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Years in the Making with Connected Learning: Community Collaboration

Years in the Making with Connected Learning: Community Collaboration

Written by Christopher Rogers
August 02, 2017

Almost 50 years ago from this moment, Grace Lee Boggs began to reflect on the power of education as it relates to the power to shape community. In Education: The Great Obsession, she argues that schools need to embrace their role as centers of the community and that the community’s needs and problems must look to take a central place within the curriculum. Boggs continues, “Through the solution of real community problems, students discover the importance not only of skills and information but also of the ideas and principles that must guide them in setting and pursuing goals.” In this resource around community collaboration, we return to Detroit to see how educators have put these ideals into practice, as well as expand beyond Detroit to see how teachers in other parts of the country are partnering with local communities to extend the scope of student learning and impact.

The work of Detroit Future Schools grew out of grassroots collaborations with educators and community activists, flowering multiple projects that seek to bridge the gap between education and community change. A recent iteration of this work can be found in their “No Water, No Life” project led by students and carried into the internationally-renowned Allied Media Conference.

“Through these projects, students create media that explores essential questions about their lives and their communities, empowering them to use media to shape their worlds. In DFS classrooms, media-making is not the end goal but one of the vehicles through which we develop essential skills. Bobby shared these thoughts about the final video: “The film, I think, is a powerful example of young people taking on an issue in their community, and amplifying their own voice regarding the issue, with humor, nuance, sophistication, and a sense of justice.”

Read more at Allied Media.

How can schools take on multi-generational, multi-cultural, even multi-lingual opportunities where a wide array of parents can take part in making the learning rooted, relevant, and supportive of networked learning? In this project from Andover-Bread Loaf, we meet a school community and teacher who found that opportunity when parents came to the Saturday workshop. 

ABL, therefore, is an intentional community formed in the context of place-based social action strategies. Participants, often multi-generational and cross-sectoral (students, parents, teachers), attend workshops and other in- and out-of- school events and programs, where they are encouraged to draw on their own experiences and heritage as they write in response to a “prompt.” They share their writing orally in public, yet supportive, settings. The wide array of settings—including coffee houses, art centers, community organizations, and schools—makes literacy learning into a community-wide initiative. The network formed by these varied settings keeps teachers, community educators, parents, and others working in collaboration across their institutional boundaries.

Read more at Educator Innovator.

There’s still much work to understand the school-community nexus and how the complicated stories of economic and neighborhood development affect cultural community ecoystems, as well as the learning ecosystems that make up a community. In this project out of Philadelphia, we meet a classroom of students and teachers who found a way to take their stories of self-discovery and create a new platform for agency and voice.

“People expect student work, especially from our most marginalized communities, that either projects overt
 positivity or evokes pity. But
 this does not accurately reflect 
the complex lives our students 
live. It is not the burden of our 
students to uplift others; the 
beauty and depth of their sto
ries stand on their own. Whether in a circle inside the classroom or on the wall of a barbershop up the street, being heard is critical to our students. We need a thousand creative ways for them and their powerful work to reverberate beyond our school walls.”

Read more at Rethinking Schools.

Community collaboration that emerges out of the classroom begins with the questions that invite it, that make it a necessity. In this project from a DFS collaborator and fellow LRNG supporter Danielle Filipiak, we see the ways in which she co-investigates a learning journey with her students around the real issues of Detroit and how students can work together with community partners to make an intervention.

“I realized that it was not enough for my students to participate in what I deemed as transformative practices on an individual scale or in isolated instances; the institutions that surrounded them needed to be transformed as well, and it was time- as I saw it, for us to develop a sense of collective ownership in creating the changes necessary to turn our city into a place of hope- a community that worked for us. This process took over a year, but it is one that strengthened relationships, grew creative capacity, and helped students to use media in new and powerful ways to speak back to those forces that fettered them to a narrative that painted them as anything but leaders in their dying city.”

Read more at this resource on The Current.



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