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Learning/Designing with a Twist

Learning/Designing with a Twist

Written by Dianna Baldwin
February 10, 2017

This past summer I attended our local chapter of the National Writing Project, Red Cedar Writing Project, leadership meeting. During the meeting, we were given the opportunity to join projects that were either in progress or just starting up. I found myself intrigued by the description of both and I decided that these two projects sounded interesting and fulfilled my need to combine learning with technology.

Little did I know what an awesome team I would join. There are seven of us, and our leader has taken to calling us the Magnificent Seven (but without all the violence, of course). I have to admit that never in my wildest dreams did I expect this team to be as productive and driven as it has proven to be. So what has it been like for me?

Our first meeting was a day-long Saturday where we got together and started brainstorming ideas for new curriculum design for I remember being both impressed and intimidated by the dedicated K-12 teachers in this team. I also remember feeling a bit like the odd-woman-out since I’ve never taught in a K-12 environment. I’ve worked with plenty of youth doing week long workshops/instruction, but that is so completely different than what these men and women do on a day to day basis. They have my utmost respect, and the insights they have shared has proven invaluable to me.

Once we spent a day figuring out our goals and plans, we began the real work of thinking through and compiling our playlist. For me, this proved to be extremely challenging. As a higher ed person, I was not certain that I would ever have the opportunity to put into practice anything I designed. I kept trying to keep the big picture in mind to realize that any curriculum I put together could ultimately be used by anyone, but I still found it difficult to think in those terms without wondering how I could use it.

I finally realized, after a lot of thought and discussion with other team members, that I could develop a curriculum that I could use with my youth work on campus and in the community through outreach programs. This was the piece I needed to get me moving forward. Comics are a huge part of my life, and I don’t believe people realize the power of the written word with graphics. More importantly, I don’t think people understand the impact comics can have on their life and others, and the agency they can gain by creating them.

The overall process of this work has been amazing and gratifying. I’ve met a great group of teachers who truly embody what it means to be a teacher. They are innovative and willing to think outside of the box to help others learn. The concepts behind and are challenging youth to have a voice and to use it to speak out in favor of the ideals they have or against the injustices they see daily. Be it about cyber/bullying, LGBTQ rights, racism in this country, or any other topic, gives them a space to be heard. gives them a different way to learn. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be that this work is attempting to meet students where they are and give them agency in their everyday lives. For me, this is what being a teacher is all about.