Find 5 Friday

  • I really liked Khaliah’s post from last week about her interests as a young student.  I wrote last week about the similarities that Ryan and I shared when we were young, and in reading about Khaliah’s connection to dancing, I was reminded of an idea from earlier in my academic career.  When we are young, we learn in all sorts of ways, through games, dance, or just playtime.  Recess is part of our early education.  As we get older, education happens more and more prominently using only our heads.  I think integrating more movement and activity into any classroom can be great for every type of teacher.
  • Obviously, I’m not the first or only one to think of a more active and engaging curriculum.  It looks like John Dewey beat me by a century or so.  I’ve seen others refer to the piece, and justifiably so, it’s a great read.  In his words, “The great thing to keep in mind, then, regarding the introduction into the school of various forms of active occupation, is that through them the entire spirit of the school is renewed.”
  • I really connected to Alexa’s post from last week.  I enjoyed reading about the awesome changes the Harry Potter Alliance have been able to accomplish and the student who was motivated to redesign a web browser and created Firefox, but I think Alexa hit on something more universal about connected learning.  Her love of theater and the ‘side effects’ of her involvement made her a better student and even today, performing arts continues to influence her life.  The big successes of interest based learning and connected learning are inspiring, but the everyday success and lifelong love that Alexa discussed are just as important.
  • Danielle’s post from last week opens with a quote that basically describes my own life… “So, did you always know you wanted to be a teacher?” Funny enough, my answer is a resounding, “No! I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life!” I really liked her thoughts on learning, and how her own experience as a student impacted the way she teaches today.
  • As a future math teacher, I loved this video.  There’s so many things that students find challenging about math, that too many teachers just lecture and lecture and lecture.  This type of activity allows students to ask questions and investigate and inquire in groups.  So much learning is about the process and the answer to a problem is just one small part.  Thanks to Holly and Ryan for sharing.
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Find 5 Friday

Participation and Reflection

This week presented me with a great new opportunity to participate in a new volunteer program. Through Arcadia, I was invited to take part in a new project at Cheltenham High School run by the ACE Mentor Program. The program is a project-based learning initiative that will allow students to get hands on experience working in Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE). The students will work on a number of different activities created and inspired by community members who work in architecture, engineering and design, with an ongoing focus on a recent school construction as their case study.  As an education student and future teacher, my role will be to build a lesson framework around the projects that the professionals create. This week was my first chance to participate in a planning meeting, in anticipation of next week’s big kickoff.

This was my first meeting with a group of professionals, so there were some first-meeting nerves as we got started.  The group leader did a great job in communicating the goals of our meeting, defining the roles of each mentor, and describing the nature of the program.  The level of organization and professionalism made me feel much more comfortable, and as the meeting continued, I felt it was easier and easier to find my role in the group.  It helped that everyone in the meeting came from a different background,  which in a sense allowed everyone to be the expert in their own field. Finding ways for new members of a group to feel comfortable and confident is a lesson that any educator should try to learn.

This meeting and the semester long project it will be a part of have an interesting dual role with participation.  On a personal level, I am just getting acclimated with a group of new people, and will work to become a valued group member.  But even as I work to become part of a participatory group, the tutors and professionals will be trying to build a participatory community for the students taking part in the program.  In this report from the MacArthur Foundation, there was a quote that seemed particularly relevant to the ACE program.  On page 5, Henry Jenkins states that “Schools as institutions have been slow to react to the emergence of this new participatory culture; the greatest opportunity for change is currently found in afterschool programs and informal learning communities.”  In our case at Cheltenham, we are creating a program that meets the interests of students and will do so in a non-traditional learning environment.  The ongoing goal will be to build this program into a place where students want to come and get their hands dirty and maybe even learn about a future career.  Hopefully, as the semester progresses, the students will feel as welcomed and willing to participate as I did in my meeting this week.

Participation and Reflection

Find 6 Saturday

  • I found this personal story from Ian Gonsher on the connected learning website very interesting and inspiring.  The post does a great job in showing the need to connect to students to their work through projects, and building in the opportunity for students to flex their creative muscles.  I really like this quote:  “My teaching style isn’t so much about imparting knowledge (although that’s part of it), but about creating conditions where the creative process can occur”
  • I really liked Paola Ricaurte Quijano’s story, focusing on different ways to rethink technology in the learning process.  Its particularly interesting for our #ED677 classroom, as we are building a collaborative online environment here with our blogs.  Similarly, Paola’s students work is exclusively found online, and purposefully and conscientiously create content for a broader audience than their own classrooms.
  • I spent a ton of time on Dan Meyer’s blog over the last couple days.  I am working towards a career in secondary math education, and his work and insights have been very valuable.  His entire approach to revitalizing the math classroom is refreshing to read about and certainly includes a lot of ideas I will use in the future.  His TED talk is a worthwhile watch too.
  • I’m really interested in how education reform looks around the world, and think that there is a massive ongoing experiment in comparative education happening.  The internet, and connected-ness in general has made it easier to see what education looks like in all sorts of different contexts, and how different systems deal with equity in education.  Maha Bali’s entire blog, and this post specifically was a fascinating read.
  • I was reading Ryan’s Kindergarten Cop blog and found his interests as a child were pretty close to my own.  Sports are such a great mechanism for social interactions, collaboration and teamwork.  I think the role of sports can sometimes be complicated and at times problematic as we grow older, but that feeling of playing games in the street with friends is a feeling I really connected with.
  • Chris Lehmann’s blog Practical Theory really struck a chord with me.  I completed my undergraduate work in political science, so Chris’ thoughts on the intersection of current political movements and the classroom were right up my alley.  He has posts in response to racial justice issues and the role of unions, just to name a few topics.
Find 6 Saturday

Interests and learning

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?

As a young person, I was obsessed with any and all types of games.  When I could, I would play any sport that was available to me.  Unfortunately, growing up in Connecticut, there were about 5 months of the year when the weather forced me inside.  This allowed me to focus on video games.  In a lot of ways, games and school felt at odds with each other, especially when I was young.  Video games were certainly in competition for my attention when I had homework, and sports, though they were considered less of a distraction, had little to do with my learning at school.  Looking back, sports and video games were one of the best ways I connected with my family and friends.  My father coached me in various sports, and the time before, after, and during practices and games are very important memories.  Video games were a great way for a fairly awkward young person to connect with my siblings and have fun without destroying any furniture or landscaping.

As I grew older, sports took on an even larger part of my life.  Early in my high school career, it became clear that I could be good enough to play football in college.  My family continued to support me, by helping my train and travel.  When my school was unable to videotape my games, my mother stepped in and recorded the games herself.  My support system also grew to include friends and community members, but still, my athletic career had very little to do with my academic career.  I had teachers who urged me to focus my college interests away from sports.  For a very long time, it felt as though my most passionate interest was still at odds with my schooling and learning.  The ultimate irony was that only through football was I able to attend the school I did, and my life has been better for that experience.

Reflection on my own personal experience forced me to rethink learning and schooling from a much wider lens.  Student interest can be easy to discount as frivolous or unrelated to “serious classroom learning”, but active engagement in the classroom can make a big difference.  Beyond sports, teachers and community leaders should be careful when dismissing student interest.  Modern learning is changing very day, and jobs and communities that will be important in 2025 may not even exist today.  The important takeaway for educators is that inclusiveness of ideas and interests, even if they seem silly, can help students learn more passionately and hopefully, accomplish more.

Interests and learning