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Years in the Making with Connected Learning: Interest-Driven Learning

Years in the Making with Connected Learning: Interest-Driven Learning

Written by Christopher Rogers
August 02, 2017

In the publication Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, Nicole Mirra challenges deficit narratives to “remind us that children are complex beings who are not simply interested in childish things; instead, they are citizens in the making who offer sophisticated observations and critiques of the inequalities and injustices around them that educators need to honor and build upon. We have an urgent need to utilize students’ voices and interests in order to help them develop expertise and agency.” Building upon this critical insight, I have compiled recent examples of strong interest-driven projects that cultivated a deep commitment to youth choice and voice, as meaningful ingredients to transformative learning experiences.

The evolution of the Google-innovated Genius hour has brought a whole new wave of experimentation into the classroom. By focusing on this process of interest and choice, students have created new multimodal platforms for learning that can be recycled into many different school projects and topics. One strong example of this work can be found at the Birch School, which was a 2014 LRNG award winner.

“The process makes them feel a sense of belonging and that they have a say in what happens in their day,” Fox said, adding that although the problem-solving process takes longer, the responsibility students feel to the group and larger school community is worth it. “The benefits that we reap are so great when it comes from them.”

Read more at Educator Innovator.

Clifford Lee, of Youth Radio at the time, speaks powerfully to the ways experimenting with multimodal storytellings within a warm environment can produce transformative learning experiences. “By learning skills to produce a multimodal story about things important in their lives, their voice and their stories are amplified, while strengthening the academic English literacies that are the currency of school.” This is in response to this Walk in The Shoes project, founded by Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong.

Walk In My Shoes is a series of six digital storytelling workshops for immigrant and refugee teenage girls at Oakland International High School. With this project, the girls will invite readers to walk in their shoes: see through their eyes, hear the soundtrack of their lives, and follow the path of their journey. The project will offer girls practical training in self-definition and the crafting of rich stories, increase their proficiency with media and digital technologies, help them to interrupt immigrant stereotypes that restrict their life paths to doctors or domestic workers with no middle ground, foster cross-cultural connections, and bolster confidence.

Read more at Walk In My Shoes. situates itself as an online community for students to teachers to engage in authentic networked conversation across classrooms and communities. Not shying away from thorny issues within the public sphere, Youth Voices creates space for young people to learn what it means to write and speak for real audiences, even responding to work with grace, clarity, and nuance. The best way to learn about their work is through visiting the site,, and please learn more about them in the Digital-Is resource they created: 

This is why we have Youth Voices, to have students create such voiced discussion posts that their peers have no choice but to talk back in passionate and thoughtful ways. And when voices from research are included as well, isn’t this what we mean by academic writing? On Youth Voices our students are writing for real audiences and they are speaking with engaged voices. They are doing scholarly work with peers and experts within a particular branch of knowledge, and their conversations are enriched by sourced, linked, quotations from ongoing research. That’s what we mean by “authentic conversation.” 

Read further in this resource at The Current.

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