For my design challenge, I created an assignment where students create theme park worlds, similar to Harry Potter World, using a variety of formats such as virtual reality, video games, graphic design, drawings, and more. Their theme parks are supposed to depict a scene from a popular novel, which they will then explain its importance. I created my own virtual theme park based on the novel Room by Emma Donoghue. While it clearly wouldn’t be a very exciting theme park since nearly the entire novel takes place in a single room, it was interesting to create due to the close reading required to create an authentic setting. I found myself searching through the book for any details I could manage, from the skylight to the color of the carpet. I think students would have a lot of fun with this assignment because it brings their stories to life. It would be especially interesting to see how different students design the same setting, particularly for novels that haven’t been made into movies. There’s also the potential to “restore justice” for novels that have been made into films that the students feel didn’t truly capture the essence of the setting. I think it worked pretty well and was certainly engaging overall. I would definitely encourage the students to annotate for any descriptions of setting in order to make this project easier. This project requires a lot of creativity and close reading, and I think students would love to look at one another’s worlds, which could entice them to read a new book they otherwise wouldn’t have read!
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I’m always so full of so many questions about my life and my future, as I would assume most people are in general. In my future as a teacher and leading up until then, I’m curious how I will balance being true to myself, while allowing myself room to grow and improve. Often times, I’m a bit hard on myself, but I also feel like I’m too gentle as well. I need to give myself some tough love once in a while and learn to fully admit when I’m wrong, or being too reactive, or am too upset about petty things (or acting too petty). I tend to have high expectations in general for myself and others, and I don’t necessarily want to lower them, but I want to be able to push myself and others without it being overwhelming. There needs to be a balance of challenge and understanding in my life with myself and my relationships with others. Academically, this translates to taking into consideration other’s opinions on my work, but not letting them take total control. I know how I like to write and I know my personal style. I’ll have to remember this as a teacher, because I often feel teachers don’t understand my style of writing not because it’s bad, but because it’s different than what they have come to expect.
I want to see myself and my students as a whole being, not just a single aspect. I hope for them to do the same for me, as well.
From the time this picture was taken, so much has happened. You have gone on so many more adventures, had so many different friends, and found so many new interests. You’ve had some rough times, many of which were self-inflicted because of your own attitude. I want you to know that the world is not against you, and people are not going to think the same way you do and sometimes you are wrong, but it’s okay. You have to be able to admit your flaws, but not let them hold you back. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, and don’t get so disappointed and angry when others aren’t living up to your expectations. Gentleness goes a long way, and so does being humble. Also, your eyebrows get a lot better and your teeth turn out perfect, so don’t stress too much.
I’m very happy that I’ve grown from what I used to be, I cringe so much at how annoying and honestly, mean, I used to be. I still find myself acting that way at times now, but I’m able to notice it and redirect myself to make the outcome better for everyone. However, it took a very long time to get to where I am now with myself and my relationships with others. I think a lot of my bitterness with others came from unhappiness with myself, and while I’m still on the journey of self-love, I’ve come a long way. My younger self would be shocked by how much less of a perfectionist I am and surprised by the college I attend and the people I am friends with today. She would be proud of the accomplishments I have achieved and excited that I still want to teach. She would remind me that many of my students will be like her, and they just need a little bit of reassurance, even though it seems that they’re doing so well.
You’re way cooler in the future.
EducatorInnovator.org has a ton of blogs and events surrounding new trends in education.
I started out with reading this article about a shop class that is impacting the community through identifying needs and literally building solutions. For me, this is especially intriguing because, in my experience, shop classes (when they exist) aren’t very appealing to a wide variety of students because you make things like clocks (which who has a real clock in their house anymore?). This also motivates them to put an effort in and do well because their items are actually going to be used by other people. Keeping this in mind is crucial when developing connected learning plans because students find more value in their work and themselves when it serves a real purpose.
I read another article about storytelling being implemented in high school classrooms to enhance students’ relationships with writing and create connections between one another. Through sharing their stories, students are able to overcome stereotypes and move beyond snap judgments to create a place of creativity and learning that is inclusive of students with a variety of backgrounds. The hope for this storytelling workshop is to provide a place of refuge for students to be themselves and share stories of joy and triumph. Ultimately, they want this program to be a regular part of the curriculum so that students are able to make an even larger impact. Benefits of storytelling are plentiful, as storytelling quickly draws empathy from the audience, highlighting their message and helping the speaker and listener connect with one another. Sharing their stories is a sort of therapy for students, and the public speaking aspect gives them more confidence. Storytelling brings the audience and speaker together through shared experiences. This is a very simple way to implement connected learning with or without technology.
