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.

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