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  1. This week, I started a unit on biotechnology with my ESL class.  I admittedly knew very little on the topic, but had an inkling that it could help me start to transform my classroom into more of a project-based, problem-solving type of environment!  In my hunt for resources, I found the Science Learning Hub and Biotechnology Learning Hub boards on Pinterest that I highly recommend following!
  2. Edweek.org wrote this week about how Simon & Schuster new initiative, Salaam Reads.  I am often stuck with the problem of finding QUALITY multicultural texts to bring into the classroom.  I cannot demonstrate the power of diverse cultures without diverse representation, and this major publisher is promising to help solve that problem!
  3. Thanks +Danielle for sharing your link to the top 10 Nings for teachers to follow.  I still have a lot to learn about what a Ning is, but I did find myself in Ning community called Education Beyond Borders.  They are a group “dedicated to closing the global education divide.”  I thought this was both a fantastic connection to my inquiry, as well as our #ED677 conversations.
  4. I know I have seen this video before as part of another course in Connected Networking.  In thinking about our #ED677 learning community, check out this video: RSA Animate: The Power of Networks.
  5. In order to empower students, I must give them VOICE.  This article from Edutopia, although geared for the lower grades, tells a relevant message of the power of teaching students to be storytellers.
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When Answers are the Means

I think that one of the most special aspects of our field is our intrinsic desire to grow in our practice.  This was not something we all learned in a teacher preparatory college course, but rather a natural characteristic of all of us.  In a field where we have every right to feel battered, stretched too thin, and pessimistic, we ask questions about the problems we notice, even when we know that answers may only be the means, not the ends.

In other words,

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I find myself lost in inquiry about my learning community and instruction everyday.  The manner and format of my inquiry is extremely informal, relatively unfocused, but meaningful nonetheless.  It is exciting to think, what might I come up with when I have a set of focused questions to consider?  While there is nothing wrong with informal inquiry, I recognize the need to structure inquiry from time to time and see what comes of it.

In my exploration of what that semi-formal inquiry includes, I start with the question that I have had since the end of my undergrad: How do I cultivate a community in which students see our diversity as a source of empowerment?

My learning community is respectful, sympathetic, and supportive of each others’ diversity; they are truly an amazing group of young people.  However, they still see their diverse ethnicities, cultures, and native languages as a deficit when they look out onto the greater school community.  How do I show them that their diversity and unique perspectives levels the playing field and gives them power in the conversation?

In Hicks’ article on Digital Is, I ended up finding my self in the middle of Prospect’s Descriptive Processes by Margaret Himely.  The section that I was brought to outlined the process for how teachers should conduct an inquiry into a piece of student writing. I started wondering, what would we learn about each other if we described each others’ written works?  How would our writing improve?  What barriers would be broken down?

Finally, with so much discussion in #ED677 surrounding the importance of play in the classroom (gaming, moving, annotating, connecting…), I end with the question I think I have had since the start of this course, but I had yet to put down into concrete words: How do I combine language-learning with play that reflects 21st Century problem solving skills?  What does this learning community look like?

When do you find yourself in the middle of inquiry throughout your day?  What are you often questioning?

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5 things I have learned about community from a few of my communities:

  1. The #ED677 community has shown me how it is completely possible for a group of people to come together online and complete work that it is as collaborative, if not even more collaborative, than it would be if it were completed in person. If take advantage of the digital tools available to us, face to face interaction does not always have to trump.  Thanks, +tomwoznicki for the bringing up this idea in our GoogleDoc.
  2. I have learned that as a community members transition into “full participators,” we all start to find confidence to take risks and put our whole selves and resources out to be explored by others.  Thank you, +ourkidsmatter, for your openness about how race has played a factor in your life.
  3. As an extension of #2, I have learned that community must be fostered before it is effective.  This is a fantastic article about how read alouds encouraged a sense of community in one teacher’s classroom.
  4. I have become aware of how much community invigorates me.  So many of you have led me down twisting rabbit holes of amazing resources and material that has excited me.  Specifically, I’d like to highlight +kindergartencop and +laceykleckner who led me to the Caine’s Arcade movement.  Wow, go humanity!
  5. Lastly, I have learned that the more that I contribute to a community, the more that I can take away from it.  I know this sounds like a basic equation, but as a peripheral member of the running community, my experience of participation in our #ED677 community has made me aware of how much more I could be getting out of my personal communities if I step INTO the conversations.

Annotate That!

I had already thought of an example of community to write about in this post before I pulled up Kira Baker-Doyle’s The Networked Teacher.  As I read her first chapter, I realized that participating in this course is its own example of a learning network, or community. Our participation here gives us the network of support and resources that Baker-Doyle writes is essential for success in our field.  Not surprising then, that my example of community comes directly from an idea I acquired through our #ED677 community!

Since I already spoke about my learning community, the running community online,  I want to reflect on how I used public spaces to build community, collaboration, and equitable learning opportunity in my classroom.

I had my students annotate!  We read about annotating a few weeks back in an ED677 #MondayPost.  This week, as background reading for “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I asked my students to read an article about “The History of Lunacy in the 19th Century.”  Instead of reading the article aloud, scaffolding understanding with check-in questions, and hearing answers from the same three students, I decided to try something new that my learning community brought to me.

