Most of my career has involved working in education or community programs with an emphasis and value of education and learning. I began to see how family, school, and community can work together to influence an individual to develop and expand their worldview as well as pursue personal and educational goals as a learner. Each sphere of influence plays a role and provides context and meaning for learning.
In a blog post during the Differentiated Instruction course, I wrote about my approach to engaging and communicating with parents of youth in my career exploration program. Sometimes my role is to connect youth to the community and even their parents, sometimes I mediate, sometimes I advocate, and sometimes I advise. In the blog, I shared several strategies that connect parents with the learning and experiences that take place in my program. My experiences in mentoring and teaching children and youth in community and youth development programs relied heavily on valuable partnerships with significant adults in the schools, in the community, and within each learner’s own immediate or extended family.
The roles are not always clearly defined and often times community members act more like family or aunts and uncles serve more as mentors; regardless of the role, I have learned that each is important in providing a support network for each learner. I’ve also come to understand that in each relationship there is a unique balance or combination of what is needed in a particular context or during a crisis or defining moment. Having experience within a school environment and then now working within a community-based program, I am able to emphasize the value of education and learning in a different context and from a different perspective. I can extend and support learning that takes place in the school environment and give additional context and relevance for learners.
My UbD unit on career exploration illustrates how I design learning experiences that value school, family, and community interconnectedness to support young learners. For high school youth, it’s a critical time to focus on the future and begin to explore opportunities and interests that might lead to a career path. In the unit plan, I design activities that allow youth to tap into the networks around them as they begin to explore their post-secondary options. I encourage and support the youth to communicate with parents and school teachers and counselors about their personal and educational goals and I also introduce them to a wider community of professional women who are able to share their work experiences, challenges, and aspirations in their respective career fields.
I also work with each cohort of participants to access resources in their community and to connect with community organizations and individuals who can provide opportunities to extend learning through internships, work experiences, scholarships, volunteer projects, and other extracurricular enrichment activities. Teaching and modeling networking skills with youth serves more than an immediate purpose; it helps them build a life skill they will need to navigate the workplace and each new community that they encounter.
Artifacts that reflect my mastery of ISTE (NETS-C) Standards include my Philosophy of Adaptation, in which I consider the broader context in which learning takes place, how it is shaped and experienced, and the role that technology plays in supporting learners. I emphasize the importance for educators in thriving and adapting within a new culture of learning that is characterized by constant change. I make my case for adoption of a growth mindset but also an acknowledgement that the landscape for teaching and learning is broader and more inclusive than ever before. As educators we need to shift our perspectives from the educational environments that characterized our own childhood learning experiences and recognize the rapidly evolving world that today’s learners must navigate. In my artifact, I demonstrate that the content, context, and dialogue of a learning environment can be enhanced through technology. As educators, we must provide experiences and opportunities for learners to make meaning in a broader context with the community and world around them. Technology can help us model and support learning in a quickly-changing society; one that requires a learner to gain knowledge, understanding, and skills to be an empowered and engaged member.
In my blog post about open learning and its impact on education, I bring attention to an emerging concept in education that is still not widely accepted or integrated into our educational systems. While we see the benefits and potential for open learning and how technology has made that possible across a wide range of groups in our society, as educators, we are constantly weighing the unknowns, the costs, and relevance of new and emerging technologies and concepts. In this artifact, I advocate for use of open learning by touching on the potential for open learning to transform how we go about the business of “education”. At the same time, I emphasize a need for more understanding and a pedagogical shift and foundation that can implement open learning successfully across a wide range of learner groups and learning environments.
My OLTAK reflection synthesizes and demonstrates some of these concepts and beliefs into my practice. The online and virtual learning environment that I write about is one that is characterized by cultural competency, a pedagogical foundation, and purposeful use of digital tools to connect content, ideas, and dialogue among participants. My purposeful and varied use of technology for communication and collaboration with various audiences demonstrates my expertise and understanding of each medium’s appropriateness and effectiveness in the context of the learning environment. I model practice that values inclusion, diversity, intellectual and emotional safety for learners, and use of technology that supports learner engagement and ownership of learning. My modeling an inclusive, engaging, and effective online learning community, I was able to support teachers to transfer that knowledge and understanding to their own students within the physical classroom and the virtual MinecraftEdu gameworld.