For my final make, I want my students to explore issues of immigration, stereotypes, and diversity.  In the end, I hope that we are able to piece together a publication of their thoughts and findings.  Here, I list several places where I think we could begin our investigation of this topic.

  1. The crisis in Syria has really interested my ELLs.  I know that it is something they can sympathize with in ways that many of us cannot, and I know that it is a topic around many of their dinner tables.  NPR’s Sryia webpage has many podcasts and articles surrounding this subject, including one about basketball.
  2. ImmigrationPolicy.com is a fabulous resource for anyone looking to get the real facts about immigration policy, citizenship, and the DREAM Act.  You can also sign-up for weekly e-mails about civic action issues happening currently.
  3. Immigration Impact is maintained by the American Immigration Council.  In addition to being a resource on immigration law, it also includes a blogroll of other blogs on similar topics.
  4. MyImmigrationStory is a WordPress blog that allows readers to share their own immigration stories.  This would a perfect way to begin the project, and I especially love that the site provides an immediate, authentic audience for my students’ writing.
  5. Made Into America is another platform for immigration stories.  The site also gives students directions on how to write, video, and publish their own.  The feature that interests me the most is their tab of lesson plans and resources that I think could be great springboard activities to help students begin their own investigations.
  6. Finally, I’d like to end on a good note by sharing this article on Utah’s welcoming policies for refugees.  In an increasingly hostile climate, it is good to hear of communities like those across Utah.

Unpacking Interests

Nicole Mirra writes in “Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom” that “learning is inextricably linked to our identities and our relationships to others in our communities, and therefore, the interests that are explored in interest-driven learning represent much more than hobbies.”  In thinking about what it means to be driven by one’s interests, I argue that more than a hobby, interest-driven learning represents the opportunity for students to chose the most effective and meaningful path for them to demonstrate mastery.  After all, to consider this argument in the context of ED677, my student self has had choice as a maker to demonstrate my learning each week in myriad of ways.  One of the reasons that my learning in this course has been so meaningful is because I have had the opportunity to explore the course topics in the format of my choosing.  When I have the power to choose, I have the ability to pursue a topic in a more meaningful way.

As an ESL teacher, I do so much talking about the importance of knowing your learner and knowing the families, communities and experiences that your learner comes from.  If “learning is inextricably linked to our identities,” then learning is not equitable until all students have the power of having their interests honored in the classroom.  In thinking about my final make, Meeno Rami’s (SLA)ng project is exactly what I needed to inspire direction.  I now see my final make taking form in a publication project that spans the fourth marking period; this project will encompass the principles of shared purpose, creativity, and honoring the interests (both personal and political) of my students.

This week I made a Transparency badge.

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Inspired by last week’s topic on “purposeful transparency” and my own transparency about the difficulties I am having in my own classroom, I though that it would be fun to have a badge that honored the courageous decision to be transparent.  Being a participant in a community that truly helps you improve your practice is reliant on your openness.  Failures, wobbles, and mistakes are learning experiences that are meant to be shared; in this week’s readings, Constance Steinkuehler even admits to meeting a roadblock.  However, being transparent is still something that I struggle with, and so I will be working on earning this right alongside all of you!


This week, I encourage you to find a set of openly networked ways of learning that you believe do (or could) support your inquiry question.

My working inquiry question that I have attempted to come closer to answering this week has been “How do I use the principles of shared purpose and creativity to help my students view our diversity as our common asset?”

  1. This infographic does a great job at validating the importance of my inquiry:
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  2. 9 Maker Projects for Beginner Maker Ed Teachers gives me a starting place for my brainstorming on bringing the idea of making into my classroom.  Will these help me and my students explore issues surrounding diversity?  Probably not.  But, they do give me a few ideas for us to play with as we become comfortable and familiar with the nature of making in the classroom.
  3. Sean McComb’s short video on Making Learning Customized and Personalized answered questions about bringing creativity and choice into my curriculum that I did not even know I had!  In his video, he demonstrates how he scaffolds student-chosen topics for a research project and then uses workshops to build skills whole-group.  Next year, it is already in my plans that my ELLs will conduct a research project based on the essential question “What do you wonder about?”  Sean McComb lays a great foundation for how I can help my students be successful with their answers.
  4. I think this may have been a #MondayPost reading, but I appreciate the advice about the need for setting limitations in any creative assignment that the article Capture the Learning: Crafting the Maker Mindset discusses.  After all, if I seek to use creativity to help develop my students’ problem-solving skills, they need to have obstacles and restrictions that force them to think of alternative solutions.
  5. Finally, I made it a goal for this year to do projects and writings alongside my students.  Admittedly I have struggled to keep this goal, but in thinking about the research project that my students will be doing in October-November, I already know that I will be wondering about and investigating my ancestry.  Inspired by my trip to Ellis Island a few days ago, here is a link for you to see if any of your ancestors came through Ellis Island.  I find it most interesting to see which family members could read and write and with whom they said they would be staying with initially.

