2022 Connected Learning Summit

Connected Learning Summit

There were many interesting sessions but I will focus on a few ideas and organizations that were novel or changed my perspective, or may be resources we can use.

1. Twin pandemics: COVID and mental health. Supporting students has supported communities. Developing tools, including online tools, that had been underutilized prior to COVID has been a boon. Although they will not replace face-to-face connections, they can supplement and enhance them–through school, non-profit organizations, public libraries and more. Projects that started locally have gone global because the internet is all over the world.

 Jamboard is a Google tool for collaborative work. If you click “Jamboard” you can see an example of our highly sophisticated teamwork.

2. Asset Mapping with Remake Learning (Workshop). Remake Learning focuses on learning that is engaging, relevant and equitable. You can join for free! With values like: curiosity, play, exploration; cross-cultural undertanding, connection to community; critical thinking; authentic relationships; and the confidence to to try, fail and try again, this aligns completely with my teaching mission! Refllections: (1) This organization is interested in both initiating programs (by providing grants and other supports) and assessing results. (2) Getting an outside organization like this to help set up systems & metrics (e.g. for recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in STEM) could be really useful at UWB. They have 15 years of experience and routinely work with universities.

Remake Learning logo

3. Collaborating with Creative Teams to Create a Vision (Roundtable): I learned about some fabulous new “games”. One is Quandary, aimed at middle school-high school students, that is based on ethical decision making. The second is called Blue Revolution, a story telling game in which the common goal is to save a planet that is running out of water, for elementary grades.  This is currently under development by Habitheque. The third is Early Bird, an assessment that uses game design to get preschoolers to engage, then assesses if they are at risk for reading disabilities so that that interventions to help develop neural networks can be introduced pre-reading. The last one is the one that blew me away the most. Early interventions make the most difference! Reflection: This session emphasized the importance of getting together a team of collaborators to see a game project from development to marketing. Each collaborator must agree on the vision (product and purpose) and be fully committed to the time and longevity of the project, and contribute something unique, for the project to come to fruition.

4. Re-imagining Partnerships: Soil-work through Endarkened Inquiry. This discussion was about how to co-create more equitable education to improving educational practices through collaboration with students and communities. Endarkened Inquiry (McClish-Boyd and Battacharya, 2021) has 3 main anchors: sharing positionalities, race-grounded approaches, and validity for whom?, based in Black feminist theory. Soil-work is the process of learning about your students and the “soil” that surrounds them to better understand their needs and perspectives. One example was the sometimes students may want to discuss violence but the deeper issue was that of mental health. As researchers working with communities of color, it is also vital to establish strong supportive research practice partnerships (RPP) that are long-term, mutualistic and follow best practices, that can lead to improving outcomes.

5. ¡Bibliobandido! This links to a video of the idea by Marisa Moran Jahn that people are excited and will unite around a story. This project started in a remote region of northern Honduras, where Marisa was invited by the community, which had few books, internet connectivity, television or phones. Marisa came up with the idea of the bandit who steals books but the community ran with it. One father dressed as the masked Bibliobandido–he himself had to leave school at grade 2 due to family poverty. The children made their own books and once a month, the Bibliobandido would ride into town and steal them all. The community made up these details, and kept adding to them so that the story evolved over time.

Reflection: I watched a Bibliobandido video on YouTube and it was super cute. Although I was a little concerned that the film was “dished up” to make the natives look happy in a neocolonial kind of way, it was clear that at least some of the kids were having fun with it, and adults were joining in. It was the community involvement that won me over—El Pital is a poor community, and resources had to be acquired somehow to make this happen. I was curious about where the funding came from—local funding would be better, as what happens if funds from outside dry up? I liked that local groups organized special events around Bibliobandido and that the story took on new characters as the kids grew tired of the old ones. As throughout this meeting, the idea of trusting the students to imagine and create shines through.


STEM Equity in Informal Settings: (Organizers Mimi Ito of Connected Learning lab, Camelia Sanford-Dolly, Ricarose Roque, Celeste Moreno)

This meeting was very different from the biology meetings I usually attend. The focus was education, especially developing and using online methods. This is the language that young people are most familiar with–it is their culture and their future, so it is important for us to make it an engaging, strong and safe learning space for all students.

I teach Biology so was interested in the pre-meetings with a STEM focus, summarized here.

    • There are a lot of assumptions made and examples used in STEM curriculum & teaching that do not make girls/women and  minoritized people feel like they belong there. It is important to make all students feel welcome.

    • This is closely tied with “meaning making”.  Everyone uses STEM at some level in their daily lives–what makes STEM topics meaningful to students? It can involve crafts or story telling, or a combination, that are practiced in student homes. Student (and/or family) input, collaboration and feedback are essential to choosing appropriate approaches for your student population. (See “Building a Home-Place in STEM” by Tiera Tanksley.) One example was “kamayan”, a Philipine practice of coming together for a family gathering with shared food eaten with hands and story telling.

