Thursday, 26 May 2016

Create Purposefully: Matone de Chiwit

I have had the pleasure of being able to watch my students develop a relationship with Karishma Bhagani, an NYU student from Kenya who is the founder of Matone De Chiwit.  I shared about her desire to bring her invention of an inexpensive water purifier back to Kenya and to other countries desperately in need of clean water in The Precarious and Powerful.  I used that title because I wanted to get across that with connection comes risk. . .but also power.  I ended the post with a caveat about relationships: don't go into them blindly, but don't let fear stop you from making them.

As the month has carried on, my students have been working collaboratively to make responses to Karishma and her passionate provocation of helping aid the task of getting clean water to those who don't have access to it.  Without further ado, here are some of our purposeful creations to help Karishma's campaign to provide clean water in the areas that most need it.

Commercial to raise awareness about water scarcity and to raise support

Posters to support Matone de Chiwit
"We wanted to create this poster to see if Karishma Bhagani, the person the created the water filtration system, would like to use it for advertising her project. In our poster we included what Karishma made, who it is for, and most importantly what YOU can do to help."

Social Media Campaigns
"Karishma said that she had people working on her Instagram. We thought since Karishma didn’t need someone to make her an Instagram, that we should help promote what Karishma is doing to help."
Work on the Website Creation
"For the Matone De Chiwit, Hailey, Athena and myself are working on a website to spread awareness about Karishma’s campaign. we have been working very hard on the website design so far with Karishma. we have been back and forth for a couple weeks over email."
In Connections-based Learning, its relationships that are the focus.  Each facet of the teaching and learning process leverages connection for learning.  Whether it is the gathering of information from experts, the formation of meaningful creations that serve a purpose, the sharing out of the process, or the feedback received by others, connection is at the heart. I hope that you can see in these responses how connection is not just weaved in throughout the process but provides the foundation for each action.  Purposeful creations stem from connection as we serve, support, partner and question those with whom we connect.
We are so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to partner with Karishma and help fight against global water scarcity.  We wish her well as she continues to be a force for positive change in this world!


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Getting connected: Finding Experts

I recently had the pleasure of sharing Connections-based Learning with my alma mater.  It was great walking back into the high school with its quadrangular layout and large spacious halls.  I strolled into the library where I would present and the smell took me back to carefree high school days.  A buddy and I would spend our free blocks in the theatre.  If you can imagine it, we would rarely be on the floor.  We would hop from armrest to armrest up, down and across the banks of seats.  The biggest challenge was when we hopped over the aisle into the next bank of seats, from armrest to armrest without skipping a beat.  Thinking about it now it was recipe for ankle pinnings and neck collarings.  For us then, it was something to master, a challenge to overcome, a way to demonstrate expertise.
Every time I have shared Connections-based Learning with educators, I have videoconferenced in an expert.  I not only want teachers to learn about connected encounters but to experience them.  This time we had the pleasure of bringing in Melissa Lavoie (blog:  Melissa is an engaging passionate connected educator working as an educational technology special assignment teacher in Timmins, Ontario.  She shared a wealth of ideas and experience with us that ranged from Google Apps for Education to inspiring connected experiences.  I believe the big take-away for the Centennial High School staff was the three places to find experts that Melissa shared.
When I first heard about the digital Human Library, I knew that I had to share it with as many people as possible.  I immediately signed up and put the link on the Connections-based Learning site. When I got to connect with the Founder, Leigh Cassell, I realized how special this endeavor really is.  I ended up featuring one of her stories in a post on Inspiring Creative Connections.  The digital Human Library has hundreds of experts in nearly any subject area available to be signed out by teachers and classrooms to share their expertise with students.  It also has links to hundreds of free multi-media tours.  It is a one stop shop for getting connected and leveraging those connections for learning.  Using the dHL to connect students with experts allows for an amazing experience, but Melissa shared with us how she took it one step further and used a dHL expert to share with teaching staff. 
For a professional day, Melissa brought in an actor to a staff via videoconference.  The actor shared with the educators not only his story as an actor but got the educators on their feet (and a bit more comfortable in their skin) doing warm ups and improvisations.  Melissa was able to bring to the staff an expertise that she didn't have, a connection that got even the most resistant moving by nature of the authority and experience of an expert.  The experience also shared the power of the digital Human Library use itself.  The educators walked away having been stretched both physically and mentally.
Making popsicle stick bridges is a great way to teach compressive and tensile strength and the advantages and drawbacks of certain geometric shapes in construction.  Students love heating up the hot glue guns and bringing their structural ideas to life.  I have done this exact activity with my Science and Tech 11 class.  But when I heard about what Melissa did with the activity, I realized how a connection can expand just about any learning experience.  Melissa used the VROC connecting platform to find Professor Francesco Tangorra, a civil engineering instructor from Algonquin College in Ottawa, to join the class with which she was working. (Story on p. 24/25 here).  Virtual Researchers on Call is a platform that connects STEM professors and professionals with Canadian students for interactive learning.  What the engineer did was amazing. 
As each student brought their bridge up for testing and applied weights to the structures, Prof. Francesco would be observing via Google Hangout.  When the structure failed, the engineering instructor was able to tell the students where and why the structure broke.  He would share his wealth of knowledge and experience with the students expanding their ideas about what makes structures strong.  The students were completely engaged in the project and came to better understand the artistry and science that goes into making bridges.
The final platform Melissa shared about that connects students with experts is Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants.  This platform is focused on Science, Adventure, and Conservation.  Melissa shared about an encounter where students were able to experience river rafting through the platform.  Amazing!  Each experience is stored as a Youtube video in the Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants Youtube channel.  Check out some of the videos as they really give you a perspective on how engrossing this platform is.  Give your students the opportunity to go to the bottom of the ocean, a turtle hospital, a bug zoo, Iceland's glaciers or many other locations with this far reaching platform.
One of the four CONNECT facets of Connections-based Learning is Question Experts.  In this day and age with innovative platforms such as these, experts in any area are not far from the students.  I encourage you to take advantage of this connected world and share ideas from willing experts with your students.  Keep me posted about all your incredible connected experiences by sharing in the comments or tweeting out to #CBLchat.

