Seeking Feedback on “Seeking Equity in Connected Learning and Teaching”

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This spring, I will be teaching ED677: Seeking Equity in Connected Learning and Teaching at Arcadia University. It is part of a larger Connected Learning Certificate Program also being established there.

As I wrote in the syllabus …

Connected Learning is an approach that sees learning as interest-driven, peer supported, and oriented toward powerful outcomes for youth. It also encourages production-centered learning in openly network environments within communities of shared purpose.

ED677 then, with a specific emphasis on equity, has been explicitly designed to support participants in exploring connected learning by engaging in a range of connected practices themselves as learner and creators, both on and offline. In this way this course strives to be a connected course about connected learning.

Jim Groom, a lead creator of the famously connected course called DS106, says it’s important to name the why behind making a connected class. Here are some whys for me as the course designer:

  • To learn so that we can teach: In order to teach in connected ways we must ground ourselves in what it means to be connected learners ourselves.

  • To critically examine what we are doing and why: In order to support connected learning in social, participatory and equitable ways for all learners, we must challenge ourselves to critically investigate what we are doing and why.

  • To learn new things through playing, creating and reflecting as a community of learners: In order to expand our experiences as learners we need to play, create and reflect together with new tools, techniques, ideas, materials and communities.

  • To connect and contribute to a larger field of learning: In order to be connected learners we will need to connect as peers as well to the larger field of learning.

At dinner with a friend the other day I was asked how I plan to get to the equity piece here, specifically. And then more specifically in light of the post-Ferguson moment we find ourselves in today.

I’ve been wondering this same question. I’ve also been wondering it in light of what’s been happening in Philadelphia education/K12 schools recently (and in public schools more generally and nationally). A part of my answer is to gather up of resources I know created by educators working with youth in the field around these same topics to share and discuss. But I realize that’s only a partial answer/start …

Here is a link to the emerging syllabus and well as a related Diigo group I’m using to gather some additional resources. I’d love feedback from both those involved in #connectedcourses as well as the larger #connectedlearning community. I’m interested in feedback on both the general idea of this being an online connected opportunity to dig into connected learning as well as how best to connect to real - and critical - conversations happening in the field around essential equity issues like #techequity #fergusonsyllabus #blacklivesmatter, etc.

Thank you!

[Note: In addition to DS106 and #connectedcourses, this course is greatly influenced by Making Learning Connected (also known as #CLMOOC) and the work of educators of the National Writing Project.]

Teacher Practice in a Connected World

I recently wrapped up taking ED676: Teacher Practice in a Connected World at Arcadia University.  The course focused on how to bring the world into your classroom and connect more using social media, blogs, and various other online resources.  I found the course to be thought provoking and reflective.  It gave me a nice opportunity at the end of the school year to reflect on my practice and what I could be doing differently.  Something valuable that I acquired from the course is this blog!  I do not think I would have taken the initiative to start a blog on my own.  After being required to blog for the last month or so, I realized how simple and easy it is and how valuable it can be as a resource to others and yourself.  I often read articles about education and have opinions I want to share, but no where to do so.  Now I do!  Even if no one reads it, my blog will serve as a journal for me to look back on and see what I was thinking/reading/doing at that point in time.


The text was THRIVE: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching and was written by instructor, Meenoo Rami. YOU CAN BUY IT HERE!  It was excellent and relevant to each week's focus.  THRIVE asked many questions of the reader and made reflection on current practices and ideas for future practice simple.  As a math teacher, I thought that, at times, it focused too much on English and Social Studies applications.  I found it difficult at times to apply some of the suggested classroom activities to math.  If not through THRIVE, there could have been more added articles specific to math and science classrooms.  Most of the book was relevant to any classroom and any grade though!  The supplemental articles were always interesting, but I was disappointed that we didn't always get the chance to discuss them at the Google Hangouts.

Ahhh the Google Hangouts.  Learning to use this was valuable in and of itself.  Although at first I was hesitant and wasn't sure how to use it, Google Hangouts was an excellent way to communicate.  Not only was it great to use for our online class, but I am excited to explore uses for it in my own class.  It would be helpful to know before hand what day and time the Google Hangouts will be held.   If I hadn't been able to do Tuesdays at 7pm, I would have been pretty disappointed and suffered further from my already existing FOMO.  

Overall, I am excited to start next school year with a fresh perspective that embraces technology in a more knowledgeable way.  Whether I have a class Google Hangout with a math professional or use cell phones to poll or take video of math problems, I am excited to see where and how I can connect my classroom.  I also realized that math CAN be connected, no matter the topic.  The power is really in my hands to make these connects for students so that they can be challenged and empowered learners!

PhilaSoup!




I can't remember when I first became aware of the organization PhilaSoup.  Probably through one of my colleagues and friends from my short time at Germantown High School.  Her former roommate is now heavily involved as the vice president of the organization.  Regardless, I wanted to highlight them as a thriving organization that centers on improving education in Philadelphia in a unique but simple way.  Although I am not a member myself, I have attended one of their events and was extremely impressed and left with all around good vibes about Philly, education, and the work that is being done across the city.

For those of you unfamiliar,  their mission according to their website is as follows:

Mission: To bring together diverse sectors of the Philadelphia education community as the convener of innovative ideas and mutual support, ultimately enhancing the learning experiences of our students.

Vision: To create a positive professional environment that values and convenes educators from diverse backgrounds, and brings creative and exciting ideas to life in classrooms across the city.

