Friday, May 6, 2016

Final Make

While I do not consider myself an expert in connected learning, I am definitely a believer in how utilizing the principals can change ones educational experience for the better, as I believe I am proof. My final make is a fusing of an idea I have had for a while with ideas discussed in classes I took this semester.

I am a lover of all things historical, and have always been particularly interested in African/black history. This love of black history comes from my mother, whom without her knowing planted the seed for lifelong desire to absorb as much of it as possible. This is why I pursued history in college, graduating with a B.A. in African and African-American History. Since graduating and moving back to my hometown of Philadelphia I became interested black Philadelphian history. I can’t count the number of documentaries, documents and audio clips I have listened to pertaining to this subject. I can talk about the richness of black culture this city has to offer to anyone who will listen, and will argue with anyone who is wrong. I’ve found that despite the plethora of information available about the early lives of black Philadelphians, there are a few problems;

·      The information is scattered
·      A lot is locked away in scholarly journals and articles which require a subscription
·      A lot is not available online
·      None connected to PA standards
·      A connection to the present is often lacking
·      Where is the student voice?
·      Non-Dominant perspective

How could I address these issues, while continuing my own self learning. Duh, a website!

 My website, that will attempt to do the following.

1.     Be an all stop shop for all things black historical Philadelphia
a.     Including a map of the city to see all things black   
2.     Bring to light silence voices, stories, and information by non-dominant individuals
3.     Provide student support and input
4.     Blog and What’s Happening section to connect the past to todays events

Since everything is connected I discussed these issues in my other class with Sarah, a fellow teacher/colleague. Sarah shared a similar frustration, as her students have questions about slavery & resistance in Philadelphia, something her current unit fails to address. She also noted the microagressions flooded within the unit. So to make a long story short, we scraped her original unit and created our own based on the following questions posed by her students;

1.     How did tribes communicate and deal with slaves before whites?
2.      What was Pre-Colonial W. Africa like before slavery?
3.     What was it like Post- Colonization?
4.     What was life like for early Africans in Philadelphia society?
a.      Daily life, free blacks & kidnapping

Sarah and her students helped me realize that not all students may be ready for independent learning, but we can help guide them through questions and lessons. I was also looking for a way to be sure that student voice is front and center, so now my website idea has been updated to include the following;

5.     Provide support for educators
a.     Lessons with PA standards
b.     Historical resources pre-categorized
6.     Student Museum

So how is all this connected to Connected Learning?! Well Connected learning is described by , Mimi Ito in their 2013 report, Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design, Ito et al. as, “socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person pursues a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career possibilities, or civic engagement.”

You can argue or dispute whether I meet the young person segment of the definition. However I am pursuing my interest in black history, connecting it with teachers and students through taking their specific interest black Philadelphian history and build academic lessons tailored to their questions. This process is also helping explore career possibilities in educational consulting. I can honestly say that before this class I always thought that this interest would always be a sideline, or hobby, never something I could turn into a career possibility. I am hoping that through this website other educators and especially students can use it as a springboard for their interest as well. They can do this in the following ways
1.     through guest posting
2.     lesson planning
3.     setting up student museums
4.     photographing sites
5.     adding to the map

This is a huge project, so if I want it to be successful taping into the knowledge base of fellow colleagues and educational institutions is key. This question from connected learning TV is taped to my wall for me to see while I work

What would it mean to think of education as a responsibility of a distributed network of people and institutions, including schools, libraries, museums and online communities?

To think of education this way would be to radically change the way we educate our students today. It would also mean a major shift in resources, as well our thinking around who deserves to learn, and what they can learn. I am attempting to make it easier for the community to access, understand and connect information gleaned from the above mentioned institutions. Much of the information I’ve found around historical life took time a considerable amount of time locating and processing. My circumstances warrants more time in my day/week to find this information that many others simply don’t have. Does this grant the right for their lack of ease of access to this information?

