A Project Worth Following and Sharing

This past summer I had the great opportunity to have Valerie Dusza intern with me. While I can only hope she took away as much from me as I did from her, it was her passion for learning and teaching that excited me most. It is why I’m thrilled to see her summer planning of a year long project begin to take shape.

This project is shaped by Mimi Ito, danah boyd, and many other’s work Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out where by the students will begin with that as a framework for continued and authentic research in their local school and community. The goals of this year long project focus on the following among many others:

  1. Exploration and exposure to social media as learning objects
  2. Understand the self as learner and the notion of connectivism as a means to how we learn (meta-cognition component)
  3. Awareness of the influence of social media on self, local community, and beyond
  4. Awareness of their generational and socioeconomic traits
  5. Development of research and new media literacy skills.
  6. Empowerment of self to create social action for the betterment of mankind

In her words, here is where her class is presently. I encourage you to follow this project as it unfolds – it is sure to be an exciting and valuable journey for the students, school, and broader community:

The 8th graders of Volta Elementary, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) school, are beginning research on social media. They have all chosen topics and are now in the process of researching. They are using a wiki to collaborate with their group members and they are using blogs to discuss their findings on an individual basis. I need your help! The kids don’t think anyone is looking at their research, or their blogs. I think they will take a more serious approach to the research if they receive feedback from the outside world. Please, visit our wiki and their blogs. Leave comments, questions or any insight into their topic- They’ll love it!!

With Apple’s Challenge-Based Curriculum as a framework and ideas drawn from practitioner work by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay on the Horizon Project (and many others) and Henry JenkinsNew Media Literacies (pdf), this project is going to be something to watch over the next year:

Quarter One: Social Media and Today’s Youth
Quarter Two: A Futurist Look
Quarter Three:  Social Action
Quarter Four: “Ideas Worth Spreading” Volta Style

Please join me in supporting these students and their teacher who are taking risks and challenging each other to new heights. Their work is valuable research both locally and globally, and our support will surely go a long way in showing that their voices are important!

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cc licensed flickr photo by dkuropatwa: http://flickr.com/photos/dkuropatwa/4766403166/

The Beauty of Wonder

As I sat on our patio engrossed in my daily read, the light screeching of bicycle tires startled me and drew my intention towards  a mother stopped on the sidewalk looking back at her still moving daughter saying “Stop for a moment”.

Curious as to why anyone would stop in such a relatively boring spot in the world, I indulged in listening to the conversation.

“Have you ever wondered how much corn is out there,” the mom said pointing to the field just south of us?

“Umm… I don’t know,” exclaimed the little girl as she wanted to continue biking but struggled to get it moving again.

“Now stop for a second… look at all of that. How can you not WONDER about such things,” the mom rejoiced.

The excitement in the mother’s voice changed something in the daughter because she became curious over what her mom meant by ‘wonder’ and how it applied to a cornfield of all things.

“Wonder is the most amazing thing we have. Everything is a mystery and wonder helps us to grow, ” said the mom as she wrapped her arm around her daughter. “When we wonder, we learn! So, what do you wonder about?”

“I wonder how much corn is there,” the daughter said pointing to the corn and returning to where it all started. “I bet you there is, like, 50 pieces of corn”.

The mom smiled and helped the girl to count pieces of corn and measure with her hands the length of that many pieces. When the daughter had it, she had her look all the way down the road using her hands as rulers.

“WOW! There’s a lot of corn,” the daughter screamed in excitement!

But, the mom didn’t stop there.

“Let’s go to the other side because that is only the front of the corn,” as she mounted her bike and began riding down the road.

“Mom, I wonder how many leaves are on that tree,” pointing to the large oak tree on the corner a mile down the road.

As they rode off, I had no doubt that the mom stopped at that tree, explored her daughter’s sense of wonder, and helped her come to understand how a curious mind is a vital part of life.

As I returned to my reading, I couldn’t help but wonder about the realities of the classroom today: how much natural curiousity and wonder are explored in classroom these days? Are inquiry and community the foundation of our learning experience in schools?

Then I thought about my niece and nephews’ current experiences in school and I cringed.