Unpacking Interests

As I read about Pop Up Schools this week, I watched a clip from students that said:

Learning is…”Unexpected, Extraordinary, Unique, Physical, Spontaneous, Flexible…”

I learn best when I’m…”Having fun, Have choice, When I’m discovering for Myself, Able to explore, Outside the Classroom, When I collaborate, When the task is challenging, When something goods going to happen…”


Keeping this in mind, if this is how students view LEARNING, it makes me wonder what kids view the typical everyday American classroom to be like.  According to Joy Kirr in her article on Passion-Based Learning, she says “What we need to do is to get that outside of the classroom stuff inside, so that we are creating classrooms of engaged learners who have a positive online connectedness mastering digital literacies.  We can do this through passion based learning.”  I love the term “passion.” Each year my ultimate goal is to instill a love of learning in the kids, to teach them to be passionate about education.  Once these feelings of passion arise they’ll have much more equity in their education.  In my classroom I want to follow Kirr’s idea of “Genius Hour,” allowing my kids to explore their interests.  I am anxious to sit back and watch the way that the kid’s minds work when they are planning out their own projects and in charge of their own learning path.  This is an absolute way to unpack student interest!  The key component of passion-based learning is that”no matter the obstacles and the pain that comes with it, you will continue doing because it is part of you.”  What an incredible life-long lesson!

I relate this course, ED677 to passion-based inquiry, as the style of this course fits my needs perfectly as a learner.  I love the way that Christina allows us to “blog” as our weekly work, and from the very beginning gave us so much choice.  So many times I’ve taken a class and the experience was ruined for me because I spent so much time fearing if I were doing things right, or what grade I’d get on the test…

Instead, ED677 allows me to pursue a topic in the most meaningful way for each individual learner.  The week that we were assigned to, “Make a Map” I first thought to myself “WHAT!?  What kind of map?  How do I do that?  What program do I need to use?  What topic am I supposed to choose?”  After re-reading the assignment, however, I realized that the choice was MINE!  I could make a map of anything, essentially.  The next question was fun; what did I want to do a project on?!  I decided my life, and yoga!  What a great way to unpack my interests!  The equity of this course, for me, is extreme, which is how more learners should feel about their learning.  This leads me to think of something that I saw the first year I began teaching.  When I started I took a year as a long term sub in fifth grade.  The team of teachers that worked there were all “stuck in their ways,” and on the brink of retirement.  Each year they started off the year assigning kids a “Fail Safe Book Report.”  Although they generously shared their ideas with me, I came up with a different type of book report.  Later, when I was looking at the finished products in the hallway I noticed something.  EVERY, SINGLE front cover was the exact same!  The kids were not allowed to have anything other than the title of the book and author on the top sheet- in the same font, same size, centered exactly the same.  Kids lost points if they included a picture or if they included their own name on the front sheet (since that was supposed to go on the second page according to the direction sheet).  WOW!  Can you imagine the limitations those students faced?!  What a disservice we do to our students when we give them no choice!

This week, I also wanted to comment on the Edutopia article, “Badges and the Common Core.”  I like how Matthew Farber makes creative connections between gamified learning, a badging system and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I think his approach to gamification in the classroom is very innovative and it makes me think that as a final project for this course I’d like to incorporate learning through games. Farber talks about the way students earn badges that are designed to represent mastery of a particular common core state standards as well as leadership and collaborative skills.  The badge idea was completely new to me.  After exploring badges this week, I realized that it certainly is a great way to unpack student interests since so many people are motivated by ” earning things.”  The idea of badges made me think of the app that I’ve heard about, “Untappd!”

Untappd is a social discovery and check-in network for anyone that enjoys beer. It gives you the ability to easily find nearby craft beers and bars, see what beers are trending, as well as see where your friends are drinking. Check out the personalized recommendations and use Untappd to find the nearest location you can get the beer you want. Once you’ve got that delicious beer in your hand, use Untappd to track, rate, take a photo, and share it with all your friends. As you explore more beer styles and locations, you will uncover a variety of badges!

Earning badges give people a sense of ownership, and also accomplishment. It buys equity.

This week I made an EMPOWERMENT badge.  Every single student in ED677 earns this Empowerment badge, since each week we all openly and honestly share ideas and thoughts with one another.

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Lastly, a similar idea to badges that can be done in virtually any classroom environment is seen below.  I stumbled upon this on Pinterest, and love the idea of positive feedback, and natural connectedness which comes along with it.  When students feel visible and honored, they naturally become more invested in their work. Badges, shout outs, and honorable mentions are all great ways to give students the power to communicate with each other and provide feedback to peers.

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