I know that this is a huge, never ending endeavor. Through connecting with others around my original idea of Black History my final make has become more than just as website. Utilizing the principals I tried to learn, and understand all semester, has turned this website into a potential platform for the next phase of my career. It has also helped me continue my own learning, while sharing and connecting what I learn with others. My hope with this site will help others explore their interest and began their, “trip down the never ending rabbit hole.”  Isn't’ this what connected learning is all about?!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Peer Learning

On your blog, reflect on this process and on the peer-learning we’ve been doing together all semester already. In what ways does it support your learning? How does it connect to your interests and your small moves in being more openly networked? What about production and shared purpose have been important in learning from peers? And what are the implications for connected learning and equity for the learners you serve?

This week has been challenging. I've been trying to narrow my focus for our Final Makes so bear with me while I try to 'unpack' this weeks blog post. I would say that I have learned the most from this class, but it has not been easy and at times it has been scary and exhausting. Through opening up in this class, along with being a part of ITAG, I can certainly say that I am seeing where I can go once I graduate, which was eluding me for the longest time. Its through the TAG Philly group that I was able to discover my final make, something that was stressing me out for quite some time. I had ideas of things I could do, but I wanted to seriously look at what was needed in an area that means a lot to me, and the community I serve. Through speaking with teachers, many being elementary, I learned that the resources many of them have if they desire to step away from the textbook for black history were scant. I am taking much of what I am learning, and reading at TAG Philly and directly applying it to what I am working on. It helps because I am also getting real time updates and feedback on what can be done to improve my idea. Iv'e also gotten great feedback and help from some of you on this week that will certainly only help to make my site better. And for me this is what its all about, making each other better, our learning experiences better, so we can then go and share these tools with the next generation.

In terms of connecting my interest, In this learning format I drive which way the 'lesson' will go. This is both good and bad. This works because I am able to allow my interest to 'run free' until Iv'e exhausted a topic. This makes the idea of 'learning' fun, engaging and multidisciplinary (at least thats how it feels for me!). But....if the guidance is lost then it can be very frustrating and much time can be wasted. I have found firsthand that I had had to 'correct' where my learning was going. This form of education and connection is tying in more with what I would like to do. I am very interested in retelling black history, Philadelphian history, jewelry and working with elementary students. It wasn't until this course and TAG that I could possibly see a way of making all these seemingly different segments of my life make sense together. Through conversations with a few of you, and friends from other classes I think I am really beginning to flesh out a way of it all working together in various ways while still supporting others. I've started working on a website that will attempt to be a one-stop-shop for all things black history philly. From people, to events, to sites. I would like for philly students to be able to contribute to the site in some way. Through peer learning I am getting honest and realistic advise and ways in which this, and my website idea can work. I am also able to connect to students, through the classrooms of the teachers I am befriending and sharing ideas with. It is students I have in mind, so why not get their input. The purpose of this site is to tell the stories of those on the outside.How can we have pride in our city if we have no idea of its past, specifically the past of non-white Philadelphians? Students will also have a voice on this site to share their thoughts, ideas, and discussions around the information I hope to share soon. This further helps develop the discussion we should be having in our classrooms about the issues affecting communities urban communities and communities of color around the nation and world.

This week we were asked to find some sources that connect to youth to peer to peer learning. Here is what I found;

1. I hope someone else didn't mention this site yet, but hey. This site allows youth to post  videos, stories, pretty much anything related to the world that they are doing in their communities. I read one story in particular about young people taking knowledge they learned about Ebola from an international convention back to their small isolated villages to educate the community, and to get additional youth support and help.
2. This exchange brings youth organizers from across the country together to share ideas, build and strategize for ways to build stronger coalitions to fight for youth driven issues. Unfortunately there is not a PA chapter, but its still really cool to see.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Unpacking Interest

