Affinity Book Club
Bridging Interests to Classrooms
One of the questions of connected learning and Affinity Networks is how to bridge the gap between the individual, personal, focused learning about particular interests and the learning focus of the classroom. A concern expressed by Kevin is:
Does the presence and knowledge of a teacher/adult ruin the experience for the young person engaged in an Affinity Space that resonates with them? In other words, by bringing these niche elements into the classroom and anchoring them as a learning experience, do we take all the magic out of it for them?
We as teachers may want to connect learning to the student’s world, yet we also want the students to maintain their drive and purpose, undiluted and unencumbered by our classroom intrusion. We want our connection to be an invitation of learning connections to extend and enhance the student’s own passions.
Interesting to think about this post/approach by @SeanRuday in context with #clmooc slow-reading of Affinity Online … is there overlap between what he is describing and the youth culture surfacing in Affinity Spaces? https://t.co/L17qEM6Jgc
— CLMOOC (@CLMOOC) March 3, 2019
To help students make these meaningful connections, I recommend asking them to apply the writing, reading, and language strategies and concepts they learn in school to out-of-school contexts and then share the results in class.
The out-of-school contexts can include any language-oriented event and use a wide range of formats – books and magazine articles are certainly included, but so are songs, television shows, text messages, social media posts, conversations, and attendance at outside events. These experiences all represent opportunities for students to apply the literacy strategies they learn in school.
He then provides many examples for inviting — “asking them to apply” — the strategies in class to their own reading and writing experiences with their own interests. They then share in class.
I think it’s the sharing in class that encourages the invitation further — sharing what strategies were used to create something that connects to their interests — and the strategies enhanced their own ideas about those interests to share with others [in the classroom and in their affinity networks], making the connection to their world in an authentic way.
When I taught, my middle school students loved Slice of Life writing — writing a moment in detail about their interests and activities. I asked them to share their writing strategies and examples below their writing [my example]. Of course, they’d been helping each other as peers with feedback while learning our strategies for quite a while, so revising and sharing was a part of our process. So when they wrote their Docs or Blogs, they revised their drafts often with peer support. Sharing their stories and interests and their writing strategies fit with our process and also connected to their lives; they appreciated being able to improve their writing so the reader could “see” their message.
Language Arts classes provide an entry point for connecting student interests and classroom learning. It could be a launching point to other learning projects in other subjects as well, if the classrooms allow student choice in curricular projects.
Perhaps a basketball player might want to understand the physics of the dribbling basketball or the math behind the backboard lay-up.
The possibilities are there; the motivation to do so are beginning in the “maker-spaces” and “genius hour” classrooms. Institutions like education are slow to adapt, but the future for a bridge between students’ affinity networks and our classrooms is starting a structural connection through the maker-space and genius hour instructional adaptations.
What strategies do you have for inviting a connection between student interests and classroom learning?
Vasco da Gama Bridge Photo
cropped and added text in Bazaart frame