Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ideas for Engaging Students in Passion-Based Learning - Pt 2

Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from a post written for the International Society for Technology Educator's "ISTE Connects." This post was published at the ISTE Connects site which targets educators engaged in improving teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology education.

Technology provides the window to connections and learning around areas of passion and deep personal interest that were never before possible. Some educators I have discussed this concept with have scoffed at the idea for various reasons believing it would be too much work for them to make individualized, differentiated connections for each student. I’ve suggested that their job is not to determine a student's passion, or find the experts and make the connections, but rather to support their students in doing so. And, that doesn’t mean have all the students in your class create blogs where they respond to your prompts or make a podcast about a topic you are studying in social studies. That really, isn't an effective means to helping students explore their passions, publish authentically to an audience they care about, or connect with others with their similar interests. This is a big shift. Here are some smart ways educators might engage in passion-based learning with our students.

Ideas for Engaging Students in Passion-Based Learning

Discover and Consume

First you need to support your students in finding area of passion and deep personal interest which is an ongoing journey. Next you may want to connect them with other students and teachers who share these interests so they have a face-to-face (f-2-f) connection with others with like interests. Once they have identified an area of passion, help them develop strategies to learn more about their topic of interest.

  • Finding Passion
    Help students discover what passions and interests they may have. One way to do this is by having them take an interest inventory. While I am a fan of the Renzulli Learning Profile that helps students discover interests, learning styles, abilities, and expression styles, there are many different types of interest inventories out there. While this is a good idea for starting on the road to helping your students discover their passion, take some time to explore multiple ways to helping students find their passion.
  • F-2-F Connections with Others with Similar Interests
    Ideally an entire school student body and staff would engage in taking a learning profile. If so, this is a terrific way to connect students with other students with similar interests and even identify teachers with interests shared by students. These interests can turn into elective classes in the school and provides a tremendous opportunity for students to make deep connections with other students and their teacher. If a school wide implementation is not possible this is still powerful even if partnering with other classes or finding common interests within your own class. As an educator you'll want to work with your students on some conversation guidelines, starters, and extenders to support your students in engaging in meaningful and perhaps accountable talk.
  • Researching Your Passion
    Once you’ve helped students determine some areas of passion, help them learn more about their area of interest. Perhaps start with an encyclopedia then move to supporting students in using smart search techniques about their area of interest. You may want to show them how to use Technorati to locate bloggers who are writing about the topics they are interested in.
  • Following Your Passion
    Once you've supported students in searching for and finding their passions, show them how to follow their passions. An RSS aggregator like Google Reader is a simple, easy to use tool made just for this purpose. You can learn how to get started by going here.

To find out innovative ways you can support students in “Communicating and Connecting” and ‘Creating and Producing” read the whole story by clicking here. Be sure to check out (and leave) comments too.

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