This week I thought about what school would have been like for me as a student had it been interest driven. It would have been amazing for me, and just about every other student there. Imagine being able to explore different forms of writing through comics, open mics, and the like. Using manipulatives and mindcraft for math and science , I would have been there bright and early. Every child loves to learn through play, and to a large degree thats what student driven learning would be. Just like the Edutopia article , if a student can do his homework on Frank Lyod wright through the lens of minecraft, who wouldn't feel like its play, if thats what you're into? The idea of knowledge and education not only as play, but as an agent of change is epic. For a student to then take their learned knowledge about Frank Llyod Garrison, architecture and then look at the dilapidated homes in their community could certainly change the game. Its interesting how the readings and blog post is so effortlessly related to my social justice curricula class. In thinking about the implications of interest driven learning and culturally competent classrooms one walks aways with the same outcomes. In both all students are engaged in meaningful learning activities. In both we are championing students learning in meaningful ways for their own growth. They also both help students learn the skills needed to challenge and be successful in society. Lastly as educators under both ideals you are always open to learning and exploring different modalities for your learning and your students.
When I first began teaching I knew that there was no way my personal politics would not enter the room. This is because I knew I would be working with students from backgrounds similar to my own, in schools that are very similar to the ones I attended as a child. So I am all to familiar to the challenges many of my students and schools face. My students deserve better; better prepared teachers, better opportunities for growth, better supplies, ect. They know and I know they are being shortchanged both in and out of school, so how can I help them identify, address and change their environments? How can I help them see that this lives and stories matter, and that school can be a stepping stone to affect the change they want to see? 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Happi's Friday 5-Inquiry Based.

1. I really enjoyed the reading last week on the Alt School. It was inspiring, to see how personalized we truly can make education to the students every though. However, its very alarming given what can happen with identity theft, an advertising. If we could separate our education system from profit and competition i could see this working beautifully. However since it is often one and the same I will be watching to see how this school continues ver the next couple of years.

2. So for my final make I am revising a lesson based off a textbook lesson. I am looking to make this lesson more k-8 friendly, inclusive, and relevant to the now. The one thing I am noticing while reading through the unit is the importance of words, and where they are placed. For example when talking about the migration of Europeans and Asians it says, 'and the migration of the african people'.  Free travel, and slavery are completely different and I am having a problem with the two being grouped together. I see that I will have to spend some time picking out the language for this project.

3.Related to what I am searching I found this youtube channel that makes videos on bullying, historical figures and more. I watched a few, and thought they would be good for elementary students.

4.This week I had a reflection assignment around the idea of teachers being everyday activist and for us to think about the kind of activist we want to be. I am liking the overlap between my courses this semester. Its allowing me to stay on the same wave-length in thinking about where I want to be and who I want to be when I grow up, lol. Its also helping me to narrow where I want to 'make change'. I am realizing that I am very interested in who writes the curricula, where they get their information from, and who gets to be a part of the story. I am sure, without having to look up any numbers, that the voices of non-dominant people like myself are small, hence where i feel i can make the most impact.

5. Thank you for posting about Minecraft Kindergarten Cop, as half of my students in afterschool are obsessed with this game, and I have now found a new way to connect with, and use what they like in our learning. I also like finding new things to master and beat my students in....I was THAT older sister, lol.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Small Move

My students had been complaining about the pre-made snacks we received from the city and wanted healthier options. The problem was that we did not have the funds, and I did not have time to work on this alone. The students decided that they would draft a program around their wanting this option, so they could ask local stores and community organizations for money to fund their program. They created a budget that included storage, how much it would cost for a years worth of fresh fruits, veggies, and grains. They talked with the principal about where we could store our foods, since our program is in a school, and created jobs for them each to hold. Long story short they were able to raise enough money for a new refrigerator, kitchen supplies, and enough food for 40 students for an entire school year (discounted of course)! Here is their story in  Star Trek comic form, because who doesn't love Star Trek?

My last weeks friday 5.

Sorry for this super late post. Life has!

1. For my final project I am making a website that would begin to explore Philadelphia's Black History. I would like to make the site k-8 friendly and for the to be some interaction, and space for future exploration. I have some website making skills, and was given a few places to look into from Christina, but any info you guys might have around web platforms, or ways to make it easier for the k-2 groups would help!

2. For the last 3 years or so I've worked in the Kenstington section of the city. I can say, after being in a few different parts of Philly, Kensington is truly something special. Iv'e experienced so much in just a 6 black radius that its crazy! I have a project in which I have to describe the community, its struggles, and the schools. I am actually looking forward to completing this project, and I have some eager students willing to let me use their stories....students helping teachers! I told them we could have a view and discuss session about it once I am done.

3. I attended another TAG Philly meeting around my topic, the black history curricula, and saw the below picture:

There is so much that could be said, and not said just by taking in this information, and it reminds me again why this is something I am so passionate about. Just by looking at this picture, the 'Black Experience' is 176 years of slavery and struggle, with only 50 years of what one would call freedom. Did you also know that we were never compensated in anyway for this struggle? Something to think about.....