    • Public school education is often not supportive of teacher innovation in this area, in part due to mandated checklists of learning goal or activities. There is much risk and little or no reward, as a teacher’s identity in a field (e.g. social studies teacher who does a maker space project) may be questioned. Support from (semi-) independent organizations (informally settings) is very important.

    • Several chats discussed the importance of long-term support for students–multiple years, not just one year. Methods of support also differ with age and population. Some organizations have PhD students who mentor students in everything from homework to college selection to developing mentorship relationships.

Accessibility & Inclusive Design: Although aimed at accessibility & inclusion, the focus was on student agency.

    • Bill Fischer of KCAD Art College, Grand Rapids emphasized making regular online games more accessible. He described the EPIC project. For blind students, it was important to use descriptors that were not based on visual sense–“leaves on trees were orange” was meaningless because they do not understand what “orange” looks like. Getting feedback from the target population is essential.

The Epic Project

    • Camille Mortimer  is focused on human-centered design for personalized learning. She described using chatbots (AI) to develop personal learning systems for grades 6-12. Students were inexperienced with chatbots and thought people were actually there interacting with them, so giving up a chatbot felt personal.  She described a collaboration with 3 colleagues from different backgrounds. It was helpful to make a recommendation to software engineers and then make a movie about how the designs actually worked with students. Opening up the  process to students gave them opportunity and agency to make suggestions and improve the software.

    • Matthew Farber  is involved in game-based learning (GBL) and Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL). He made a card game called “Awkward Moment” that helps players find solutions to socially awkward situations. He also mentioned one about the hidden rules of college but I cannot find it. He described a Gaming SEL Lab where he develops games in collaboration with university students. One of most invested students was an English Education student and her interest was an inclusive program for creative writing. See more at https://inclusivegames.org

Centering Learners in Game-Based and Online Learning: (Scott Osterwell, David Preston , Jorrel Batak, NASEF Scholastic Esports Fellows Program; Pamela Martinez, U New Mexico; Rebecca Watson, Digital Media youth program rural Canada; Meredith Thompson, Teaching Systems Lab MIT.

    • Scholastic Esports engages groups using a sports model and is drawing in minority students who enjoy competition (and their parents who see this is a valid approach to learning). Unlike most school sports it is “radically inclusive” with a lot of SEL. Teaching students how to dismantle toxic gaming environments, rather than simply navigating them, is an essential component.

    • Pamela Martinez is a proponent of peer review of games, as there is currently no mechanism for faculty to get credit for the work (unless it is published in a journal).

    • Meredith: MIT Teacher Moments Simulations – Free, online, authorable platform for developing and disseminating simulations for experiential education 

    • Kalam Neale: his group has developed esports qualifications available for International delivery

    • Sharon Switzer: DGLT Creator Online project

    • David: Open Source Learning Community  has tools for innovation–use them!

Open-Source Learning logoReflection: I have not been opposed to video games for a long time as I witnessed my son socializing through them. But he had difficulty detaching from online video games as a teen (and possibly continuing even now at age 23)—that was the part I was concerned about. BUT these folks convinced me that online gaming and eSports can be positive, providing alternative ways of competing that don’t depend on traditional sports abilities. Having adults (especially educators) involved makes them safer than they would be otherwise. And having Open Source Learning involved will help keep practices and programs transparent. So now I feel called upon to not simply tolerate online games and eSports but to promote them, with limits, even going so far as to encourage schools, school districts, and even higher levels of political layers, to support them. Did not expect this!

  1. The Pandemic and Young Peoples’ Media Use: Different approaches were used to reach students during the pandemic–this included using television for a population with limited online access. All can be effective, but getting community feedback was essential.

    •  Annabelle Ashbury, Head of Education of Australian Broadcasting Company (like BBC): When the pandemic closed everything down, the ABC made television programs for education support. This was necessary because remote areas had limited online access so this was most equitable approach. Used a combination of mini-lessons (7-10 min) for primary school students; used actual teachers  to script and present. Mini-lessons were also available as videos on demand. These were used a lot and now constitute a database of videos for future use.

    • Dr. Stephanie Smith, Australian Museum of Democracy, Canberra. In grades 5-6, students normally get to visit the capital but this could not happen during the pandemic. They rebuilt materials, with help from teachers who wanted more interaction in digital programs.  The phrase “Bento Box Sustainability” was used to describe how a group of components can be assembled to make a lesson set, e.g. on  the topic of leadership: What is leadership? Who are leaders? How can we be leaders together? What’s next? For this to work well, the questions asked must be considered carefully. Open-ended but manageable.

    • Dr. Rebeka Willis, U Wisconsin, Madison, worked in the Hochunk Nation. with respect to online learning, parent attitudes ranged from “Will do it” to “Can’t do it” to “Won’t do it” to “Can do it better”. Some parents changed category over time, especially if there was a crisis, but parents tended to become more media-savvy, so it was a win for all involved.

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