Monday, 9 April 2018

Put on your #ConnectionLens

In February, a couple hundred students at my school made connections with individuals in their community. We called the task, simply: Community Connection. Students connected with professional photographers, music teachers, swim coaches, optometrists, neonatal intensive care nurses, website designers, oil and gas engineers, financial advisers, litigation lawyers, personal trainers, rugby players, dentists and dozens and dozens more professions.

My lifework has been making a case for educators to look for a who as they attempt to achieve learning outcomes, to bring in the human resources available as educators teach their students, to see human connection as the best way to teach the whole child. The learning outcome we were addressing with our hundreds of grade 9's was: Explore volunteer and other new learning experiences that stimulate entrepreneurial and innovative thinking. Donning a #ConnectionLens means that exploring experiences like these leads educators to ask: who can we engage as we learn?

The activity we created for students simply made sense:

We asked students:

1) Choose someone who is involved with something that you are passionate about.  This could be a job, a volunteer role, a skill, or a hobby.
2) Connect with this individual and plan a time when you can interview them in person or using technology during the first week in February. 
3) Converse with the individual asking them the questions such as "Why are you passionate about your job?" and "What advice would you pass on to someone interested in what you are doing?" , as well as your own questions. Either record the responses or document them in written form. 
4) Create a post on your digital portfolio account outlining what you learned from the interview and how it connects to you. 

Now I have to give credit to my colleague Phil Barrington for this amazing connections-based learning assignment. As we collaborated together, he passionately suggested this idea and wouldn't take no for an answer despite the seemingly colossal endeavour it seemed to be. Imagine: meeting with students from a dozen classes, telling them that they had to find a connection, interview that person on their own time, and blog about the experience. Add to that the work to read through the hundreds of blog posts and comment. It was pretty huge.

But it was so worth it.

So much learning went on. I loved going through the posts with my colleague Brian Barazzuol and hearing the unique encounters students had as they connected with individuals who were engaged in the their passions. Students learned about hard work, difficult life choices, and dealing with obstacles. But they also learned about success and how to set goals and make it happen. I think one of the coolest responses a student made was to interview Kristopher London, a former D1 basketball player turned Youtuber. Here is a bit about Kris:

The student post (here) includes a conversation about passions, obstacles, and depression. The post knocks the learning outcome out of the park. Not only did the student hear how someone he looks up to turn his passion into his lifework but who knows what possibilities this connection could open up for the student. All this from an Instagram cold call that the student made to seek out a connection.

In chapter 5 of the Connections-based Learning book, entitled #ConnectionLens, I ask educators to strive to see the possibility of human learning resources around them. I share four connections to consider. Connections with: the community, experts, organizations, and classrooms around the world. I love how the Community Connection put two of these focuses together: #CommunityService and #ExpertLearning. I also love the skills that students practiced as they accomplished this task. Many students had to make cold calls and found positive responses to the question: "Hey, do you mind if I interview you?" The #CBLchat Community question for the week considers that skill: Consider a time when you had to cold call in order to make a connection. What did you learn from that process?

Consider adding your voice. Join our #CBL Voxer Community. You can share your thoughts there, tweet them using the #CBLchat hashtag, or comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts and experience regarding cold calling in connections-based learning.

[photos: Interview (modified) by Arielle Lilley via flickr,Interviewing“, by Sara Parker, “Interview“, by Alper ÇuğunBy: Alper Çuğun, “ licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.]