Sunday, July 19, 2015

Unit 2: Student Engagement and the Power of Connections

Rob: Remember the Power of Connections video interviews I taped over the spring?

Stacy: The ones where you were trying to collect different perspectives on how learning connections happen and how they impact the trajectory of people’s lives?

Rob: Right. I also wanted to show how educators and artists design their learning networks and build out connected learning models.

Stacy: I’m hoping you’re getting ready to say that we’re going to watch clips from some of those interviews as a way to kickoff our discussion of student engagement through connections.

Rob: As a matter of fact…

Stacy: Because there are some really great stories we can share from those interviews.

Rob: I completely agree. I can think of two,in particular, that might provide a great starting point for our discussion about the relationship between learning connections and student engagement.

Stacy: I’m guessing one of those is Emilee Little from New Land Academy?

Rob: It seems that great minds really do think alike. So, do you want to provide a brief introduction?

Stacy: Absolutely. Emilee is the passionate educator who founded New Land Academy in Oklahoma City to serve the refugee community.

Rob: You know, until I met Emilee, I didn’t know there was a refugee community in Oklahoma City.

Stacy: They are a portion of those fortunate families whose requests for permanent settlement are granted each year (approximately 1% of the 50 million refugees worldwide are accepted for resettlement).

Rob: Right. And the young learners at New Land come from countries such as Burma, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. These are young men and women who’ve lost their sense of connection, who aren’t sure who they are, why they exist, or where they’re going.

Stacy: And I know that New Land has developed an incredible approach to curriculum as a way to help these kids recover their sense of identity and worth.

Rob: It’s inspiring. So inspiring, in fact that we should probably let Emilee tell us about it.

Stacy: Agreed.

Rob: I really love hearing about the Rhythms they design around at New Land (see Figure 1.1).

Stacy: Yes, their work points to the importance of that first connection – the connection with self (Bestowing Identity).

Rob: What they’re doing with regards to self-reflection and helping students reach out from that identity is amazing. A great lesson for all of us.

Stacy: Okay, who’s up next?

Rob: I thought we’d go in a slightly different direction with out next video. In this one, we’re going to meet Chris Brewster, the Superintendent at Santa Fe South Schools in Oklahoma City.

Stacy: That’s the charter school in South Oklahoma City that’s transforming their community and the lives of their students.

Rob: Indeed. Chris is a real visionary and the work going on at Santa Fe South is incredible. In this interview, we’re going to hear describe how the team at Santa Fe South Schools are redefining both student and community success by fostering connections and making everyone responsible for learner outcomes.

Stacy: Wow, he brings up some really tough issues, like who is responsible for maintaining learner connections and building community.

Rob: I love his statement about being relentless in not letting kids disconnect.

Stacy: And valuing community outside the classroom.

Rob: That’s a big theme in both of these videos – the extension of the learning community way beyond the class cohort.

Stacy: Okay, here’s a question for you.

Rob: Yes?

Stacy: Both Emilee and Chris work in K-12. Does the same commitment or responsibility apply in Higher Education?

Rob: And if so, who’s responsible for creating and maintaining connections these communities?

Stacy: Those sound like great questions for our community.

Figure 1.1

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