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.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

#Christinacantrill, #Clequity, #S7S, #techquity, #connected learning, #ED677, @STEM4allKWalsh, www.makingitmatter.weebly.com,  youthengineeringandscience.org

Readings re: Science and Social Justice Teaching

Excerpted compilation by Kathy Walsh, April 6 2015

I am reading a book called The Art of Critical Pedagogy:   Possibilities for Moving from theory to practice in urban schools,  which is filled with very empowering ways to engage students who have been marginalized in schools.  Other books I have read in the past month that have a lot of Student-driven action projects and ideas for engagement:  Deep Knowledge: learning to teach science for understanding and equity by Douglas B. Larkin; Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation by Christopher Emdin; Teaching Science for Social Justice by Angela Calabrese Barton, and Democratic Science Teaching: building expertise to empower low income minority youth in science by Basu, Calabrese, and Tan. and Empowering Science and Mathematics in Urban Schools by Tan, Calabrese, & Barton.   For science teachers there seems not to be a lot on the subject of teaching for social justice compared to teachers of other subjects so I thought this list could prove helpful if this is something you are interested in. 

Just seven things (yet there are many more!)

The seven things I notice this Sunday? Connected learning (ie “It doesn’t need to be Earth-shattering to be meaningful”) … Connected learning (ie. “Every student has their own unique strengths and interests”) .. Connected learning (ie. “I have had several experiences in working in various communities just in the past week!”) …. Connected learning (ie. a Modge Podge How-to) … Connected learning (ie. high school math teachers sharing) … Connected learning (ie. coaching, learning, teaching and leading) … Connected learning (creation of new blog that works better for its author).

Thoughts about the front channel … plus #S7S

While the backchannel is important to me, right now I’m thinking a lot about the front channel.

I’m teaching a course at Arcadia University this semester called Seeking Equity in Connected Learning (ED677). It’s the fifth week and we are making “how-tos” (inspired by CLMOOC this past summer), spent Wednesday night learning how-to look at student work together with my colleague Christina Puntel, and thinking about all of this in the context of this week’s theme “learning in community.”

The front channel I’m thinking about specifically right now is the graduate classroom. Specifically the graduate education classroom. I have things to say about this not only because I’m teaching this semester but because I also just recently went back to school to get my own Masters of Education (I know, I’ve worked in education for a very long time without one … hence my affinity for the backchannel you see :).

The “front” versus the “back” is language influenced in today’s world via networked technologies. The “front” refers to the way that things are done more traditionally and in our current structures and systems. The “backchannel” then is what might be happening via networks, most popularly via social media. For example there are many stories of presentations, lectures or some other sort of one-way communication – take President Obama’s State of the Union speech just recently – and a parallel conversation happening in a networked way in the “backchannel” via #SOTU on twitter (which the WH itself was actively involved in this year just to say). Conversation about the implications of a range of back channels and their relationships to the front – what Ethan Zuckerman refers to as the cute cat theory – on global events such as the Arab Spring’s have been the topic of much debate and conversation over the last few years. The development of the #fergusonsyllabus hashtag is another more recent example of a social media backchannel that was created out of need of educators to have resources to talk to students about tomorrow, much of which is missing from any textbooks more traditionally available today. And then there are much more silly examples like Left Shark which, well, I leave the implications of that to your own opinion!

So the backchannel can be a powerful place … and although it’s not always subverting, it can be a space of agency and participation bringing multiple voices into the mix (used for both good as well as evil along with everything in-between).

The front channel however is often still the locus of power and, in education, the structures we have created around teaching and learning are still the most accessible ones (despite rocketing tuition and the systematic breakdown of public schooling in this country etc etc). Ultimately, still, the front channel is still where sites of accreditation are located and therefore the power and the authority. So that’s why, for example, I went back to get a Masters in Education. And why also I am now trying to really focus on the front for a bit … as well as relationships between the front and the back as Zuckerman suggests … in order to explore true equity in connected learning.

The class that I am teaching is designed in a non-traditional way. It is entirely online (although that to me wasn’t essential; this same design can be used for face to face work too); we don’t use a LMS or any traditional learning management system that are fairly common now at Universities and colleges – instead we use all social tools that the participants in the class sign themselves up for and control their own accounts within; we have a shared ED677 blog where what we blog about is pulled into a aggregate feed; and we use a semi-public Google + community to share things with each other and the larger growing Connected Learning “Network” at Arcadia (the University gives gmail accounts so i asked everyone to enable their G+ and try out those tools too). We also kinda use twitter (still working on that!) The course is designed explicitly to be a “connected course” which you can read more about on our our syllabus.

