By: Justin Reich

Media: Education Week

Date: March 11, 2014



One of the central challenges of advancing progressive, technology-mediated practices is helping teachers develop a vision of what change can look like in a classroom. What does it look like when teachers and students use technology to produce new media and the Internet as a space for global conversation and sharing? What does it look like to turn responsibility for learning over to students, and to support their exploration of their interests? While a few extraordinary souls are willing to venture alone into the unknown, most of us want a familiar guide.

Led by Antero Garcia, the Digital Media and Learning Hub and National Writing Project have recently collaborated to produce Teaching in the Connected Classroom, an e-book of classroom stories and examples of putting connected learning into practice. Connected learning is probably best understood as a modern, networked incarnation of progressive ideas that have their roots in Rousseau, Motessori, and Dewey.

Appropriately, the book is organized into chapters aligned with the major principles of connected learning: learning that is interest-driven, peer-supported, academically-oriented, production-centered, openly-networked, and conducted with a shared sense of purpose.* Each chapter includes examples of teacher practice from around the country, with contributions from some of the most innovative connected educators in the country, like Nicole Mirra, Bud Hunt, and Meenoo Rami. Each chapter is also linked to additional resources on the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site.

Across the cases, the stories of students stand out over the stories of a technology. There isn’t much discussion of particular apps, these tools play bit parts in the background. In the fore are students: exploring their interests, finding their voice, and making themselves seen and heard in schools and beyond. What is important here is how technology amplifies conversations about creativity, voice, justice, and equity, not the technologies themselves.

For teachers of English, Language Arts, Social Studies, and the other Humanities, Teaching in the Connected Classroom will prove particuarly inspiring reading and a source of new ideas for projects and lessons. I imagine it as perfect reading over the summer, as teachers have a little more leisure to read and reimagine the next cycle of classroom life.

On March 13, there will be a webinar hosted by the National Writing Project with some of the editors of the book, which I’m sure will be a stimulating conversation. Many thanks to the writers, editors, and sponsors for bringing more teacher voices and examples of practice into the conversation.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

*Yep, writing a sentence with parallelism issues in an article about the National Writing Project. Gonna hear about it…