Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Inspire Creative Connections

Students' minds should be blown on a regular basis.

The possibilities of what could be should be expanded for our students as often as possible.  When opening up the doors to connection, I want students to think that anything is possible.  When starting a CBL, the first order of business is to inspire creative connections.  When an educator has ignited that spark within the student, the job gets a lot easier.  In a CBL, that spark is the connection.  What follows are some snapshots of inspirational connections. These can be shared with students and teachers alike as we strive to open the doors to meaningful relationships among students, experts, organizations, the community and around the globe.

Inspiration: Rola Tibshirani's Grade 6 Class

When I was asked to hold a Connections-based Learning workshop, I realized that it was hugely important to not only share about CBL but to give my attendees the experience of CBL.  I quickly tweeted Rola Tibshirani and asked if she would Skype in to my workshop.  It was amazing.  It wasn't just that I saw how the workshop became alive as we connected with another educator on the other side of the country, it was the students on the other side of the country that made the experience amazing.  They were sharing a contagious passion regarding the connections they had made throughout their class time with Rola.  Deeply inspiring.

These students were using their 3D printer to make letters to support the work the educational assistants were doing to help struggling students learn letter writing at the school.  These students were connecting with a local banker to support their entrepreneurial projects. These students were connecting with the UN to follow their own passion projects to help accomplish Global Goals.  If you keep your eyes on Rola's classroom posts and tweets you will see a constant stream of interaction with experts, organizations, and the community around.  It's like they're the NCIS special agents up in MTAC room. They are truly inspirational.

Inspiration: David Billikopf's students in a correctional facility

Connections-based Learning should open doors to opportunities that would not be possible without a connection.  David Billikopf teaches at a correctional facility.  He wants to see his students have real life discussions that matter to them.  Not only does he want his students to connect with others while they learn, but he has the added challenge of maintaining confidentiality and student safety with those within and without the prison.  Through creative connections, he has been able to have his students interact with students around the world giving them meaningful true to life learning experiences.

I stumbled onto his work when I noticed a tweet asking if the students ever got days outside the prison.  Through following that twitter stream I was able to watch as Mr. Billikopf's students interacted with a class from Norway, sharing their experiences as students inside and outside prison, sharing poetry, sharing words of encouragement.  I was able to watch as these students built understanding and acceptance.  They became learning partners, spurring one another on.  It was moving just to see this from afar.  As one commenter wrote on Mr. Billikopf's blog: I would not be at all surprised if someday they make a movie out of your successful and most creative project. Congratulations!

Inspiration: Leigh Cassell's Grade 2 Class

Every time I've shared this story from Leigh Cassell, people have been moved.

It is about a globally connected educator who connected her class up with a class from Sierra Leone.  They built up a relationship exchanging letters and learning about each other.  The experience was eye opening for the students as they shared about their respective cultures and traditions.  The students developed a relationship that year that superseded culture and distance. Their connection with "Communities around the World" had been life-changing.  Tragically, a year later disaster struck.

After hearing the devastating news that the class in Lakka, Sierra Leone with which the children were connecting had experienced traumatic consequences as the result of the Ebola Virus, the students' response was: "What are we going to do to help all of the people who are still alive in Lakka?"  A relationship had been built that they couldn't ignore.  The students created posters showing the children there how to prevent the spread of disease: washing hands and sneezing into arms to stop the spread of germs.  Ms. Cassell's students had to do something.  These were not simply unknown students miles away who experienced calamity, these were students with which they had a bond, a bond that lead to understanding and ultimately, compassion.  Is there anything more important that we can do with the 200 days we spend with our students?

And there are more and more inspiring connections that I'm just bursting to share about.

I wrote this on Leigh's blog.

It causes me to think:
- if you don't connect, you can't help.
- if you don't share your story with the masses, we all miss out.

This is connection.  This is relationship. This is making a difference.