Connected Learning and Implications for Libraries as Spaces and Mentors for Learning

“Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success, or civic engagement.”
from Connected Learning:  An Agenda for Research and Design

For the last month or so, I’ve been dwelling in Connected Learning:  An Agenda for Research and Design, a research synthesis report that outlines the research and findings of the Connected Learning Research Network, a group chaired by Dr. Mimi Ito.  In addition to the report, I’ve enjoyed the series of recent webinars centered around the report:

Supplementary readings have also informed my understanding of this report:

Additional definitions and explanations can be found here; the infographic embedded here is also a helpful visualization.

In “Connected Learning:  An Agenda for Social Change”, Dr. Ito asserts that connected learning:

“…is not about any particular platform, technology, or teaching technique, like blended learning or the flipped classroom or Khan Academy or massive open online courses. It’s agnostic about the method and content area. Instead, it’s about asking what is the optimal experience for each learner and for a high-functioning learning community?”

In the Connected Learning:  An Agenda for Research and Design report, the authors describe connected learning as a design model:

“Our approach draws on sociocultural learning theory in valuing learning that is embedded within meaningful practices and supportive relationships, and that recognizes diverse pathways and forms of knowledge and expertise. Our design model builds on this approach by focusing on supports and mechanisms for building environments that connect learning across the spheres of interests, peer culture, and academic life. We propose a set of design features that help build shared purpose, opportunities for production, and openly networked resources and infrastructure” (5).

I’ve recreated this visualization embedded in the report to provide another way of looking at connected learning and thinking about how this model seeks to “knit” together the contexts of peer-supported, interest powered, and academically oriented for learning (12):

Slide1

I’m still coding and organizing my notes from the report as I try to pull out the big takeaways for me, but as I review these notes and the ones I took from the webinar on assessing connected learning outcomes last week, I’m thinking about this first wave of big ideas and questions:

  • How do libraries develop learning agendas that are aligned with agendas for social change in their community?  How do the two inform each other?
  • How can libraries embrace this approach to designing learning environments to help us move from “nice to necessary?”, a question that was posed at ALA Midwinter in 2013, and that I’m attempting to flesh out in my work here as a Learning Strategist at Cleveland Public Library (and that I hope to share with you later this year).
  • How do we create learning environments and experiences as well as relationships with those we serve to move beyond the initial “sweet spot” of attachment to building a deeper level of engagement?  How do we as librarians (with the help of our community) design learning environments that provide diverse entry points and access for people to form communities of learning where they can create more nuanced narratives of learning as they create, share, and connect with others?  How do we design learning spaces and experiences that create more “pathways to opportunity” and participation?
  • How might libraries of all kinds serve as an “open network” that is a medium and a mentor to helping people connect and move more meaningfully across multiple learning spaces and spheres within their local community as well as a larger and more global community of learners?  Kris Gutierrez’s metaphor of “learning as movement” across many kinds of contexts has spurred this thinking.
  • Kris Gutierrez and Bill Penuel discussed concepts of horizontal learning and boundary crossing in their webinar and explored the question of how do we help people leverage the practices, disposition, and expertises honed in one learning space to another to go deeper with that learning and expand the possibilities for action and participation.  How do libraries support communities of learning in engaging in this boundary crossing and engaging in horizontal learning to build greater personal as well as civic capacity?
  • Both Gutierrez and Penuel emphasized the need to further contemplate and explore individual and collective assessment of these practices.  In the words of Dr. Gutierrez, “What tools, dispositions, practices, forms of expertises TRAVEL and how do we know it when we see it?”  I’m also thinking about how we frame formative and summative assessments as touchpoints for learning.
  • How can librarians help people take deep “vertical knowledge” in a specific content area and apply it across multiple learning contexts and spaces?  This question relates to horizontal learning and boundary crossing.  I like to think of these concepts as cross-pollination of ideas and learning.
  • How do more effectively build vocabulary for this kind of learning in our learning communities?
  • How do we more effectively thread and address issues of equity across our instructional design and assessment processes?
  • How do libraries cultivate deeper and more meaningful partnerships and connections with other institutions of learning in their communities for more strategic impact?
  • How do we as librarians facilitate the creation of sustained networks to help people make connections between social, academic, and interest driven learning? ( see page pp.46-47 in the report for more on this question)

As you can see, these learning and design principles as well as the findings and concerns shared in the report have saturated my thinking.  As I make additional readings and passes through my notes from the report, I will continue to take an inquiry stance to further unpack the concepts and language embedded in this work.  I’ll also revisit the case studies included in the report to further develop ideas on what this work could look like in practice in different library settings.  In addition, I will carve out more time to listen as well as contribute to conversations about connected learning in the NWP study group as well as the Connected Learning Google Plus group.

Teachers as Learners Conference Keynote and Concurrent Session Presentations

I want to thank the wonderful educators of the Griffin-Spalding County School System in Griffin, Georgia for inviting me to present a keynote speech and four concurrent sessions this past week at their Teachers as Learners Conference.  Below are resources from two days of learning and sharing!

