Resources in this collection
From Professional Development to Professional Practice: The SEEDs of Connected Learning in a High Need Middle School
Through the TRWP Connect MOOC (#trwpconnect), our SEED partnership was able to explore the concepts and practices of “making” in the classroom, model and interrogate the role of writing in the making process, adopt a writing-as-making approach to crafting of texts, and build an understanding of how Connected Learning could enrich teachers’ work with writing in the Common Core and Essential standards across the curriculum.
The structure of #trwpconnect was new to most of the participants, and the practice of using digital technologies as participatory platforms where writing played a central role in community-building was a significant departure from the kinds of professional development EB Aycock teachers were accustomed to. Many participants were unsure what to expect from a connectivist MOOC and were surprised to learn that they would not be moving through content delivery modules and completing quizzes to assess their mastery at the end. Instead, the MOOC would become both an exercise in and a study of Connected Learning and the habits of mind and body (new literacies) that are necessary for collaborative writing, learning, and participation in academic and civic spaces.
As a remix of NWP’s Making Learning Connected #clmooc, #trwpconnect was divided into six make cycles that engaged participants in networked disciplinary and interdisciplinary making and writing. Participants explored physical, digital, textual, and object-oriented making projects, working together to craft reflective self-focused user guides, to make paper circuitry projects, to produce conceptual and spatial maps, to create graphic stories, and to design connected learning plans for their own schools and classrooms. Guided by the mantra of “make, share, connect, reflect, and repeat,” we considered the role of writing in developing craft, technical, and disciplinary literacies as well as the role of writing in creating and maintaining these shared-interest communities, both in and outside of school. We explored the multimodal and multi-mediated nature of writing across the curriculum, and we experimented with new media for participating in and creating context-dependent texts.
In the last make cycle, participants were asked to create a Connected Learning plan for themselves or their classrooms that would integrate production-centered writing and making and to document that process. Participants then reconvened in June 2014 to reflect on those plans and their implementation and to document that work by creating practice-focused resources for Digital Is. The resources collected here trace the direct impact of our SEED partnership, and from this work we can see the various ways that teachers are wrestling with, integrating, and embodying Connected Learning in their own complex contexts. From designing new units and activities that engage students in producing multimodal texts for digital networks to considering how Connected Learning might break down communication barriers between students, teachers, schools, families, and communities, these resources demonstrate the impact of the #TRWP Connect MOOC, showing that Connected Learning is an adaptable and flexible framework that can inform the ways we consider and teach writing, making, connecting, learning, and participating in a text-heavy, digital world.
Resources in this collection
In the first month of school, I was wondering how to introduce connecting learning in my classroom. Do I start with informing them of the concept, or do I let them explore at their own risk?
Our students need activities that mean something to them. Whether they relate to their experiences, interests, or simply their peer culture. I enjoy implementing activities that I feel that my students are highly engaged in and actively participating in. I have noticed that teaching with inquiry captures the students attention and allows them to utilize their higher order thinking skills.
Bloodshot eyes. Deadpan, drooling faces. Communicating in shrugs, grunts, and moans. This is not a scene from the popular AMC zombie-drama “The Walking Dead,” but a typical scene from many classrooms across the country. In the technological, fast-paced, ever-changing, social media-based society we live in, educators are constantly struggling to keep students interested in what is happening in the classroom. How can we change what we do in the classroom to get students excited about their work? Before we examine how I came to try conquering the challenge of creating interest-driven projects, let’s look at how I got here. (We will come back to the idea of zombies later!)
As you step through the doorway of a history classroom, the lights are off as the teacher drones on about the importance of certain Revolutionary War battles. A plain PowerPoint slide is plastered across the front of the room. A few students are awake, actively taking notes, but the majority of the class is dead asleep as the teacher drones on, unfazed by this behavior. This is what many stereotypically characterize a history class to look like, probably because that is what they were exposed to. As a history teacher, I am no stranger to the adversity that educators face when it comes to making historical content relatable to their students. I teach at E.B. Aycock Middle School, located in Pitt County in eastern North Carolina, a school with an extremely diverse student population in terms of both race and socioeconomic status.
As a first year teacher, still enthused about the idea of teaching language arts to a group of 100+ eighth grade students, I was quickly saddened by the lack of interest that the students seemingly shared with each other. At E.B. Aycock Middle in Greenville, North Carolina, we serve students who come from two completely different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. We certainly have our share of gifted students, but we also have our share of students who are simply doing well for themselves just to get to school everyday. And as a first year teacher two months after I graduated, I was positive that I was going to come in and effect positive change in the lives of these students whom I had not yet met. I was eager, excited, confident, and completely naive.
I was involved in the Tar River Writing Project Connected Learning MOOC (#trwpconnect) beginning in February 2014. I was excited to learn both what it was and what we would be doing together. The first thing we "made" as part of this experience was a user guide that helped the other participants see who we were and how we best learned. We had the flexibility to make it using any technology or using any medium we chose which was hard because I am used to a defined assignment. Like most teachers, I like to do things right, and I was worried I wouldn't meet the facilitators' expectations. That, coupled with my own lack of computer knowledge made it much more time consuming and uneasy for me to complete this make. This is when I began to reach out to others and understand the value of peer collaboration or peer-to-peer networks, as they are called in Connected Learning. In the end, I got by with a little help from my friends.
Which came first? Visual Art or Literature? I relate more to a cave man drawing on the walls than Shakespeare writing a sonnet. But both tell a story. Stories throughout history have inspired visual art (Ex. The Last Supper). But how many times have I asked my students to create a visual art piece that is an interpretation of a piece of literature? Not very often.
This is my first year teaching at 6th grade science at E. B. Aycock. E. B. Aycock is a Middle School located in Greenville, North Carolina. The demographics of the student population is 64% African American, 25% Caucasian, 5% Hispanic, 3% Biracial, and 2% Asian. Sixty-four percent of the students receive free-and-reduced Lunch. My classroom demographics really reflected the schools' overall demographics. My classroom also was very diverse in academic abilities. Each class averaged about five AIG students. I also had two classes that were designated for EC inclusion and one class was Autistic inclusion.
Building on my experience as a parent, I realized how important it was for me to work with kids with learning disabilities. As a mother of two children, one with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and the other with Attention Deficit Disorder, I found raising them was both rewarding and challenging. I have first hand experience with the frustrations that children with learning disabilities face on a day-to-day basis. I know I cannot save all of the kids in the world, but by planting the seed and providing it water we can make that difference in a child’s life. Creating a stable and nurturing environment was a high priority for myself not only as a parent but as an educator. I was not aware of the multitude of resources that were available to parents in situations similar to mine that would help with these real- life struggles.