NEPI 2015

I am here in Williamstown MA at the New England Puppetry Intensive. Tonight we sat in a circle outside the house where we are all staying and introduced ourselves, sharing a bit about what brought us here and what were some of our intentions over these next two weeks. There are 14 of us here as participants, 3 instructor/facilitators and a few connected young children. 

I talked about the embodied learning I have experience at the NWP and CLMOOC and how that has connected back to an early love of puppetry and pageantry fostered at Spiral Q and how I am now following that circle to see where it leads.

Excited to be here. 

The net works! . . . and other networks . . .

For me, the teacher networks I belong to have two functions.  First, the networks connect me to a community of like-minded people with a common professional interest and objective in life. Second, I want to find resources that will have a positive impact on my teaching practice.

Oddly enough, the idea of developing connections with teacher networks only occurred to me in the past two years.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, I decided to attend the Teaching and Learning 2014 Conference in Washington, DC.  While perusing the list of presenters, I was immediately energized and interested to attend.  Until this time, I was proud of being Board certified but didn’t know what else the organization did or how it could further impact my teaching.  Attending this conference further opened my eyes to the scores of talented and knowledgeable people involved in education.  Being interested in policy and practice, I found myself with a buffet of choices involving both.  I was able to listen to Angela Duckworth discuss her research involving the impact of grit and self-control on educational success.  I met Pasi Sahlberg and listened as he discussed educational practice in Finland which led his home country to a #1 ranking on the PISA exam.  Charlotte Danielson led a panel discussion on her teaching Framework.  I found out about a website called developed by a former English teacher, Jeff Scheur, to help with grammar instruction.  This conference changed my view of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards from certification granting entity, to a living, breathing organization that was dedicated to being a teacher network and positively impacting the practice of all teachers (admission to the conference is open to anyone who is interested).  Teaching and Learning 2015 provided another stimulating session and I am looking forward to 2016!  Attending this conference is invigorating.

Recently, I’ve discovered the value of Twitter in connecting with educational people and organizations of interest.  Until fairly recently, I could not understand how Twitter was worth my time.  I’m not very interested in the daily lives of “celebrities” or the opinions of athletes.  This year our principal created a Twitter account for our school I joined to check it out.  After a few minutes, I quickly realized that Twitter is much more than a 140 character platform for anyone with a keyboard.  Many of the names mentioned in the previous paragraph kept popping up on my Twitter page.  Instead of just being able to read their book or a random article, I could now be connected to a multitude of their ideas, and the thoughts and ideas of people they respect.

With these networks, I keep tabs on the profession as a whole and investigate educational policy in our country and, as much as possible, abroad.

As an aside . . . . While I vote and write my legislators regarding educational policy, I am not overly active in the political realm.  I do believe, however, that the least teachers can do is be informed about what is going on in the Department of Education and with legislation around the country and the world.  The leadership of the profession of education has been taken over by politicians in our country.  Since they have no idea what to do and refuse to ask teachers, social workers, and other experts on creating a nurturing social system, they have delegated private industry, including the test production industry, and others with little to no experience in education, or social issues, as the stewards of the public education system in the United States.  As a professional educator with a deep interest in the success of public education and the intellectual growth of the next generation of humans, I am appalled at what is happening.  I want to know as much as possible about these developments.  I want to see if more knowledgeable friends of education, and good policy, know what I know and see what I see.  I also want to know what they are doing about it.  For that reason, I follow Diane Ravitch , Andy Hargreaves , and Pasi Sahlberg .  All are excellent sources on what Pasi Sahlberg calls GERM, which stands for the Global Education Reform Movement.  He explains in a Washington Post article from 2012, “It is like an epidemic that spreads and infects education systems through a virus. It travels with pundits, media and politicians. Education systems borrow policies from others and get infected. As a consequence, schools get ill, teachers don’t feel well, and kids learn less.”

I would love to hear about the teacher networks you’ve discovered.

Final Make:  A Maker Space Make                  April 25, 2015

Final Make:  A Maker Space Make                  April 25, 2015:


Teacher agency

Interest –powered


Academically oriented

Production centered

Openly networked

Shared purpose

The changing social and technological landscape is up-ending what is effective teaching. The “banking model” of education in which teachers deposit knowledge into students…




I’m starting to narrow down what I want my final make to be. I’ve blogged a lot about documentaries and there is one in particular that I watched from my other grad class that I want to integrate into my curriculum.

I love that this class places so much value on experimentation and risk taking. I…

kathleenmariewalsh: S7S +1   for thinking about my Final Make  …


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.kobakantat/DIY, http:///,,,,

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

#Christinacantrill, #Clequity, #S7S, #techquity, #connected learning, #ED677, @STEM4allKWalsh,,