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!
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.