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Building a Case

Written by Paul Oh
May 09, 2012

I had the pleasure and privilege of being in a Connected Learning Google Hangout today with a bunch of very smart people. Antero Garcia, a Digital Is author, was the featured guest and he framed the hangout by titling it: “A Discussion on Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and the Teaching Profession.”

The conversation, which you can listen to and watch here, was fascinating. Ellen Middaugh, Associate Director of the Civic Engagement Research Group at Mills College, spoke eloquently about many aspects of her work as a researcher, including the Youth & Participatory Politics Network and a collaborative project between Mills, NWP and the Oakland Unified School District to implement a civic engagement and civic education pedagogy.

Greg McVerry, whom I met at a Hack Jam organized by NWP educator Andrea Zellner last fall, discussed his perspective on, among other things, issues of equity based on his own research.

And Antero made terrific observations about the use of mobile devices in schools, about giving his students in South Central LA opportunities to be critical producers and consumers of media, about the use of canonical texts and literature as a means by which students develop their sense of identity.

You should watch the archive.

Towards the end of the conversation, Howard Rheingold talked about his most recent social media project, which involves high school teachers. As he described the work, he mentioned the banning of cellphones in some schools. Then pointed out that in his opinion it’s less safe to forbid kids’ the opportunities to understand and critically engage social media – by banning phones, for instance – than it is to let them use those tools in school.

I agree.

And that made me think: How do we build our case that youth need to be given opportunities to create and not just consume? That social media and youth culture can mediate those opportunities? That agency, play, iteration, and even failure are critical components of the learning process?

How do we build our case?

These are some of the answers that came to me today, during and after the Hangout conversation:

We can bring allies together, as the NWP did as part of this recently released CoSN report, or what MacArthur has done as part of its DML and Connected Learning work. (But we need to do more of that.)

We can reach out purposefully to those youth and teachers who work in areas that are underserved and are probably most in danger of being over-mandated and over-tested. We can then organize in communities of practice, mediated by the social web. (We really need to do a lot more of this.)

We can document our practice in places like Digital Is and show that we are both teachers and intellectuals who inquire into our own work. (We’ve done a lot already, thanks to all who have contributed.)

We build our case. Individually and collectively.

How do you build your case, individually? How should we build our case, collectively?