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Create, Connect, Communicate: the Motion of Language

Written by Pamela Moran
June 01, 2011

As I considered sharing a piece that might represent a school administrator’s application of Digital Is concepts, I knew it would mean pushing myself in an area that remains a challenge –the world of contemporary technologies. In general, I’m pretty comfortable with using technology because I’m not afraid to experiment. At the same time, I don’t have a natural sense of logic that some bring to their work.

It’s not, in my mind, really about age as much as it’s about how people learn. In the reflective part of the process of pre-thinking this submission, I landed on a centering theme of how people learn while flipping through a thousand+ iPhone images of learning spaces, teachers, and learners. I’ve collected these over the past two years while visiting schools. As an administrator, I’ve noticed that learning-rich spaces in which all learners find success seem to have a commonality in three areas: everyone in the community connects with a sense of respectful learning purpose, learning work expresses a creative context in all that the teacher and learners do as they make meaning together, and communication centers and unifies interactions, engagement, and intersections of people to promote accessibility to and of learning.

When I began to think through what I would actually put together for this project, I first considered some sort of image-rich ppt, prezi, or iMovie, but rejected each of those as output choices. I landed on creation of a VoiceThread for several reasons:

  • In a recent twitter conversation, a discussion unfolded about whether VoiceThread had any real worth or was just another faddish tech tool -testing its possibilities offered a chance for my own action research,
  • I’ve never made a VoiceThread although I’ve commented on one, so I wanted to try my hand at building one,
  • Little kids can create and comment on VoiceThreads, so it can’t be too hard a tool for adults to master also, and
  • I wanted a project that would move at a slow reflective pace, elicit interaction, and push me as a learner.

In creating this VoiceThread, I attempted to reflect on observations of learning spaces and connections with both educators and learners in those spaces.

In my opinion, the study of how people learn, especially young people in the care of teachers, represents the most important and neglected area of our learning work in public education today. We spend a lot of time on what kids need to learn, how to assess what they learn, and what adults need to do, but little time on understanding differences and similarities in how individuals learn and how we can change our adult behaviors and dispositions in response.

Over a career, I’ve considered what we adults can do to create learning spaces that are comfortable and rich with learning opportunity. The images I chose remind me of spaces where learning resonates with a sense of rhythmic harmony, rather than those where there’s an asynchronicity and learning dissonance. The reason I chose these comes from a comment from a PE teacher who said, “we need to focus on creating the visual images of what we want to create, not on ones of what we need to stop doing.”

Thomas Jefferson who lived in my county once said something that reminded me of this PE teacher’s perspective.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

Recently, a medical school faculty member discussed a similar perspective with me from an article used as a rationale to totally revamp 100 years of medical school curricula, instruction, assessment, and learning spaces. This article makes the case that learners who work together in teams to stretch their thinking and make meaning of relevant content are more likely to be successful in medical school. If our top 1% students who do school REALLY well need this kind of engagement to achieve peak performance, why would we not change the way we work with children in Pk-12 to reflect that as well?

I believe when teachers facilitate those same kind of integrated opportunities for young people to create, connect, and communicate as they learn, they’re more likely to hold onto learning for a lifetime. That’s what I tried to capture in this project.

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