I chose to create this badge, called the “Organic Connected Learning” badge for teachers who take an all-natural approach to lesson building. Throughout the semester, we have discussed many different aspects of connected learning, many of which drastically change the look, feel and purpose of a classroom. One lingering concern I have, as with many progressive educational concepts, is that we may be changing the feel of a lesson, without increasing student engagement. I created this badge with the criteria that will challenge teachers to create their own, homegrown and organic lessons that are built with connected learning in mind. Teachers who base an entire lesson around student interest meet the criteria. Teachers who build a lesson around news events or stories, like we saw in our section on shared purpose learning, are also eligible. Finally, teachers can earn the badge if they connect their classroom to an online community, which is something we’ve been doing here in ED677 all semester long. Stylistically, I liked using the idea of ‘organic’, since it conjures ideas that many people are already familiar with. For me, it alludes to a preference of natural over mass produced products, that may echo the conflict between more personalized, differentiated education and standardized tests and homogenized classrooms.
There are two phrases that were in my head when creating this badge, “baked in” vs. “stapled on”. A “baked in” idea is one that, from the earliest stages of a lesson, was part of the plan, whereas a “stapled on” idea is one that is added at the last moment, and can easily be removed without significantly changing a lesson. Thought the lens of ED677, these two phrases represent the level of commitment from a teacher to connected learning. A teacher who “bakes in” their ideas, searches out opportunities to use tools like social media or community based projects, where a teacher who “staples on” a new ideals just making superficial changes to the same old lessons. The badge I created rewards teachers who change their approach to lesson building, rather than just changing their tools.
I mentioned earlier semester (in a check-in) that a class like ED677 feels more useful as an online course than others I’ve taken, and I think that’s related to this idea of organic lessons. For some online classes, it can feel like a copy of an in-person class, where the assignments are similar and the only difference is the lack of face to face discussion. On the other hand, I think the strength of ED677 is that its “onlineness” is essential to its purpose. We are sharing our work in a real and existing community, whether it’s on our blogs or on Twitter. We are using tools that reach far beyond a closed discussion board, which allows us to explore so many unique pathways and interests. Where a discussion board post and response can feel artificial, using tools like our blogs or Flipgrid feels more natural, even if few of us have met in person. This realness is what I’m looking to replicate and reward with my organic learning badge.