society constrains teachers, wanting them to focus on “practical” teaching of methods and data-driven performance indicators. Teachers are reduced to teaching material without critical examination and misrepresenting knowledge as objective and unchanging. The standards based forces in education right now are anti-intellectual, anti-creative and anti-reflective. Connected learning can counter this removal of autonomy, critical thinking and creativity from teaching.
7. Connected learning opens up dialogue and helps teachers to resist the inequity by forming powerful networks of connected teachers who are actively working collectively for social justice. Through connected networks teachers can renew knowledge and create knowledge with each other. I have been introduced to a whole group of people working locally in Philadelphia for social justice through the iTags organization. (Teacher Action Group-Philadelphia) . I invite you to the iTags 2015 Education for Liberation Conference taking place on April 25th 9:30- 4.00. at the Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School. It is amazing what a network of connected people can accomplish to make the world more just. Through my becoming a connected educator I am able to open up a door for my students to benefit. I think we must open up as many channels of communication as we can to talk, connect, and share with each other our thoughts and strategies for change and social and economic justice.
+1 One question I keep returning to in my mind is how to teach Biology in a more equitable way for students in urban schools in this age of standards. It seems that most everyone I have found has succumbed to a traditional “banking model” of teaching in this subject area. This presents science as unchanging fact that is not open to questioning, and critical examination. Almost all the media shown in science classrooms do not feature African American or Latino scientists and medical researchers. The contexts given in text books are not relevant for urban students. Students learn to be afraid of saying the wrong thing, rather than open to dialogue and discourse. No wonder students become disengaged and not interested in pursuing biology and medicine as a career. These thoughts about equity in education have lead me to want to create biology curricula that counters these forces of alienation students experience with science. I want to enchant students and connect what they are learning to their lived realities. I want to use critical pedagogy, such as YPAR (youth participatory action research), and connected learning within my curricular materials to give students entry points to be able to engage in biology learning, achieve academic excellence and make social change through civic engagement. Rather than thinking that academic success means getting out of the neighborhood, I want students to they can become scientists and be involved in their communities. I will be presenting a workshop on Biology Education Re-imagined for Social Justice at the EdCamp Unconference on Education, Innovation, and Teacher Practice. at Arcadia University 4:30-9:00 and you are all invited to come.
Signing off , Kathy