This mission and vision are achieved through monthly dinners that happen all over the city.  Wherever help is needed.  Schools, teachers, or students can apply online to PhilaSoup with a kind of "grant proposal."  Any way that a school needs funds is a reason to apply.  It might be a student or teacher project, a student who wants to attend a conference, or renovating part of a building. Pretty much anything.  The proposals are considered and a dinner is held.  The PhilaSoup team advertises said dinner through social media, word of mouth, and I'm sure many other ways I am unaware of! 

The dinner is simple.  SOUP!...well and bread, drinks and some dessert too.  All donated from what I understand.  When I went to the Soup event at Penn Treaty Middle School, I heard inspiring and forward thinking proposals coming out of the mouths of high school students.  Each presents their proposed idea for how they would use the money.  The money they are vying for comes from the $10 attendees pay to get in (which you can pay online before arriving).  Half of this entrance fee becomes the "microgrant" for the dinner.  Those in attendance then choose the project they would like to see funded.  When I attended, the funds raised were enough to fund all of the proposed projects!  There is a raffle, maybe some entertainment.  An all around positive, productive, and inspiring way to spend an afternoon or evening.  

Even if you do not have time to get involved in the organization itself, attending a PhilaSoup dinner is an excellent way to network with other teachers, support schools in need, and eat some delicious food!  And the organization makes it so easy to attend.  Just pay online and show up!  I promise you will be left with a satisfied stomach and spirit!  :)

Visit PhilaSoup's website to learn more:   http://philasoup.org/

My Mentor :)

Mentors matter!  The video below is a brief discussion I had with my assigned mentor at school about our experience together last year, my first year at Cheltenham.  Dan gave up much of his time to have conversations, share resources, and generally help me progress as an educator.  For this, I am eternally grateful!  I think one of the keys to being a good mentor is being generous with your time.  That is what a mentee needs the most and Dan was always willing to be there to answer a question or talk out a situation with me.  I feel like I should also thank his wife and son for taking some of his precious time from them on occasion!

I think it was an added bonus that Dan and I formed a personal bond and found some common ground outside of math education.  All of the mentor-like figures in my life have served as trusted advisor and part-time therapist.  Dan is no exception.  While we have very different teaching styles and approaches, I appreciate that Dan helped me grow in my own way without forcing his practice onto me.


Here's the video!  I apologize in advance for my excessive use of "like."  I didn't even realize how much I like say it until I like watched the back.  It's pretty obnoxious.  I'm working on it!   :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZkbVzEQSCQ&feature=youtu.be


But I’m a White Girl Teacher…

After reading the article below by Mia McKenzie (one of my favorite bloggers), I am left a little speechless.

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/06/white-teachers-wish-never/



I agree with many of the points she makes about black students needing more black teachers and role models and curriculum that isn't through a lens of whiteness.  Another red flag I see every day that she speaks on is the criminalization and low tracking that many black students fall victim to.  All of the dilemmas in the education of blacks that she speaks on I have found to be completely spot on.

I get confused on where her argument leaves me and my role in the education of black students.  I love teaching.  I love teaching teenagers.  I teach mostly black teenagers.  And I especially love that.  I feel that I continually try to educate and challenge myself to better understand my black students, their experience, their perspective, and what I can do to give them a world class education.  Based on what Mia says however, there is not a place for me in the schooling of black children.

As McKenzie states, there is a dearth of black educators.  This is a huge problem.  But would it not make the life of black students with white teachers and the world at large a better place to at least try to educate the eager and qualified white teachers that are in schools across America?  Educate them on the very unique challenges and dilemmas that black children face.  Educate them on the black history they were never taught.  Educate them through actual conversations with the students themselves.  Some people will not change.  They are set in their ways and have the false notion that "not seeing color" is an appropriate response to teaching black students.  I am unsure if this solution will have any affect, but whatever the solution is, my white girl teacher self would like to be a part of it.

Also, this book is a start:

http://www.amazon.com/Young-Gifted-Black-Achievement-African-American/dp/0807031054



Trying to inspire givers in a world of takers.


While reading the first chapter of Adam Grant's book Give and Take, I could not help but reflect on how my students would be best categorized.  While I think most teachers are natural givers, I'm unsure if my students are givers, takers, or matchers.  Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I'm leaning towards takers ,at best matchers.  I would attribute most of this to the nature of being a teenager.  They are forced to be takers because obviously they are dependent on their parents for most things, but I find it rare for adolescents to display qualities of givers.  Many students display desire to obtain what takers value according to Grant:

Wealth (money, material possessions)
Power (dominance, control over others)
Pleasure (enjoying life)
Winning (doing better than others)

While immaturity and lack of understanding of the "real world" may be to blame, I am fearful that more students do not value what most givers value:

Helpfulness (working for the well-being of others)
Responsibility (being dependable)
Social justice (caring for the disadvantaged)
Compassion (responding to the needs of others)

So my question is, how do we inspire and mold students into being givers?  How can we create practices that will help to foster growth in the areas of helpfulness and compassion?

Students need to build character and community.  One idea I have seen to be somewhat successful in the math classroom is having students do group assessments.  It eliminates competition as a motivator and forces students to work together.  It forces students to collaborate and help the weaker members of their group.  They can no longer have the mentality of "every man (or woman!) for themselves."  I have seen this work in the classrooms of my colleagues, but would like to try it with my own students!

What do you do in your classroom to reward "giving" behaviors?

But first, lemme take a selfie: VIDEO EDITION!


TIRED TEACHER #SELFIES

Today marks Day Uno of trying to implement smart phones into my teaching in a useful way.  We had shortened periods, so I asked students to record themselves solving a problem of their choice.  The results were pretty darn cool.  Not all successes, but it's a start.  I think I could really go somewhere with this idea!  Maybe have students post homework problems they did and mastered to help classmates out.  Like create our own class version of Khan Academy.  Like a FUBU math help center...Gotta start somewhere :)