I believe it was Plato who said that no person can go into the same river twice. Not only has the river changed since the first entry, but the person has changed as well.
A few months ago, I changed the name of my blog from "On the side of technology" to "Connections-based Learning". I'm not sure of the effects of a name change in Blogger, but for me, it helped clarify what I'm working on.
I started this blog with a focus on tech in the classroom. It was only a few years ago that I did the unthinkable (at that time and place) and allowed students to not only use their cell phones and tablets in class, but to use them for learning. I was "on the side" of using technology in the class. I also thought that the name leant itself to other blogs ... "on the side of..." whatever else I was into.
As my learning morphed and changed I was really taken by what this connected world did for propelling my thinking. When one is faced with an almost endless supply of ideas on social media, it's hard to ignore the disparage between the status quo and the "what could be".
I want that same thing for my students.
I want them to be able to see what is really out there and be compelled to:
- embrace it
- change because of it
- have an effect on it
Connections-based Learning was born out of my desire to take Project-based Learning to the next level. The true learning that comes from a genuine project is through relationship. How are we fostering these connections in the class in everything we do, not just the projects we take on?
The Connections-based Learning infographic and the Whiteboard Interactive video have been ways to take a snapshot of what this new focus on learning is about.
Serve the Community. Plant a garden where there isn't one. Sing at a retirement home. Work on making the environment better.
Help Organizations. Raise money for non-profits. Test out products for startups. Hold workshops for companies.
Question Experts. Email questions to experts in a field. Have projects that ask students to seek out experts. Skype in experts into the class.
Share the process. Present to the class your findings, whether your connections panned out, or didn't. Record your learning in a portfolio. Share what you're doing with the rest of the school.
Show the World. Tweet out the learning. Get feedback from outside the class. Seek out a genuine audience.
All these action steps, my classes have done and I can attest to the meaningfulness of the activities and significance of the learning.
But to the last of the 6 facets: I had "Work as a Team". This was a carry over from my project-based learning focus: students working in groups to achieve project goals. I want to capture something else, though. Yes, I still think that group projects are worthwhile for many reasons. But learning activities don't have to be in a group. Sometimes it's me who brings in the expert. Students collaborate to create questions but it is different than the standard group project. I want students to read and respond meaningfully to each other's learning blogs. This is also a different focus from group work. So I've changed the sixth facet to "Feedback Meaningfully" using feedback as a verb. It's a little clunky but it gets across the point. There's probably a better way of saying it out there. Maybe you've got a suggestion?
Defining Connections-based Learning is a work in progress. But I think you know it when it is happening. It is defined more by classroom feel and student buy-in. True experts are sharing with your class. Students are involved in making a difference.
I am ready to take CBL to the next level. I am hoping to find some educators out there who have been looking for a way to push their learning, a way to describe the changes in their teaching as a result of wading into this connected world. Are you ready to jump into this river with me? Connect with me if you are.