Besides its design though, my ultimate goal in the class is really to create a peer-based inquiry driven learning environment within a graduate program. This feels essential to me for a few reasons – I really believe that at the core of the shift we are experiencing now in terms of networked communications technologies is a shift in how we think about and organize knowledge. (Many people have said this before such as John Seely Brown if you want to hear more.) And therefore I want my classroom to represent this shift – no one person holds knowledge, we all do. And therefore how much and what we can really learn is dependent on each other. And this is a key fundamental in a connected learning framework too.

Now a couple things are awkward about this. First, we aren’t all that used to being peers in graduate classes. Maybe working together in groups but not being peers alongside a professor and also being peers with wider communities thinking about something together, in this case, connected learning and equity. I realize I was asked to teach the class because I do bring specific knowledge about specific things yet I also don’t know what those participating in the class know. And in an education class – which often will contain a really exciting mix of those who are actively teaching, those who have taught for many many years, and who are just starting to think about teaching – this can be a valuable thing and I, for one, don’t want to miss out.

More awkward than that though are the grades. I am in control of grades. So that puts me in charge and in a different power relationship no matter what I try to create in terms of flatness of power in the room. Now, just to say that at Arcadia I  had the power to make this class pass/fail, but I also know that most of the folks in this class are not in environments where they can just decided to make their classes pass/fail for their students – so I wanted to make our situations parallel. And within this parallel I am asking myself, how can we practice peer-based learning in a traditional classroom environment and what does this support us in thinking about when it comes to connected learning and the equity? That’s still an active question we, and specifically I, am exploring.

The reason these exercises of mine, these inquiries, feel important to me are because I believe that if we don’t shift the ways that we think about knowledge in a classroom – that is in the front channel idea of teacher as all-knower and/or the school or the scripted curriculum as container of knowledge – then we can’t shift how we teach. Until we approach teaching as an act of learning – whether from those we consider peers or from those we consider our students – we can’t actually shift the way that we design our schools. And until we shift the way we design education we can’t actually manifest the ideals of democracy that education has the power to promise. Instead we create systems by which individuals are told to learn what others believe they should learn, never given a chance to actively practice participation and democracy at all. And when we have no practice we have nothing to build upon. And when we do this to each other as adults too – act as if one of us knows more than the rest of us – and specifically as adults learning how to teach in education graduate classes, we never will actually shift any of what we are doing! 

We have to be what we want to see in the world, ultimately. I’m not sure there is another way.

Geez … I realize this is really a long-winded way of saying why learning in community and taking an inquiry stance are so important to me. I have learned this as a member of an inquiry-based peer driven learning network of educators called the National Writing Project, which sometimes in its own backchannel ways has been referred to as a “third space.” And I have learned this from the backchannel of the Internet. So equity, for me, lies in bringing what we know from these backchannels forward into the front. There are many heros to learn from this in this work – Ai Wei Wei being an particularly inspiring one for me right now. And I greatly appreciate all of my amazing networked colleagues and all you all in ED677 for thinking about this and working on these inquiries with me.

The seven things I notice this Sunday? Connected learning (ie “It doesn’t need to be Earth-shattering to be meaningful”) … Connected learning (ie. “Every student has their own unique strengths and interests”) .. Connected learning (ie. “I have had several experiences in working in various communities just in the past week!”) …. Connected learning (ie. a Modge Podge How-to) … Connected learning (ie. high school math teachers sharing) … Connected learning (ie. coaching, learning, teaching and leading) … Connected learning (creation of new blog that works better for its author).

Yay! :)

“To work for peace and justice we begin with the individual practice of love, because it is there…”

“To work for peace and justice we begin with the individual practice of love, because it is there that we can experience firsthand love’s transformative power. Attending to the damaging impact of abuse in many of our childhoods helps us cultivate the mind of love. Abuse is always about lovelessness, and if we grow into our adult years without knowing how to love, how then can we create social movements that will end domination, exploitation, and oppression?”

- from Toward a Worldwide Culture of Love, bell hooks, July 2006