Small Moves

As I explore the small moves that I have made, and plan to make, to become a more connected educator in a more connected classroom, I will draw upon three poignant ideas that came out to me through this week’s readings: the idea of “purposeful transparency” and the #DONOW project.

The idea of “purposeful transparency” struck me immediately because it finally put an obstacle that I have been struggling with in my classroom into words.  One of the most difficult practices that I have struggled to change within my classroom has been how writing is published and shared.  Historically, these students have been used to writing for a single audience: the teacher.  However, in an effort to make writing more meaningful, I have been asking students to post their writings in various places (discussion boards, class website, project taped to classroom walls) so that we may all read and learn from them.  My difficulty in developing this transparency comes during the sharing out of the work.  We often times do a gallery walk and take notes on the similarities, differences, and noteworthy elements of each others’ work, but the practice still leaves me feeling incomplete in the end.

As I read about purposeful transparency, I realized that the transparency among students was missing an essential component- purpose!  Therefore, one of my small moves that I can start immediately is to begin asking a question that students must answer using their observations of other students’ work.  By needing to cite other students’ ideas in order to answer an essential question of the unit, transparency is given a purpose, and will hopefully be all the more meaningful.

The #DONOW project is something that I also would like to begin experimenting with this school year.  The idea resonates with me so strongly because I already post a “DO NOW” in our welcoming message at the start of every class.  The DO NOW is meant to get students connected with one another, but more often than not I end up struggling to elicit any engagement at all.  I see the use of this project as a simple solution to the lack of connection I struggle to establish at the beginning of class.

I have been quite transparent in this post about the challenges that I grapple with in my own practice, which has been a bit uncomfortable for me!  Therefore, I would like to close with a brief description of the small moves towards connected learning that has proved successful for me.

As an ESL teacher, I am a bit obsessed with my mission to bring ESL families into the school community.  I am a firm believer that the most successful students are the ones who know that their school and home community are a united front, and I do not think that language and cultural barriers are any excuse to keep those two forces apart.  Therefore, I have opened up our learning community for guest speakers, parent workshops, ESL Family Nights, ESL Spring Picnics, and ESL Poetry Night.  During the latter three events, students have showcased class projects, dances, poetry, and food for attendees, and with persistent communication, I truly feel that I have been successful in connecting the world of these families to the world of the school and classroom community.



  1. The Infographic on +Khaliah’s Blog this week was fantastic!  These words we use so frequently as part this course sound so similar, but in order to identify answers to the questions we raise as part of this course, we MUST use them correctly!
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  2. As I explore what a learning community looks like when it embraces its diversity as a source of empowerment, I think that this article gives a few quick ideas that apply to all teachers, not just ESL teachers.  If voice is power, this list of ideas for how to adjust your teaching styles for ELLs gives me a few places to start my thinking.
  3. I enjoyed the article about the protests that Philadelphia’ youth are leading, which was posted by +tomwoznicki.  I saw this as another perfect example of shared purpose where student voice was not only recognized, but honored and given importance.
  4. I really connected to the problems of isolation that S. Craig Watkins spoke about in his video that +Lana Iskandarani posted.  It got me thinking, how do I use shared purpose, among our many other principles of connected learning to give voice and power to my students?  Another inquiry question?  Probably.
  5. I am using my fifth find as space for reflection, to realize that as I progress toward my final make, I need to specify which principles of connected learning will help best bring me to my answers.  After this week, I would like to add to my exploration that I want to investigate how I can use the principle of shared purpose to develop class assignments that honor and give voice to my students’ unique expertise.
  6. In light of bringing my students voice, I would like to share a Mexican Easter custom that they shared with me this week.  Have you ever heard of Cascarones?
  7. I follow NPR on Twitter and they shared this compilation of inter-Latino stereotypes earlier this week.  At the foundation of shared purpose is the idea of unity and respect.  As teachers we must remember that just because a community of students LOOK like they could work together for a common goal, they still might actually have a lot of barriers to break through before work can be done.

