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Learning to Connect, Connecting to Learn

This week’s resources were rich with ideas and provocations. A lot of ‘connections’ were made for me to the videos and articles posted, and it’s taken me a while to put together this week’s blog post for that reason. And it’s a long one, so I must apologize in advance.

Ideas that connect

So many of my current students came to mind as I read and explored the online resources in this week’s assignment. For example, in the paper Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design, it talked about a “…highly resourceful and interest-driven young person can find social and informational supports for a specialized interest.” This brought to mind my Boeing-obsessed, future pilot named Minh who spends his evenings and weekends researching the differences between aircraft models and practicing his skills on a flight simulation program his parents bought him. Online spaces have given him an opportunity to connect with his interests and others who share this interest that he simply cannot find at school.

Another student I thought of this week came when watching the Toxic Culture of Education video with Joshua Katz. Part of the talk was about whether college was the ‘only way’ and why we, as educators and institutions, aren’t asking students what they want or need from the school experience. This got me to thinking about my student Jerry. He has about a 50% attendance rate to school despite living across the street. He’s one of the highest achievers in class when he comes. And he’s already taken up streaming his gaming where he’s developed a fan base and shared this learning with classmates through instructional writing and a personalized inquiry project. Now, while I don’t fully agree with his choice to miss school and spend countless hours in front of his computer, I have to admire his passion and motivation for pursuing his dream and disregarding the social norms that surround him. How do I know he won’t be the next multi-million dollar YouTuber? How can I convince him that the things we’re doing here are more relevant to his future than what he’s doing when he stays home? I’m still chewing on these questions in regard to Jerry.


A final connection I’ll talk about here came from the report Living with New Media that reminded me that “…messing around is a necessary part of self-directed exploration in order to experiment with something that might eventually become a longer-term, abiding interest in creative production.” This connected to a workshop I attended on Personalized Inquiry at last year’s Learning2Asia conference. The workshop made a compelling and tangible argument for iTime, often referred to as Genius Hour, 20% time or Passion Projects. During the workshop, participants were taken through the experience of setting up iTime in the classroom as an educator and then given time to experience it through the student lens. All 3 components of Connected Learning were present- I was supported by peers, the project was powered by my own interests, and the content was academically oriented. SO what did I do with my iTime? I used online tutorials and resources to create an embroidery pattern on Excel! And guess what?! I felt smart. I felt empowered. I felt like I had learned a fun, new skill. And this, my friends  is what has led me to this week’s action plan.

Delving into the logistics of implementing #personalizedinquiry at #learning2 with the lovely @jojolbrown and @aliwh_white — Ms. Reyna (@MsReyna2) November 1, 2018

Ideas that challenge

I like to say I’m an independent learner. Someone who seeks out new skills and information. Someone who is active in the learning process. Someone who is not afraid to fail. Now, while that all might be true, there’s still a feeling that keep me from doing some things I’ve ‘always wanted to do.’ This week, when watching the video The First 20 Hours- How to Learn Anything,  I realized that fear holds me back and keeps me from learning and applying all kinds of new skills. From learning a language or playing an instrument to taking part in a flash mob or running a 5K. Pinpointing the exact moment when I give up is a bit harder, but it lies somewhere between ‘I feel like a failure’ and ‘I have more important things to do’.

The problem with this is that I work with kids. And in my work with kids, I continually reassure them that growth only happens when things are difficult, success feels better after hardship and all those other cliché (but true) things we tell them. So in thinking about how I can apply these ideas to learning a new skill, I’ve decided to take the advice of Josh Kaufman’s book and make a plan using his 4 steps.

Ideas into action

My Goal: Daily mindfulness

My Timeline: 3 weeks to form a habit

My Challenges: Lack of knowledge and time

My Fears: That it won’t ‘WORK’ for someone like me, that I won’t stick to it

My Steps:

Deconstruct the skill (2/20-2/24):

  1. Use Golden Circle model to break it down (Thursday, Feb. 21st)

  2. Reach out to my ‘expert’ friends who practice mindfulness and meditation

  3. Seek helpful resources (online/print)

  4. Share this step in a short video for later

Learn enough to self-correct (ongoing):

  1. Daily practice with mindfulness and meditation strategies

  2. Reflect with videos every 5 days (4 total)

Remove practice barriers (ongoing):

  1. Designate non-negotiable time, space and agreements for daily practice

  2. Ask my partner and friends to keep me accountable

  3. No devices or cats aloud, no lying down

Practice for at least 20 hours (2/20-3/15):

  1. There are 24 days left in course 1, so I need to actively practice for 30-60 minutes each day until March 15th

  2. Final video reflection

  3. Share with students (March 15th) as introduction to personalized inquiry

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