Educators Make, Play, and Connect This Summer

June 27, 2014
By Educator Innovator

We know. You want to relax this summer. But we also know that for many educators summer is a time to collaborate, try new tools, and come up with ideas.

And, if you teach in a community of less-privileged students, you may be concerned that your students will fall further behind during the long summer vacation. The race to get into the best schools and build the best college application resumes is only getting hotter.

Studies have shown that the gap between what high- and low-income families spend on education enrichment has tripled in the last 40 years. Today, high-income families spend nearly $7 in education enrichment for every $1 low-income families spend. The largest spending differences are for activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camps.

The result is an even wider gap when the new school year starts up.

Low-income kids “are 6,000 hours behind rich kids in what they’ve gotten to do in their lives,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “We’ve got to catch that up.”

To help close that gap, cities throughout the country are turning to their homegrown resources to create a citywide “campus” where kids can follow their interests, create, and discover. With their rich arts, science, history resources, parks, and beaches, cities are a wealth of potential—if kids can just tap into it.

This summer, cities are connecting those opportunities in new ways for kids through the Cities of Learning initiative. In Los Angeles, that might mean kids joining at libraries and the Getty Center to hone their art and computer coding skills. In Chicago, it might mean doing some urban camping with the Chicago Park District or stargazing at the Adler Planetarium. In Dallas, it might mean exploring community action with digital storytelling. In Pittsburgh, kids might join the growing Maker Movement or pick up some engineering skills while making robots.

Connecting all these activities are digital badges. Designed by the Mozilla Foundation, open digital badges are a new form of credentialing for the digital age. Participating organizations design the badges, outlining the skills kids will learn and the pathways they’ll take to acquire those skills. Once earned, kids can display their badges online for teachers, employers, and others to see. With a click, anyone can learn about the skills needed to earn a badge, which skills the youth has mastered, and see examples of work.

If you’re interested in transforming your own community into a citywide campus for learning, you can find out more information on how to do that at the Cities of Learning website.

But the kids don’t get to have all the fun. Cities of Learning is part of the Summer to Make, Play, and Connect, which also offers a range of opportunities for educators, in school and out. The campaign is spearheaded by Educator Innovator, powered by the National Writing Project, and the Mozilla Foundation’s Maker Party.

The Summer to Make, Play, and Connect activities are free and open to anyone, and are all related in some way to Connected Learning principles.

The Summer to Make, Play and Connect website is the starting point for finding out about ongoing activities. Here’s a selection:

  • From June 13th to August 1st, a MOOC (massive open online collaboration) on connected learning “will provide many opportunities for participants to connect and form small groups in order to share and reflect on their work, which is what we think MOOCs should be all about. Your learning will be directed by you.” The MOOC is nonsequential, so anyone can join at any time. The first week, for example, reimagined how-to guides and explored how they align with connected learning.
  • On July 7th join KQED to learn how to use Twitter and other media-sharing applications to promote social and civic discourse with students. Activities will center on KQED’s “Do Now,” a weekly activity for students to engage and respond to current issues using social media.
  • Hack Your Notebook Day on July 9th dives into 21st-century notebooking. Learn about circuitry while you (literally) illuminate your best thoughts.
  • Want to step away from the computer? Join kids and adults in Mozilla’s Maker Party (July 15th to September 15th). At Maker Parties, people learn, make things, and have lots of fun. Mozilla wants everyone to become web literate, from getting the hang of HTML, to building robots, to learning about remix culture using paper and scissors. June 23rd in Charlottesville is the next Maker Party in the United States. That’s followed by a July 11th party in Manhattan, and a July 17th party in the Bronx. The complete schedule is here.

So wherever you are, join your colleagues this summer and make something.

This post was adapted from one at Photo/ Mozilla