Finally, I read about connected learning in terms of connected teaching. It is explained that the main things to remember when designing connected learning lesson plans are collaboration, curiosity, courage, civic engagement, and care. These stray away from traditional teaching practices, requiring the teacher to hand some of the control over to the students in order to give them the freedom necessary to engage with their interests.
While connected learning is very innovative and therefore can be a bit intimidating, following some basic guidelines makes the process a bit less intimidating. Teachers and students alike need to embrace the fundamentals of connected learning in order to get the most out of the experience. Using resources like educatorinnovator.org assists teachers throughout the process, including where to start. Once a teacher lays down the groundwork for connected learning, they can become a mentor for other teachers in their building or community and help spread the trend of customized learning. Teachers benefit from connected learning just as much as students as they are able to learn from their students’ interests not only the content but who their students are as people. This fosters a sense of community and helps students feel more in control.
I’m trying to remember exactly what I wrote originally, but that’s too complicated for my brain at the moment. So, my current ideas for a new school that may or may not be similar to my previous thoughts include a major focus on the students. I want them to be the heart and soul of every function of the school. A school by the students, for the students. Interest-based learning is a great method to keep them engaged and gives them an incredible amount of freedom. I think even as they design their own projects, teachers from all subject areas would be able to assist them and evaluate where they have room for improvement. Perhaps there would be a homeroom type of class at the beginning of the day where students check in with their progress on the projects they’re creating and make a plan for what they will do that day. Afterward, there would be several hours where students get to choose what they do for their projects, whether that includes signing up for help with a specific topic in the form of a mini-lesson from a list of subject teachers, working in the community, discussing ideas with peers, or individual work. At the end of the day, there would be time for reflection. There wouldn’t be a clear division between subject areas, but there would be teachers with specialties, so students had a variety of mentors to go to. I don’t think specific grade levels would be necessary because they would be working at their own pace and developing their own understanding of topics. They could have a specific mentor that checks in on them and identifies any errors that need addressing, but for the most part, they would be free-range students. While it seems like a free for all, there would be a lot of behind the scenes work necessary to keep this engine running. This way, teachers aren’t tied to a specific curriculum and are able to work with a variety of students. Obviously this doesn’t address every aspect that would be necessary to create such a school, however, it would be a good starting point for inspiration.
I looked at several lessons, including Star-Crossed Lovers Online, Glogging About Natural Disasters, and Talking Poetry. In each of these, technology is used to enhance lessons that could be done without tech, but the use of tech enriches the experience for students and captures their interests. They are able to make the lessons interest based by choosing their topics based on the loose guidelines set forth by the teacher. In Star-Crossed Lovers Online, the classic Shakespeare play is made more accessible by students by giving them an opportunity to modernize it. The students choose what technology they would want to implant in the play, then write about how this would change the story. This leads them to higher levels of thinking and a higher level of engagement with the text. Once they are able to get past the difficult language the play is written in, students are able to personalize it and bring the play and its characters into their modern world. Glogging About Natural Disasters and Talking Poetry both use tech resources to make online platforms for sharing ideas surrounding topics they chose. This way, not only can students share their work with one another, but also the rest of their community and even other parts of the world. At the end of all of these projects, students have created something that is completely their own through the use of creativity and complex thinking, which gives them a sense of accomplishment.
I elected to read Kim Jaxon’s story because of the takeaway, “students need multiple ways to demonstrate participation in our classroom communities”. This intrigued me because I am a student who does not do well when participation points are a major part of the class, with participation solely being measured by the traditional raise your hand and speak method. I’m naturally a quiet person, and while I may have things to say, I don’t feel the need to say them most of the time. I’m certainly annoyed by those who share their every thought in a classroom, especially irrelevant or obvious ones and often find myself thinking, “oh. my. god. Nobody cares.” when people speak. I prefer to sit back and observe, answering questions if asked them specifically but not volunteering myself simply because I don’t feel like it. In her story, Kim Jaxon explains the use of technology as an additional avenue for students to demonstrate participation. I think this is fantastic, as a quick blog post or tweet allows for reflection of thought without adding too much extra work that feels like punishment for those students who are naturally introverted. I have a professor that offers “notes processing reports” as an option for participation, but why should someone else get full points for shouting out their random opinion of Romeo & Juliet’s romance while I have to take extra time on my weekend to fill out pages of additional questions? Not to mention that I’m just not a note-taker in general and never have been as I find them distracting. I would love to let my students show their engagement through a quick tweet as comments are made, or a reflective blog post with no minimum word count. I want my students to share meaningful thoughts because they want to, not because they have to, and technology gives them the power to do so.
