Small Moves in Connected Learning & Teaching

Anna was a student in my Seeking Equity in Connected Learning and Teaching course last spring at Arcadia University – she is an Arabic teacher at a local University and teaches intermediate and advanced Arabic to students, some of whom will also go on to teaching. My class is open to both inservice as well as pre-service teaches, both in and out of school. It is organized as an opportunity to learn connected learning by being a connected learner; we follow our interests and work to connect our learning along the way both on and offline. This makes the  course very open to the interests that the participants bring. I encourage us to dig into our interests through an inquiry lens and share and reflect on our work in public spaces online such as blogs and twitter. There are two opportunities for self-reflection on progress in a formal way – mid year and as part of their final work. Anna reached out to me very early on and wanted to more consistent feedback on her work, letting me know that she had been burnt in the past by not knowing how the professor saw her work. She also told me how she worked as an instructor herself and this was how she did it with her students. While it was helpful to hear from her how she organized her classroom, I was also reluctant to set up a situation where she was only getting feedback from me. Instead I wanted her to interact with the whole class while building a body of work and related reflections that she could use for her own self-assessment. We continued to talk as things progressed in the early semester and she did a great job all around, increasingly posting more and more while sharing interesting reflections about her work and engaging with others along the way. By the mid-course self-reflection she reported that she felt much more confident in her work. Up to think point we had been mostly working on our inquiry questions and thinking about equity in our contexts. We then shifted into engaging explicitly with the CL principles and spent a week on on each one. During the Openly Networked Learning week, I wrote  … “this week we’ll dive into what it means to be ‘openly networked.’ We’ll look at this from a few angles — human as well as technological, the possibilities as well as the challenges.” And then I asked them to start by reading Bud Hunt’s section in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. In that section, Bud writes:
Embracing the connected learning principle of openly networked learning is manageable. It does require, however, that teachers and other facilitators of learning make small moves toward openness and connectivity.
I then prompted folks to think about “small moves” they could make to to be more openly networked. This idea of small moves seemed to be very freeing for Anna – she referred to that idea frequently in her writing that week and the weeks ahead as she explored CL further and started an inquiry project of her own in her own teaching. She mentioned a couple times that as a University professor she couldn’t change the syllabus mid-course but needed to shift things in small ways instead. Even in her final self-assessment, she enthusiastically described the moves she made and the impact they had for her and her students.
Before and after ED 677: When I assigned projects to my students last semester and the years prior, they were  individual pieces of work. I gave them some freedom to choose what they want to learn about, but not completely. There were some rules and constraints to follow in completing their work. Every student worked privately on their project and they had their own presentation in the classroom. The only audience for those pieces of work were my students and I. The students reflections were done orally after every presentation. This semester, by implementing the connected learning principles and making small changes every week, I prepared my students to be more flexible with collaboration inside and outside the classroom. It became evident they were responsible and curious about the subjects at hands, more able to do their research, and more open to share their work with peers and other interested people out of the classroom. The final projects were examples of their improvement, and the  results came out phenomenal.
For me the take-away was around the power of small moves .. and the domino-impact they can have when working in connected ways.

Getting Started: Honoring our Interests and Connecting Online

Welcome to ED677 where we will be seeking equity in connected learning and teaching … and we will start that process by first connecting some of our own!

I am Christina Cantrill and I work for the National Writing Project as an Associate Director of National Programs. I am excited to work with you this semester. My background and experience is based on working alongside writing project educators exploring the implications of digital media on learning and literacy. A few key places to connect to some of that work are NWP Digital Is and Educator Innovator.

What does “connected learning” mean to you? Take a few moments to yourself and jot down some words that you think of when you read that phrase — and then use this Google Doc to share it with the rest of us.

And no worries … There are no wrong answers because whatever it means to you is probably exactly right — there are many ways to connect (both on and offline) and to learn through those connections. This course will be about exploring ways that we can connect and reflecting on the implications for learning and teaching.

Read more about the course via our syllabus. Please also comment on anything you have questions about, or email me those questions directly at cantrillc@arcadia.edu.

An Overview …

This week we will focus on getting started by getting connected and introducing ourselves to each other. A key piece of connected learning is about being networked to and learning alongside others, whether on or offline. Therefore connecting to each other as  fellow students/colleagues is an important first step; we will also connect with others thinking about Connected Learning here at Arcadia and in the wider world.

