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How can educators—in school and out—support youth to pursue and document the ideas that matter to them, while simultaneously helping them to use a critical lens?

Key Questions and Comments:

  • (04:53) Where do young people who have a passion and want to follow it through to a deep conclusion–where would they do that in our environment? And how could we coach them, support them, mentor them, create an environment for them to go deep with something that they really care about?
  • (09:33) Most kids have an interest, but they don’t have that driving passion that is going to just make them go wild on their own, and build their own learning pathways. Most kids need much more adult scaffolds, supports, institutional invitations, and connections in order to connect the interests that they do have to opportunities and trajectories of learning that will really serve them in their adult life…
  • (12:32) I’ve seen this myself in being able to develop an interest, to connect with a diversity of teachers…it was just fascinating to see what a change in my own identity when I was able to connect with a group of people who really valued my ideas, who valued my questions.
  • (16:18) Our role just takes a different kind of vision of what adults should do–we’re not there to tell students what to be interested in; we’re there to take their interests and help them run with it by introducing them to resources they might not have thought of.
  • (20:25) …it’s not like you have to have a passion for everything…interests can be highly motivating, even without a passion. If we give a little bit more leeway to talk about interests in terms of that ‘relevance’ dimension…it starts to expand where we can…be open to recognizing where those interests can come from.
  • (23:30) All of us in the K-12 system are all aware of how it’s very difficult at times to combine student interests with the demands of testing and accountability and all the pressures that are placed upon teachers…I’m hoping teachers can take ownership over the Common Core…
  • (28:36) For the most wealthy families, they average about $9,000 a year on out-of-school and enrichment activities. And, obviously, that’s not a number that’s available for most families…All kids deserve to have the foundational skills, as well as the more specialized forms of learning…
  • (33:25) One example I have is a student that is a music producer…has a whole suite of things he keeps track of for various musicians, and then he comes to school and he struggles with writing…He was getting really interested in improving his English so that when he went back to those websites he was managing, he would be more effective in what he was passionate with…so he developed an interest in the more academic stuff so that he could bring his skills back to his passion.
  • (36:57) In our work with teachers, destigmatizing particular interests has been a huge part of our work in thinking about ‘What is OK to write about? What kind of inquiry projects are OK?’…How do we as teachers, become activists who help our students form relationships and build alliance based on particular interest or issues and passions?
  • (39:06) I noticed that in the [Livestream] Chat, Paul [Allison], a number of people are really wanting you to tell the story of the youth you work with who started down this particular path based on an interest in nail polish…and how that led to a certain academic stance or disposition.
  • (45:04) …Most of the schools I’ve taught in have “zero tolerance” technology policies because a lot of schools are concerned about the negative aspects of technology…Like Stephanie was saying, I think it’s important that teachers are activists for this kind of connected learning if they are going to bring it into schools. And they have to educate fellow teachers and administrators and district officials about what we can do with it.
  • (46:54) I’m seeing so much of what we’re trying to do in the classroom–as administrators of our own classroom writing programs with connected learning–is listening. Trying to identify these interests, learning how to listen, developing protocols…
  • (51:01) As parents and educators, a lot of times, we’re pounding on the “do well in school so you’ll get into college and then you’ll get a good job,” and it’s very much delayed gratification. Humans need more immediate recognition in the communities that matter to them in the here and now.
  • (54:17) I’d really like to see schools as a place where students can bring those interests in and then transfer those interests. And I know status and ethos doesn’t port from one community to the other, but that process of building agency can.

From this Series:

View the Conversation
During the broadcast, the conversation also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #connectedlearning.

Guests for this webinar included:

  • Paul Allison – New York City Writing Project. Paul Allison is an English Teacher at New Directions Secondary School in New York, as well as a Liaison for the New York City Writing Project. He is also the leader of YouthVoices.net – a site for conversations around youth digital media learning – and Teachers Teaching Teachers – a weekly podcast as part of EdTechTalk.
  • Mimi Ito – Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Mimi Ito is a cultural anthropologist of technology use, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning, and the Research Director of the Digital Media and Learning Hub at the University of California, Irvine.
  • Nicole Mirra – UCLA Writing Project. Nicole Mirra is part of the UCLA Writing Project and is a high school English teacher at Animo Watts College Preparatory Academy in Los Angeles, CA. She is also the coordinator of the UCLA Council of Youth Research: a university-school partnership program that engages L.A. students and teachers in research aimed at challenging educational inequalities and fostering transformative civic engagement.
  • Stephanie West-Puckett – Tar River Writing Project. Stephanie is part of the Tar River Writing Project and a Teaching Instructor at East Carolina University. She has taught composition, literature, and creative writing, and her research interests include service-learning as a composition pedagogy.
  • Paul Oh (Moderator/Host) – National Writing Project

Resources for this webinar:

Photos/ The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers

#ConnectedLearning Discussion on Twitter

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