Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Work your #CBL chops!

We have been seeing a lot of educators make connections with their classes around the world. Some have developed #ClassPartnerships on a global scale through the innovation project spearheaded by Koen Timmers:

Others are employing #ExpertLearning and #OrganizationSupport more locally with mentorship relationships like this connection these students had with the Garage at Microsoft Vancouver:

My response is simple: Don't Stop.

You have experienced the power of connection. You have seen the effects on your students and their learning. You have built meaningful connections that have made a difference for your students and possibly even the world around. Keep it going! In fact, I would ask that you consider other connections as you take next steps.


Now that you have made some connections around the world, are there connections that need to be made right back in your own community?

- Are there needs to be addressed in your own school?
- Are your students mentoring younger students with the learning they have gained?
- Are there ways of connecting your class with another in the school to work on something cross curricular?
- Are there needs in the neighbourhood that your class can address?
- Is there a way your class can serve the local community?


Are your students getting into things of which you are not the expert? GOOD! That is the way it is suppose to be. You are a linchpin now. How can you facilitate connections with the expertise your students need to go to the next level?

- Into what topics is your class delving that an expert could add up-to-the-minute discoveries to the learning?
- Is there a coding expert with whom you can connect your students as they develop software?
- Is there someone that can help them MAKE in response to a connection?
- Have you tapped into the expertise that is present in the parent community?


We must keep mindful that there are others that are working on the same goals as us. When I speak of organization support, I am thinking of a two way street: how are we supporting the organizations that need our help? But also, how can organizations assist us in achieving our goals?

- Are there organizations in which your students are passionate?
- As your students consider the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, are organizations that they can work along side to address needs?
- Have you seen a group offering mentorship opportunities in a certain area?
- Is there a way to partner with local service groups to have a positive impact?


Maybe you have been connecting with mentors, experts, and organizations, but you have not made a connection with other classes. A great way to open the door to empathy with your students is to connect them with other students. As I mention in the CBL book, the more we connect with those who are different from us, the more we develop who we are.

- Is there a way your students can collaborate with another class as they pursue a certain learning outcome?
- Are there connections your class already has through apps like Belouga that you have not pressed into?
- Is there a way that your class can work with another on a common topic, interest, or goal?

So what are you afraid of?

This is not a rhetorical question. In fact, that is the question for this weeks #CBLchat Voxer community. We have been meandering through the Connections-based Learning book, looking at the Vision Checkup questions, and we are in chapter 6 entitled #CollaborationLens. The question asks:

Do you have a fear of sharing? (and might I add, do you have fears or concerns about connecting in any of these ways?) What are the roots of this fear? How do they need to be addressed?

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

#CBL leads to #Individualization, #Differentiation, and #Personalization

Donning a #ConnectionLens is only the start of an educator's connections-based learning journey. Educators around the world are connecting. They are using connection platforms. They are breaking down the walls of their classrooms. But that is not enough.

I have made a case that connecting our classes opens the door for students to develop empathy. It provides students with up-to-the-minute knowledge. But if they don't do anything with the empathy that they have developed, if they don't do anything with the knowledge that they have gained, if they don't respond to a connection, a vital part of connections-based learning is lost.

That is why my favourite part of the CBL experience is asking students what we are going to do in response to hearing from our learning partner:

"Now that we know what we know, what are we going to do about it? 
What are we going to MAKE about it?"

This returns the onus of learning back to the students and opens the door to individualization, differentiation, and personalization.


Individualization is matching the speed of the learning with the students. If the learning outcome is based on connection, the typical teacher-imposed-timeline for concept attainment is thrown out the window. The teacher truly becomes the guide on the side as students develop their response to the connection. Students can take time to pause, follow a rabbit trail, delve into a topic of interest deeply, or dare I say skip over parts that don't interest them.

In connections-based learning, students #CoConstructGoals right at the beginning of the CBL. It is the responsibility of the educator to construct those goals with the student as they #CoDesign the connection response. Learning outcomes were considered as the learning partner was established. It is way too late to be establishing learning outcomes while students #CoOperate. They need their autonomy. They need time ... and check-ins to help them along their path.

But Robinson, we have deadlines. We have report cards. The semester ends for goodness sake!! Yes, but student learning never does. Might I direct you to our CBL with Karishma Bhagani, creator of the low cost water purifier. The end of the semester did not end the learning for my students. Or what about our CBL with the Dominican Republic? Second semester classes were working with first semester classes to build and send the solar lanterns to the Dominican Republic, Macedonia, and Kenya. The course was over for some and yet the work, and the learning, never stopped. Semesters should not dictate the learning timeline; students should.


As a guide on the side, the teacher is tasked with being the linchpin to support groups and individuals as they pursue their response to the connection. Each response is individual to the student. In no way can the teacher take over. It doesn't make any sense in this context. Differentiation, tailoring the instruction for the learner, is the only way that this can work. Learners may need to be connected with other experts to accomplish their goals. Learners may need to be guided to where they can attain needed skills. Let me assure you, as learners develop their own responses to a connection, they will be all over the map. As students developed their response to their connection with the Dominican Republic students, students went off in all kinds of directions. And I wouldn't have it any other way!


Personalization is where students drive their own buses. They pursue their own interests. As students make a connection with a learning partner, they are encouraged to respond in their own way. This "freeing up the student" allows the learners to follow their own path to a response. The door is opened for innovation, creating, campaigning, advertising, and fundraising.

I love it when a student enthusiastically follows their own path but I believe a connection opens student's eyes to consider others as they do it. The connection is needed to keep the personalization from becoming completely insular. How can our students consider the needs of the class, community, and globe as they follow their path?  This is where a sharing the Sustainable Development Goals can guide the students as they inquire and innovate. There are so many possibilities, so many needs, exposure to the SDGs expands the horizons of the students as they consider their response to a connection.

As educators, it is our delight when students find their passion and follow their interests. My desire is to see more and more educators allowing for more and more students to do just that. As we seek to connect with learning partners in the community and around the world, and allow our students to respond, we naturally encourage individualization, differentiation, and personalization. How do you see this playing out in your classroom?