Unpacking Interests


Happy Spring!

I hope everyone had a relaxing spring break. We are now entering the last five weeks of class and I wanted to encourage us all to continue to be reflective and look back while also thinking and moving forward. Here are a few questions to get us all going again and support writing on your blog this week.

First question: how do you plan to spend your next five weeks of this class? What are your goals? What inquiry questions have you come up with in relation to equity and connected learning? What can you build now that will carry you forward once we hit the end of this class in five weeks?

Second question: since this week is about “unpacking interests” in interest-driven learning, go back to the first week of class where you wrote about something you had an interest in as a youth. Think now about that story again in light of your path so far in seeking equity and connected learning. Does your story surface any new insights for you personally? Does it raise new questions about your own teaching and about equity? How might interests that you and your students have impact your teaching forward?

Third question: throughout the past ten weeks you’ve also been working with a community of other learners. We’ve been blogging, sharing, gathering and finding things together. And we’ve been connecting with other communities outside of ED677 too. Considering these communities, what has been important about them to you? How have they supported your interests? What has been challenging? And what are ultimately some implications for connected learning, teaching and equity?


This week, go back again to Garcia, et al. Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom to explore interest-driven learning with educators Nicole Mirra, Christopher Working, Chuck Jurich, and Meenoo Rami (starting on page 10).

A related webinar Multiple Paths to Success: Promoting Peer-Supported Learning Grounded in Student Interests can also be found at Connected Learning TV … or watch it here at Vialogues where you can add comments.

(FYI that you will meet some Philadelphia students from Science Leadership Academy talk about their work creating their own youth-focused magazines: check out Nexus and Stash..)

When thinking about interests this week too, let’s turn for a moment to Ben Kirshner, a scholar from University of Colorado Boulder, who frames the word “interest” in relation to civic engagement. In a panel discussion at the DML Conference in 2013 he said:

… when we think about the word interests … we think about the hobbies, the passions, things that we like to do, things we enjoy, which is one kind of interest … but another kind of interest that I heard the presenters from LA speak about is a more political type of interest, meaning a sort of need, demand, a kind of self-interest … in other words, what are my interest in this game, what do I have at stake here? And what do I need from my community, what do I need from myself, what do I need from my government? What are my political interests?

The “presenters from LA” that Kirshner refers to here includes a teacher, Laurence Tan, along with a group of students involved in the Council for Youth Research and the Watts Youth Collective. Here is a video about their work.

Constance Steinkuehler is a games-based learning scholar from the University of Wisconsin and in this interview on Interest-Driven Learning published to Edutopia she describes how her work with games-based learning led her into a focus on interest-driven pedagogy.

Interests and passions are often talked about synonymously. I’ve heard Mimi Ito distinguishes them this way, however: if a youth is passionate about reading and writing Manga they might develop an interest in learning Japanese, for example. … But whether the work comes from interests or passions, let’s further explore these ideas with Joy Kirr, a librarian from Illinois, and a set of teachers she interviewed for her K12 Online keynote on Passion-based Learning (don’t miss her list of resources too).

And finally, a Mind/Shift article that Tahira shared awhile back on her blog: Connected Learning Tying to Student Passions to School Subjects.

This week ahead →

Wednesday: We will be gathering again at 8pm ET on Wednesday. Paul Allison, a technology liaison from the New York City Writing Project and founder of Youth Voices will join us to talk about open badges at Youth Voices.

Our make(s) this week: Open Badges! In celebration of our interests — personal, professional, political — this week we will start to create badges that represent what we’ve most valued as we look forward and back over our connected learning process during this semester.

Here are a few resources to provide some context for our gathering this week:

Saturday/Sunday Seeking: This week, I encourage you to find 6/7 that you value as you look forward and backward over your connected learning process during this semester (pssst! you can use these to start your badge-making even :).

This week’s tech tip →

Badges: Open Badges Designer is a helpful tool for the actual badge creation and design.

Blogs: Having trouble blogging or finding the exact words? Then switch it up a bit! Writing does not just mean text — you can write/compose in many mediums.

Here are a few thoughts …
  • Do an “vlog” — ie. put a video in front of you or walk and record your thoughts/ideas/reflections.
  • Do an audio recording and share it on your blog (use Soundcloud for example).
  • Interview someone else about connected learning, equity and learning in open networks.
  • Annotate a videos (try Vialogues) and then embed that into your blog as a reflective/responsive piece.
  • Create a comic or another sequential representation of your thinking (for digital comics you can try Bitstrips or Pixton or Toondoon, etc).
  • Other ideas?

Terms of Use/Privacy: That all said, remember to check your Terms of Use and Privacy policy when signing up for new tools: Terms of Use: Didn’t Read is a helpful resource.

Using Apps: When working with students in using new apps, Common Sense Media’s Graphite can be a place to look for reviews and suggestions.

In connected learning solidarity,

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