As the instructor, I will work to support your learning and connecting by establishing some patterns that you can count on and create from as the semester unfolds. And we will be using a range of online spaces to work in which will allow us to experiment with the affordances of different kinds of spaces, play with different technologies, and connect with a range of different people for different purposes.

Here’s an overview of what you can start to expect:

  1. Each Monday I will post a blog post to kick off the week. This blog will be posted at our ED677 class blog and then I will also cross-post it to our G+ Community and also to our “learning hub” at Arcadia’s Blackboard.
  2. The ED677 class blog will be a shared public space where we can connect to each others’ blogs, find a link to the syllabus and course archives, as well as always find Monday’s post. Please visit this site now and bookmark this link for easy access.
  3. Each week you will responsible to read/watch/consider a set of content that I will post that is related to the themes of the week and with a focus on equity. You are welcome to share new things for us to read/watch/consider too — we want to grow our knowledge together. See this week’s readings/watchings below.
  4. Each week I will prompt you to make something and share it on your blog related also to the theme of the week. You can choose to respond to the prompt I send but you can also decided to respond to something more interesting/relevant to you. See this week’s prompt below.
  5. At the end of every week we all will do a “Find 5 Friday” activity (or “Seek 6 Saturday” or “Seek 7 Sunday”) where we will find 5-6-7 things to share about each others’ work and/or the larger field of Connected Learning related to the themes of the week.
  6. All the while we will be working in and across several online spaces. I ask you to use all of these different spaces and encourage you to think about the different affordances of each one as you go. We will stop every 3rd week to specifically reflect on and discuss this aspect of what we are doing.

That’s the overview of this course, which might, I realize seem somewhat unfamiliar if you haven’t been part of a connected course/experience before. I’m happy to discuss any questions you might have and you can refer to the syllabus to see how this course is assessed and what the expectations are for participation.

This Week …

Honoring our Interests

Connected Learning is an approach that sees learning as interest-driven, peer supported, production-centered and oriented toward powerful outcomes for youth. What then is the role of interests in learning? What does it mean to be interest-driven? And what are the implications for equity in learning? Let’s begin our work together by honoring our own interests this week as we start to get connected.

In preparation for this week’s work, please read/watch and consider the following:

Ito, et al. (2012) Connected Learning Research Report and Agenda

Personal Stories @ Connectedlearning.TV
(watch the ones that seem interesting to you)

Blogs and bloggers to check out
(this is an open and public list … please add any of your own suggestions)

Here is a prompt to respond to on your blog (you may write or use another form of media):

Describe an interest that you had as a young person, whether or not that interest was recognized as learning in school. Write or make something about it that you can share with others … Tell us about what might have piqued this interest. How did you pursue that interest or what did it make you think about? What and who supported you as you dove deeper? In what ways were your interests connected to school, or not? What were the implications?

And don’t forget, Find 5 Friday (#f5f):

By the end of the week/weekend, find 5 things that you appreciate that others have shared. Post links to these things, with a sentence or two about them, so that we can see them too. Note: If you wait until Saturday, find 6 things (#s6s) — If Sunday, find 7 (#s7s). Here is an example from last year.

Get Connected

This course will use a range of online tools for connecting. Here are a few steps to make sure you are connected this week.

G+ Community

We will use a G+ Arcadia Connected Learning Community that is hosted by Arcadia and includes other students/educators who are part of the Connected Learning Certificate Program. This semi-public social space is meant for us to share beyond our class but still within the University.

I created a guide to Connect Via Google + that should help you do this via your Arcadia Gmail account.

Your Blog

We will each also maintain our own blog to share writing and media with the wider public. This week you should create that blog, if you don’t have one already, and connect that blog to our ED677 class blog.

I created a guide for that too: Connect Via Your Blog.

Twitter

We will also all use Twitter and the shared hashtag #ED677. This week you should create a Twitter handle, if you don’t already have one, and share your new handle with us so that we can find each other.

Here’s are a couple handy guides about getting started with Twitter:

Twitter’s Getting Started with Twitter guide

Hashtags, Twitter Chats and TweetDeck for Education by Sue Waters

Question: Meeting Live Next Week?

Next week, I would like to meet online via Google Hangout, if possible. Please respond to this Doodle Poll and let me know what might be a good day/time for you.

 

Really excited that you are participating in this course and I am looking forward to learning with all of you. If you have questions you can email me directly at cantrillc@arcadia.edu.

Best,
Christina

Featured image attribution: Mural on Chestnut and 7th streets in Philadelphia taken by Jason Murphy via FLICKR cc by 2.0.