I made the article into an editable GoogleDoc and then my students were asked to use the Comments feature to make at least five annotations as they read.  I gave them a list of 10 sentence starters/questions to help construct their annotations.  It was a rocky start as we navigated this new space together, but within a few minutes, the room was silent and buzzing.

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My students produced annotations of this text that I would have never heard aloud had we read the article as a class.  Moreover, the annotations produced by many students were at a level that depth that I had not seen them go before.  I truly think their engagement had everything to do with the fact that their work looked and read like thread, with the opportunity to reply to each others’ comments and create an ongoing conversation.  This was familiar public territory to them.  In this way, I had leveled the playing field and provided equity for all learners.  Our online annotating community brought all participators from peripheral to full participators, as defined by Lave and Wagner, because the “thread” was a familiar and inviting forum for everyone.

 

Playing is for… everybody!

I run because it’s fun (although this week’s temperatures has made it significantly less enjoyable than usual), it makes me happy, and it helps me keep my priorities in check.  On days that I cannot fit a run or a gym session in, I am cranky, stressed, and unfocused.  On the run I went on this week that was for the specific purpose of this class, I went a step further to turn it into a play session by keeping all of my electronics and trackers at home.  I took a five mile run down the (icy) trail for the sole purpose of enjoying the experience, for the sole purpose of PLAYING!

On my run, my toes went numb, the noise in my head turned down and eventually shut off, I re-worked my strategy for introducing literary theory to my senior class, I realized I forgot to e-mail a student about one of her concerns, I smiled, I noticed the steadiness of my breath and felt good about that, and feeling returned to my toes.

I know that this form of play in my life is essential for me to be the best I can be in each and every professional and private facet that I am present in.  Thinking about my relationship with running in the context of this class, I wonder about the majority of my students who go straight from school to work each day and are left with very little time to explore (play) their own hobbies.  How can I expect the best from them, if they are never given the outlet and opportunity to play?

I think the answer is simple; I cannot.

This week’s topic coincided with my district’s professional development days, during which I explored research about Brain-Based Learning and STEM.  I came away from this week with the realization that we can call it the former two terms, we can call it gaming in the classroom, we can refer to it as tinkering, but one thing is for sure, if we do not soon incorporate play in the classroom on our own, we will be forced to.

In the article, “All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten,” Mitchel Resnick asserts that “play and learning can and should be intimately linked. Each, at its best, involves a process of experimentation, exploration, and testing the boundaries.”  I understand, through my running, how play follows this similar process to learning.  I also understand how my play IS learning.  Thanks to my running, I am an amateur expert in foam rolling, pacing, race day strategy, program planning, strength training circuits, and recovery nutrition.  When John Seely Brown talks about the learning implicit in the multitude of Harry Potter communities, or James Paul Gee discusses the parallels between video gaming communities and learning, I get it.  Playing is learning.

In thinking about this week’s learning and the issue of inequity in education, I realize that my students do not have the gift of time outside of school to play, tinker, or explore their passions.  I  do not have a set curriculum for ESL, a gift that I see great advantage in as I consider implementing a Genius Hour in my class.  One day a week, if we take a class period and structure it so that my students may pursue their own passions, this week’s readings argue that they will be better prepared for the 21st century network that awaits them.

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  1. The free online game, SPENT, allows users to try to prove that they have what it takes to survive living below the poverty line.  This is a perfect example of how play can help increase awareness of the iniquities that surround us!
  2. Running is my play!  This Saturday, watch the ultimate players of the game at the US Olympic Marathon Trials here!
  3. My ESL students just finished up with taking the ACCESS test, the state English language proficiency exam.  After four days of high-stakes testing stress, we decompressed by watching Spare Parts (trailer in link).  Watching this with my students was, by far, the most special experience we have had together yet.
  4. Have you heard of Genius Hour?  It is a growing trend of teachers who are taking an hour a week and dedicating it to supportive workshop time for students to PLAY at whatever interests them.  I have not tried it, but I am intrigued.
  5. As we consider play in the classroom, 7 Tips for Creating Memorable Learning Experiences breaks down the key components to a successful learning project that would fit the criteria of what we are discussing.  I like how simple the advice is.  And I especially love tip #4.

(in)Equity in Learning #f5f

  1.  Equity in learning has a lot to do with how much a student feels a part of their learning community.  The more we involve the marginalized, the more they become less marginalized.  In light of the Superbowl this Sunday, recognize that your Spanish-speaking students might have more to say about football than you think!

    Why the Carolina Panthers’ Spanish-Language Broadcast Is the Coolest Thing Around

  2. I wrote this week about the articles about the DREAM Act.  Have you been wondering why the DREAM Act hasn’t taken off with wild success?  According to this article by the National Migration Policy, it has a lot to do with how only 5% of #DACA applicants were eligible.
  3. To honor #BlackHistoryMonth, I give you the NPR article, Teaching Kids About Slavery: Picture Books Struggle With the Task.  The article concludes with a quote from Matt de la Pena’s Last Stop on Market Street: “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt,” the wise grandma responds, “you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”
  4. Feeling uninspired about next week’s lesson plans?  Check out how this teacher taught across the curriculum and got her students speaking out about social injustices!
  5. Finally, book recommendations! In going with this weeks theme, here is a list from #WeNeedDiverseBooks.