When I first heard of connected learning, my mind automatically went to technology. I assumed connected was similar to the sense of being “plugged in” that is so common today. However, upon reading this webpage, I found that the connection is more about community and connecting with students interests. While this can and often does include technology, you can also have connected learning without technology as well. Learning this made me even more interested as it seems like a good way to enhance a student’s education even if they have low access to technological resources.
I think it’s important to give students opportunities for connected learning because traditional learning methods don’t typically reach most of the audience, and certainly, don’t engage them. Connected learning also teaches students to use their resources to their advantage, allowing them time to work through problems with a variety of teachers, be it their normal classroom teacher, their peers, families, coaches, mentors, etc. This becomes valuable in the future because students will then know how to approach a variety of people for assistance, therefore becoming better at self-advocacy. The people they reach out to also benefit from learning from the student, so the exchange of knowledge becomes even broader.
Connected learning is also interest based, which keeps the students engaged. If they have a personal investment in a topic, they are more likely to be willing to put in the extra effort to do a task exceptionally well, instead of doing it just to complete a requirement. Traditional education revolves around memorization and regurgitation, with the teacher being the all-knowing power in the room. By distributing this power, connected learning enables students to feel like they have a stronger voice, giving them more confidence and making them more willing to take risks. Freedom of choice makes it possible to learn about topics that would have otherwise never been covered in a traditional classroom. In the end, what they have learned is tangible through the completion of their project, be it a physical item they made or an event or whatever else they came up with. This enhances their sense of accomplishment, making them more excited about what comes next.
In my future classroom, I would want to diversify assignments and allow for connected learning as much as possible. Nearly any task students set themselves to could involve aspects of English, from writing a plan, speaking at an event, writing about an art piece or the creation process, or many other options that come along. In the end, the students could also write personal narratives about their experiences. They could write proposals for their projects and keep journals along the way. Novels could also be incorporated by inspiring their projects, keeping it tied to the curriculum while still allowing the students to choose their interests. I think it’s hard to define exactly what connected learning would look like because the choices are really up to the students so there would be a lot of variation. I would love to see what students can come up with and how they would make their ideas come to life while creating a network of resources.
I held the door shut…
I knew it wasn’t going to help for long, but this tiny bit of effort gave us some time. They were coming for us, and they weren’t going to stop until the kingdom was theirs. Revealing a hidden room, the princess pushed back a pillar and ushered the other girls inside. I could feel their forces pushing harder, the boys and I couldn’t hold up much longer. With the ladies safe, we pulled away, prepared to pretend that nothing happened. Sitting at a table, we sipped tea and played cards, hoping to somehow deceive the villains. No such luck. He knew what he wanted was just out of reach, and unfortunately, I was his key to the truth. You see, I cannot tell a lie, not even the smallest. It grows before me, stretching out until it’s overwhelming, everyone around me knows the truth. He questions me, asking where the princesses disappeared to, and where the prince has gone. I stutter, mumbling and rambling, telling as many half-truths as I can hoping he’ll give up. Insanity is threatening each of us, as my dear friend begins mindlessly singing as a distraction. Soon, the noise becomes too much to bear and one of the brothers betrays the group, spilling it all on the table. This won’t be the only act of betrayal today as the princesses are accompanied by a traitor as well. The fate of the kingdom is left in the hands of the seemingly incompetent, and the future certainly is bleak.
*my page refreshed before my original response posted so here’s a quick summary*
I want my students to feel welcome and valued in my classroom. I want to teach more than English, I want to teach about life. I want students who don’t feel like they belong anywhere else to feel like they belong in my classroom. I see students as human beings first, and I want them to see how important compassion for one another is in life.