Saturday, 25 November 2017

Connections-based Learning Book Available! #CBLchat

Find the book in your Amazon book store.  See: Connections-based Learning.

There is a reason I have not posted in a while.

Our time is limited.  We can't do everything and we have to make choices.  For me, I have always wanted to give a full-fledged explanation of connections-based learning.  I set my sights on writing a CBL book and gave up my blogging to do it.  But I am back.

I am so excited to be able to provide this resource as educators navigate the connected world.  I have combined a clear outline of the connections-based learning approach while sharing relevant hashtags to not only explain how to teach with the #ConnectionLens but how to get involved.  And of course I include some silliness here and there.

At the time of this posting I have been so encouraged to see that CBL is number one on the Amazon Best Seller list for Pro D books.  This is pretty surprising and super encouraging particularly because this book is about as indie as you can get.  It reminds me of those videos students make for class that say: written by Jimmy, produced by Jimmy, filmed by Jimmy... with special thanks to Jimmy. You know that Jimmy kinda played a big role in the whole thing.

The book is loaded with ideas on how to make connections-based learning a reality in your class, but also makes a special effort to connect learning outcomes to CBL. I wanted to put to rest once and for all the notion that have to make a choice between following the curriculum and making local and global connections.  You don't.

I will continue to moderate the #CBL Voxer Chat with new vigor. Each week we will look at a "Vision Checkup" question (at the end of the chapters) and dialogue about it on Voxer and as a Twitter #CBLchat slow chat.  If you want to join the Voxer chat then don't hesitate to contact me.

Thanks so much for being a part of the Connections-based Learning community.  Here's to leveraging connections for student learning!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Teamwork makes the dream work | #CBL Collaboration Lens

My son loves the dudes.  I've mentioned the love-hate relationship I have with the bottle flipping epidemic before.  I have Dude Perfect to thank for that.  But it's not just the flipping.  It's the trick shots, and the videos, and the making anything into a competition.  It's the cap flips and the 30 foot 3 pointers.  It's making me loony.  But I can't help myself.  I gotta keep taking those shots.

Dude perfect represents something to me, though: teamwork.

If it was just Tyler Toney, taking the shots, it wouldn't have caught on.  It's the synergy.  It's the team.  It's buddies working together to work against each other to make something happen.  I love the Dude Perfect team.  They are real with their strengths and weaknesses.  They capitalize on both.  And they make something special together: something motivating, something engaging, something inspiring.

Something to get me to make a 2-story no-look cap flip.

Think about the last time you worked on something as a team.  Did it go well?  Were you happy with the product, the process, the experience?  Did you feel as though you had come to an understanding with your teammates?  Or did you decide to never work with them again?

Working in groups happens day in and day out in school. From long term group projects to 30 second think-pair-shares, students are often working in groups.  But how often do we as educators give students tools to help them do groupwork effectively?  We can't simply throw students together and hope for the best.

Teamwork is a skill.  After a semester of developing teamwork skills, the teamwork I see at the end of the semester is different than the teamwork I see at the beginning.  Students seem happier with the team.  They seem more effective.  They seem to come up with better responses.

Strategize a Collaboration Plan

No one goes into a partnership without first discussing the terms.  How can we ask our students to do just that?  A collaboration plan is crucial as students embark on Connections-based Learning.  In the CBL Design process, students reflect on the collaboration at the beginning of the process.  This was crucial as we responded to the dire conditions in the bateyes we heard from Eladio, Dennis and the students from The Community For Learning school in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  The students had empathized the needs, co-constructed learning goals with me, and developed a proposal to address light poverty.  The next step was to establish how the team would function.

Answering questions such as what strengths do we bring to the group, what non-negotiables do we have, and how do we see the work load divided must take place to guide the collaboration.  Using our OneNote Class Notebook collaboration space, students ironed out some group parameters by answering some guiding questions.

They then signed the plan, demonstrating that they were committed to these ideas.  Opportunities for guided collaboration must continue throughout the CBL.  Having digital and actual time and space for collaboration is crucial for developing teamwork.  Whether it's brainstorming questions for Skype chats:

or gathering a list of materials to create 3D printed lanterns

collaboration is entered into by the students, but monitored and guided by the teacher.  Finally, it should be reflected upon by each student, as they bookend their learning.

When teamwork skills are built, there is no telling what students can do.  I am amazed at what these students created to address light poverty in the Dominican Republic as they worked together.  And I love the sentiment above: 

"we can accomplish anything if we put our minds to it"
Thanks for walking with us as we attempt to tackle light poverty.  Support us in further attempts by visiting our My Class Needs page.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

How to Tackle Light Poverty

On November 21st, 2016, I wrote a post called Doing Something Beyond Ourselves.  In it, I outlined an idea that I wanted to press into: meaningful making in connections-based learning.  Provoked by a connection, the natural response is to ask "what are we going to do/make about it?"  Admitting my own lack of electronics skill, I went about making connections to facilitate my students to get involved with battling light poverty.  We went through the whole CBL process as we connected with collaborators in New Brunswick and the Dominican Republic: design, network, create, and celebrate.