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Precarious and Powerful

As I continue to share about Connections-based Learning, I've been emphasizing that connections are powerful.  They tug at the heartstrings of students, relationships form, nitty-gritties are opened up.  There's exposure, bonding, revelation, a call to action.

It's like setting up an introduction for your bestie.  It could end up being just a single thorny encounter.  Or it could go all Beaches and last a lifetime.

So be careful.

This was clearly illustrated in my class' most recent connection with Karishma Bhagani.  Karishma is an NYU student who has invented an inexpensive water purifier that she is hoping to produce on a large scale and provide to needy villages in her home country of Kenya.

As we were approaching Earth Day, Fran Siracusa of Calliope and Jennifer Casa-Todd made me aware of the connection they had with Karishma and how she wanted to share her invention and her passion with students.  The water purifier initiative is called Matone De Chiwit.  Fran and Jen were encouraging classes from all around to make contact.

Matone - "Drops" in Swahili
De - "of" in Spanish
Chiwit - "Life" in Thai

Karishma believes that for a global project like this, a global name that includes the languages of countries most in need of clean water would be appropriate.  Thus: Matone De Chiwit.

I thought this was a perfect connection for my class to make.  We set a date for a GHOA and despite the fact that it was after school time to fit Karishma's schedule, the students were very excited.  They were very patient through initial technical issues and listened intently as Karishma shared her story.  They were ready with questions in order to dialogue further.  As always,  I was impressed with how students stepped up to the plate when communicating with the outside world.  When Mo asked if Karishma thought that Kenya was overlooked in terms of aid and I listened to the ensuing conversation, I really saw how CBL gives a voice to people, whether my own students or the associates with whom we connect.

Our GHOA with Karishma

Here are a couple student posts on the connection:
- Hailey's post
- Quinn's post

The Hangout was the provocation.  The call to my students was: now that we have heard this message, what are we going to do about it.  I left it pretty open, and I said that students could take it as far as they wanted.  They took it further than I could have imagined.

Students are:
- sharing Karishma's message through social media
- sharing the message through posters and posts
- creating Youtube videos
- creating commercials

Not only that but one group of students is collaborating with Karishma to build her a website.  Emails have gone back and forth; they are working on website design; there's plans to consult with the team's artistic director.  There's involvement, investment.

Here is a post from one of my student's digital portfolios:

"This project that we are working on is not only making an impact on the world but it is also impacting me as a person. It is making me step out of my comfort zone and use my head to think about each individual step. Starting this project I decided it would be beneficial to read about the problems that we are trying to help. After reading articles, web sights and papers I have a new found appreciation of everything that I have in my life, and I no longer take things for advantage like I would have yesterday. Now instead of hearing about the struggles people are facing and feeling bad for them, I am making a contribution to one day end those struggles. I will no longer be the person that will stand aside and watch things happen."
- Hailey Smith

These students are working on relationships, developing a world view, letting out their compassion. 

I say be careful when facilitating connections.  But I wouldn't have it any other way.