4. This is unrelated to education, but is related to connectivity...I 've been working on my cooking skills and found a recipe through pinterest for butternut squash soup in a slow cooker. I made it, with some tweeks, and it came out awesome!! Because of my newfound success, and lack of time i will now be trying this slow cooker recipe for whole roasted chicken. I also found a youtube channel as well as a few cooking shows to watch. This will be the year that my cooking skills came up!

5. Right as I was about to post this I saw this winning doodle posted on google by Akilah Johnson. Reading about  this young lady's upbringing in the afrocentric lifestyle, and her appreciation of heritage is exactly what I needed to see to stay encouraged. Except for the comments at the bottom of the article.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

This week our focus is on shared purpose — a principle of connected learning that I find particularly interesting as well as complex. What are examples of shared purpose you have seen or experienced? What does it mean to learn with a shared purpose? And what are the implications?

An example that comes to mind for me around shared purpose are the projects we do in the afterschool program. One of the major aspects of our program centers around the idea of project based learning. In the beginning of the year, as we do our 'get to now you activities' we ask the students to help us create an interest wall. On this wall the students and staff write/draw all the things that they are interested in learning more about. It is from this wall than we then create projects with open ended questions that we then spend weeks, or a few months exploring. One such topic  centered around space. We were reading about Virgin Air and shuttles and the students asked, 'what would I need if I were to travel to the moon?' Through this question students were able to explore various topics that were of interest to them. Whats more important is that the students drove the questions, and although the project dealt with space the students still found ways to relate everything we did to their lives and community. Part of our moon exploration focused on our study of rocks, stones and gemstones. We learned about the usual space rocks, then one student said, 'what if we could capture an astroid, think about all the stuff we could do.'  They then started reading articles and discussing ways the neighborhood could/would benefit from the resource, and they designed a mock plaza with a description for this new resource. I could spend another 2 pages describing all the different things that came out of this one project. It was amazing! What made it better was having some of their teachers come downstairs to see students they would describe as 'problematic' or 'disinterested' often being the leaders in the discussions and in the group work. Through this project I was also able to learn so much more about the neighborhood and their families as well. Through our neighborhood 'space walks' we talked about the community including the buildings, people we saw, and who we didn't see. One walk in particular even lead to our following around community and with 5th grade gentrification. I couldn't believe that I was having a conversation around this topic with 5th graders! Although I had to teach them the word, they had the concept down, complete with arguments for and against it. Who knew!

And for me this is what it means to learn through shared purpose. I liked the reading the article Christina posted A Shared Purpose Drives Collaboration. As the director of this program it was my job to motivate my staff to ask what they like, why and what they could do about it. I would often ask them whats something they are thinking about, something they want to do, or something that bothers them. Without even realizing it, many would take these same questions, or the topics they were discussing and push their groups in the same way. The previous year I went mad having to plan, create and make all the lessons, but through the various conversations between the staff, myself, and our students were were able to guide what we learned about in a way that was meaningful to us. The students also realized that they had a voice, and many relished being the ones guiding many of our discussions, because we all know they usually don't have the right. I am also thinking of shared purpose in terms of working with my fellow educators. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am connected to a TAG group whose shared purpose is the remaking of the african-american studies curricula. On paper that is the shared purpose of this group, however that is just the tip of the iceberg. After listening to various members of this group (all are welcomed!) I see that this group is out to change more than the curricula. This group wants to change the way students are educated, the way teachers interact with students, and the way we interact with each other. This group wants to have a serious conversation about how we educate and produce the next group of conscious adults that can make Philadelphia, and the world a place worth thriving in.

So what if this was how we educated all of our children? I can't help but be slightly pessimistic when asking this question. Why? Because I can see this, just like the idea of equitable connectivity seriously making an impact in the way in which all students learn. This gives my students weapons that this society does not want them to have. Confidence, because they are challenged to speak up about what they like in an effective manner. Curiosity, because they will constantly wonder how they can improve or change what they see. Problem solving and people skills, because they are working together to attack the questions they raise. There is more, but i believe the point has been made....