What follows is what my students created in response to our connection with students in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and the Engineering Brightness group with Ian Fogarty in Riverview, New Brunswick.  I am very proud of where the students got to: prototyping, fundraising, light building, connecting with other schools.  It was a pleasure to work with these students.

When a connection is made, the possibilities blow open wide.

I encourage you to look at these student "Artifacts of Learning" posts, see what they have accomplished, hear what they have learned, and comment on their thoughts.

Lantern Housing Design


These students prototyped their own light, designing and 3D printing the lantern housing.  They created top and bottom, ready to add the light components.

Gavin's Post  Liam's Post  Owen's Post


Janna's Post  Angie's Post  Sabrina's Post

These students connected with other schools to raise money and awareness for light poverty.  Right now schools around our district are getting involved and raising money to help the cause of light poverty.  Other students put on a Photo Booth to raise money.  They created a video to advertise the event.

Social Media Campaign

Electricity Production Design


These students developed an innovative technology to use kinetic energy to charge the lights.  These shake-able lights could be carried around by a person or an animal to charge and then used at night.  In these posts is a video that asks for future students to continue working on the idea.

Alhan's Post  Josh's Post  Ben's Post  Zac's Post

CBL Historians

These students created a video to curate the activities and learning that was happening with the teams.

Ella's Post  Clare's Post  Ria's Post

Lantern Production


These students were able to re-create the Engineering Brightness New Brunswick students' design and make a fully functioning light.

Kaleb's Post  Olivia's Post  Evan's Post

These students all helped in other capacities to tackle light poverty: creating Powerpoints, participating in Skype chats, supporting other teams, finding other methods of creating lights, and bringing an awareness to light poverty.

Thanks for walking with us as we attempt to tackle light poverty!  Support us in further attempts by visiting our My Class Needs page:

Monday, 26 December 2016

Dare to Dream | #CBL Collaboration Lens

1.3 billion people don't have access to sustainable lighting.  The immediate danger isn't the carcinogenic nature of kerosene lamps: people are dying in fires due to flame based light use at night.  My Science 9 students got to hear firsthand of the conditions in areas dealing with light poverty.  In a Skype chat with Eladio, Dennis and their students from The Community For Learning School in the Dominican Republic, we heard about the conditions in the bateyes.  These workers in the sugar cane fields live with little to no electricity; accessing safe light at night is one of the many struggles with which they deal.

In Doing something beyond ourselves I share my dream of meaningful making with Connections-based Learning. Connections-based learning is an approach to teaching and learning that leverages the connected world.  After making a connection, the most natural response is to ask "how can we help?".  We design the learning experience by first seeking out needs.  I share how we sought the needs in the Dominican Republic bateyes in Empathizing the Local and Global Needs. The students and I then created learning goals together (See: Co-construct Learning Goals) as we sought to meet those needs.  The next step in CBL Design is to develop a response to achieve those goals.  At this stage, students dream what they propose to do and to make.

Dream a CBL Proposal

Time must be given for students to dream up a response to the need and to flesh out what their response could look like.  Through the inspiration of a real need, brainstorming sessions, and group discussions, students develop their plans.  We used OneNote Class Notebook to collaborate and share ideas.  We also Skyped with Ian Fogarty and his students and learned about Engineering Brightness, an association of teachers hoping to address light poverty by STEM based making.  I then ask students to make a polished document or blog post that outlines their proposal.  Finally, students share their proposals to the rest of the class to further refine, get help for ideas, or to combine ideas.  For me, proposal day is just as important as when students share their final products.

Engineering Brightness Student Proposals

"Create a more efficient source of light for countries that have light poverty using electromagnets" - Alhan's Proposal

"Make a solar powered light but also teach them how to make it so they can fix it if they brake it and also they can make even more if they need them so they are self sufficient" - Liam's Proposal

"one of our goals, would be for Kaleb to start creating a model of our light source in his Industry and Design 10 course, to give us an idea of what it would look like. We could get help from outside sources of the school, with the connections that we have made from the Skype calls, or even with a new source." - Olivia's Proposal

"Fundraise enough money to supply Alhan's group to make shakable lights and be able to teach our friends in the Dominican Republic to make lights as well" - Ashiana's Proposal

"We could do a bake sale and possibly pair up with another group and maybe work with Citadel Middle School and their leadership team to raise money at their school. - Clare's Proposal

"Raise awareness about the light poverty in the Dominican, and also raise $1000 dollars towards buying/making lights to send to the Dominican Republic" - Sabrina's Proposal

"Our plan is to make a power point on everything that has happened during this project and what other people are doing. To also try and spread awareness for light poverty." - Brynne's Proposal

"We were thinking about working with solar power, because it’s safer and easier to charge the light, we also thought that it’s really interesting and trying new stuff. We are now connecting with a company called Liter of Light to get some ideas" - Maria's Proposal

The above links are just a few of the proposals students shared out to the rest of the class.  Each student works out loud sharing their proposals to allow for meaningful commenting.  I encourage you to take a look at the proposals and make a meaningful comment.