Peer Review of Digital Research Projects, Spring 2011

We are in the final week of our digital research project that the Media 21 students have been engaged in now for about six weeks as they have investigated issues facing our veterans who have served or who are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We began the first of four days of peer review of the projects yesterday; each day, each collaborative research/inquiry group is assigned a fellow group to evaluate using the form embedded below.  Susan Lester, my co-teacher, and I are looking forward to reading student feedback and then debriefing the results of that feedback with each group (we will keep the individual feedback forms private so that students feel free to provide honest and constructive assessment/evaluation).

Are you incorporating peer review into any aspect of your research projects that you facilitate?  If so, how do you go integrate peer review as an assessment and reflective learning experience?

Creating Conversations for Learning: NoodleBib Assignment Dropbox as Formative Assessment, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I composed a post about the possibilities of using the NoodleBib shared assignment dropbox feature as a formative assessment for evaluating working bibliographies and notecards.  Now that I’ve completed two research project “checkpoints” using the shared assignment dropbox, I am happy to share that this formative assessment has been successful in:

1.  Gaining insight into the selection of information sources by students and to help them identify gaps in sources they may be overlooking that could inform their research.

2.  Helping students identify and understand the mistakes they’ve made in the citation process and working with them to correct the entries.

3.  Seeing what students are doing really well with their notetaking skills and providing positive feedback while identifying areas of weakness and then engaging in a conversation for learning with the student by sharing strategies for tackling those “challenge” areas with notetaking skills.

My roles in facilitating these formative assessments included:

1.  Setting up the shared assignment dropboxes.

2.  Teaching students how to share an assignment and confirming I had received the assignments from each group.

3.  Taking the time to evaluate each group’s bibliographic entries and notecards while providing feedback.

4.  Keeping a spreadsheet of general notes for each group’s work and noting patterns in what students were doing well and common problems I saw in student work.

5.  Sharing my findings and notes with my co-teacher, Susan Lester, and then the two of us working together with groups to address challenges I identified through the formative assessment; in addition, I enlisted the assistance of students who were demonstrating specific skills in an exemplary manner to help peers on an “as needed” basis.

I love how easy it is to evaluate bibliographic individual entries and the accompanying notecards for each source cited in one screen.  All you have to do is log into your account, scroll down to the bottom of your project lists page, and then open a student project (which for these assignments, were collaboratively created lists for group research projects).  You can then click on “Bibliography” to access the bibliographic entries and accompanying notecards on one screen; you can then enter custom comments for each entry, and for the notecards,  you can compose custom comments or use a comment from the pre-existing database of notecard comments.  You can see when each entry and notecard were created as well as time/date of any revisions a student may have made.  Take a look at how easy it is to work with the interface in the screenshots below (please note student names have been removed to protect their privacy).

Figure 1: Bibliographic Entry Comments

Figure 2: Comments on Electronic Notecards

I absolutely love using the shared assignment dropbox for formative assessment of student work and using the feedback with students to initiate or sustain conversations for learning.  Here are a few features I’d suggest to make the shared assignment dropbox in NoodleBib even better:

  • add the ability to message a group or comment on overall project
  • add the ability for teachers and librarians to create their own banks of custom comments to both the notecards as well as bibliographic entries
  • add a spellchecker on the teacher/librarian side to spellcheck comments
  • add the ability for the librarian or teacher to “like” a student bibliographic entry or notecard (a la Facebook style)
  • add the ability to create threaded discussions Facebook or new Google Docs discussions style so that students and the teacher and/or librarian can engage in a virtual discussion about the feedback provided (think ramped-up commenting!)
If you haven’t tried the shared dropbox in NoodleBib, I encourage you to give it a try as a way to embed yourself in the classroom with teachers and students as part of your collaborative partnerships and to participate meaningfully in assessment of student work.  If you have tried the shared assignment dropbox as formative assessment, what features did you like, or what enhancements would you like to see added for 2011-12?

Getting There Together: Assessing Student Learning

I would like to thank Sophie Brookover and Jessica Adler of LibraryLinkNJ, the New Jersey Library Cooperative, for inviting me to share today’s virtual presentation, “Getting There Together:  Assessing Student Learning”, a session in which we explored the idea of reframing ourselves as learning specialists and how school librarians’ participation in the assessment of student learning  is an integral part of the learning experience/process and essential for reflection and student metacognition.    In this session, we explored:

1.  Rationales for school librarians participating in the assessment of student learning and why we must take on that role if we are to claim our role as teachers in our learning communities

2.  Formative and summative assessments as well as the importance of student self-assessment

3.  Thinking about incorporating backwards design into the collaboration process as a means for creating conversations about assessment and student learning

I cannot thank the participants enough for their generous sharing of ideas, questions, experiences, and strategies as their engagement really created a powerful conversation for learning for all of us today.  I’ll be sharing, thinking, and writing more about my role in the assessment of student learning in the upcoming months  and how that role informs my collaboration with teachers and students, but until then, I’d like to share three resources to spark your thinking:

In addition, you can access additional readings (free on the web) and resources from today’s webinar wiki page.