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?!