It has been amazing to watch these students' dreams become a reality.  As they connect, design, build, and campaign, they must work as a team.  Part of the CBL design is to plan to work together.  I will share how we do that in a post: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Thanks for walking with us as we attempt to make a difference in light poverty.

See previous CBL Design Posts:
- Empathize Local and Global Needs
- Co-construct Learning Goals
Consider partnering with us as we fight light poverty in the Dominican Republic

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Co-construct Learning Goals | #CBL Collaboration Lens

Bottle Flipping is sequestered to the back deck in the Robinson household.  If you don't know what I am talking about, see this Dude Perfect video:

It is all the rage.  I see it at soccer practices.  At breakfast.  In my class.  In the car.  I am not sure, but I think it actually can cause parental madness.

But I can't ban it all together.  To see someone work to perfect something must be pondered as an educator.  It is the equivalent of kids developing their skateboarding skills, practicing that ollie over and over and over again until they get it just right.  It causes me to ask myself what causes this drive.  And how can I utilize this for learning.  When we tap into students' own drive, learning is transformed from blowing on embers to managing a blaze.

This is the second in a series of posts that look at the Connections-based Learning Collaboration Lens.  In the previous post we examined what it means to empathize local and global needs.  Now that my students have discovered needs that they want to address in response to the Dominican Republic provocation, the next step is to bring out students' own learning goals.  Here is where bottle flipping meets school.  Can we tap into students' own interests while guiding them in meaningful directions? Can we construct learning goals together?

Co-construct Learning Goals

In our Engineering Brightness CBL, the students were asked to ponder the connection.  An answer to the light poverty in the Dominican Republic is a natural response.  Hearing about the need for safe efficient light sources leads to students to consider how they can help.  In our case, after brainstorming and discussing the Dominican Republic connection, the students were to write down their goals for learning.

I comment on these goals encouraging students to elaborate, press into, or try a different direction for their goals.  Often students have ideas on what they want to do, but I encourage them to develop what they want to learn.  As I do this, I keep in mind my own goals for this CBL.  In this case, my goals stem from the competencies that I selected from the new British Columbia curriculum.  They look like this:

Students also get to make their own rubric that looks at the focuses of the  CBL Collaboration Lens, considering ideas such as Design, Network, Create, and Celebrate as they construct their learning goals. Later, this rubric will be used to self-assess after the students receive meaningful feedback on their digital portfolios.

You might notice that below each rubric strand is a place for evidence.  When I ask the students to do a final evaluation, they need to add evidence that supports how they assess themselves.  I take a copy of these Co-construction sheets and then give them back to the students.  They can use these sheets to guide them as they develop their proposal and carry on with their work.  Will their own goals engage them as much as bottle flipping?  Time will tell.

The proposals the students came up with are amazing.  I am going to outline them in the next post: Dream a Proposal | #CBL Collaboration Lens.  Here is a little taste of what one group came up with:

Consider partnering with us as we fight light poverty in the Dominican Republic

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Empathize Local and Global Needs | #CBL Collaboration Lens

My Science 9 students are well on their way with their Connections-based Learning to help the bateyes of the Dominican Republic with the problem of light poverty.  I shared how this CBL came to be in Doing Something Beyond Ourselves.  At that point, I had a few ideas on where I wanted to take my students, but it was all speculation.

Now the students have been unleashed.  Connections do that.  They catch students right where heads meet hearts. They reveal a compassion that might hide dormant without prompting.  Connections fan the flames of empathy and lead to action.  Learning becomes a necessity, not an assignment.

We had two amazing Skype chats focused on light poverty.  You can find a taste of these chats on these student posts:

The Connections-based learning Collaboration Lens helps educators steward the connection.  It is one thing to make an amazing connection with the community, an expert, an organization or another group of students.  It is quite another to maximize it for learning.

I want to share how we used the CBL Collaboration lens to take us from connection into response.  It starts with the Design focus and specifically Empathizing local and global needs.

Empathize local and global needs

Seconds after our Skype chat was over with Eladio, Dennis and the students from the Dominican Republic, we were talking needs. Now the needs might be a little more obvious when we are talking about the people living as sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic.  There might be one or two hours of electricity a day.  There might be none.  And if electricity is available, it is during the day.  Light at night is a real issue and affects both learning and safety.  It was hard to hear about people dying in fires as a result of candle and kerosene lamp use at night from Dennis during our Dominican Republic Skype chat.

But empathizing needs looked vastly different for the SSEP CBL my students did.  In that case, our experiments would never get on the Space X rocket if they didn't address a need.  The need gives meaning to the action.  It gives meaning to the making.  The need has to be there. Without it, why bother.

My students went through a whole CBL process as they designed their Engineering Brightness learning experience. The first thing was to reflect on the connection, ponder the needs they discovered, and develop the learning goals they have for themselves.  Here are some student samples:

With students discovering needs through the connection, the next step is to Co-construct Learning Goals.  I will continue to share as this CBL develops.  Look for the next post: Co-construct Learning Goals | #CBL Collaboration Lens.

Consider partnering with us as we fight light poverty in the Dominican Republic.