Connecting Student Interests to Action

Apologies to everyone for falling behind on my posts. I’m going to post several today in an attempt to get back on schedule. Forgive me if I seem to be overflowing with blogginess this afternoon.

Romeo and JulietI’ve been exploring how to use Connected Learning in the college classroom for a couple of months now. I’ve considered how to use course design to make the class more relevant to students, and I’ve spent some time thinking about contexts that can connect to the personal interests of a diverse group of students.

There’s more to Connected Learning than just choosing a topic that students are interested in however. Students’ interest needs to inspire them to take action in ways that require them to learn more. Now, I want to focus on that shift that needs to happen, that moment when student interests lead to student action and learning.

First, let me explain the idea generally. The teacher identifies a context that will tap student interests and at the same time inspire students to want to learn more. That “need to know” should align with the academic purposes of the course. In other words, the teacher chooses or designs a relevant context that relates to students’ interests and that places students in a scenario where they “need to know” the information that the course is meant to teach.

The context or scenario is typically related to some kind of action. It may be some problem students want to solve, something students want to create, or some challenge students want to overcome. Students work together, literally connecting with one another and with others in their communities, to solve the problem, create something, or meet the challenge.

To see what I mean, take a look at Antero Garcia’s Redefining Romeo and Juliet: Reclaiming the “Ghetto.” Garcia creates a context where students dig into the how the play is interpreted and draw conclusions about how the drama works and how people bring their own social constructs to their readings.

Read more about how Garcia’s activity connects student interests to action in my post on the Bedford Bits blog.

[Photo: Romeo and Juliet by DisturbedMurders Photography, on Flickr]