Coexisting with a Shared Purpose

As I piece together my working understanding of learning with a shared purpose, I see that there have been so many times that I have attempted, implemented, or participated in this type of learning in my classroom on a very small scale.  Oftentimes the ideas that come to mind involved only a few components of the principle though, which makes me excited to finally put a name to what I have been trying to do.  An an ESL teacher, I know that my students are experts who need to be given the power of VOICE.  I completely understand the why behind what I have been trying to do, but it’s the how that I have struggled with.  This makes me excited to use the framework of shared purpose to structure my efforts.

Diversity Day was just this past Friday at my high school.  As I read through the articles for this week, I came to see that this event was an experience in shared learning for the entire building.  The full-day event was created for the purpose of celebrating ALL of the cultures, languages, ethnicities, and hobbies that are represented within our building.  Since our students are the experts on what makes them different, they were also the facilitators of 75% of the day.

In the morning, student presenters were in charge of running 90 minute long programs for the rest of the school to attend.  Programs included Henna, multicultural music, Cricket, and Baton Twirling.  While there were teacher supervisors who mentored presenters as they prepared for the day and who oversaw the program on the day of, it was the students who used their expert knowledge to develop the program and execute it on Friday.  My particular mentee was running the Cricket activity, and he had to take it upon himself to seek out other students who had Cricket kits to use for play, get permission to be on the field, and develop a short presentation of the rules to give before play.

Another group that I advised, the Mexican Culture Club, was in charge of running two of the 20-25 tables for the afternoon part of the program during which students are free to browse table displays, sample international food, participate in table activities, and watch international dance routines.  The students who were part of the Mexican Culture Club spent every Wednesday assembling Papel Picado banners, making Cascarones, and creating detailed plans for who will bring table cloths, decorations, and dishes of food.  All I did was provide the room.

The implications of this learning experience for my students were tremendous.  By the end of the day, my cheeks hurt from smiling at the fun that they had had.  The students running Cricket felt so cool that their majority peers were having so much fun learning and playing the game that means so much to their family and culture.  The students at the Mexican Culture table beamed from ear to ear as the school asked them questions about the holiday decorations they had brought in from home, sampled their favorite dishes from mom, and commented on the extra-ordinate amount of hand-made decoration.

The bottom line in my reflection of how this experience implicated my students and our greater school community was that students had the opportunity to showcase what they are experts in.  Their interests, cultural decorations, and traditional dances were not only recognized, but they were honored and given importance.  And in the process of getting to that point, my students learned how to come together, establish a common vision, delegate, manage stress and deadlines, and execute a plan.

Sounds a lot like the real world, right?

A Map of my Learning


In case you can’t open up the PDF file above, here a few screenshots of my Comic Life!

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I used Comic Life to make my map because I am a visual thinker who has trouble brainstorming in a linear fashion.  I need thinking to be a splash of images so that I can then take it all in at once and process out a conclusion.  Since I help so many of my ELLs on other class assignments done on Comic Life, I thought I would take this as an opportunity to finally play around with the application.  The program was very easy to navigate; the only thing that had me confused was how to change the colors of the titles and text boxes.

My map of learning ended up being a map of how my thinking and instruction has changed as a result of #ED677.  I have had so many epiphany moments, which I have documented in my map.  To name a few, I have learned how reflective and therapeutic blogging can be, I have realized how digital spaces can foster community, and how Twitter can provide connections to resources and inspiration.  My other ‘ah-ha’ moments are listed on my map.  Check it out!

I used the second page of my map to lay out how my teaching has changed in response to my learning.  If I am to draw a few sweeping conclusions about how my learning has impacted my instruction, I would say that page two of my map documents a few of the ways that this course has empowered me to take risks in my instruction.  As a third year teacher and brand new a different district, I often have felt the pressure to continue with the status quo of the shoes I am filling.  However, this course has opened me up to communities (notice the plurality here) that inspire me to take risks in instruction and give me the connections and resources necessary to be successful in those risks.

The only component that I did not represent on my map, but that I realize as I look at it now, is that all of this learning and all of my instructional changes have come down to my ability to give a voice to ALL students in my classroom.  I am no longer teaching to the students who like to raise their hand, or the students who do well in written responses, or the students who collaborate well in groups.  I am instead using digital spaces and choices to teach to a variety of strengths, support many different weaknesses, and honor so many more background experiences.

This journey is not over, I still have not stopped the “wobble,” but isn’t that what teaching is anyway?