CLmooc BC Affinity Bridge

Affinity Book Club

What is it?  A twitter chat, very slow, over the month As CLmooc delves into the book Affinity Online at #CLmooc.


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?

~ Kevin Hodgson

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.

Sean Ruday offers one such strategy as @CLmooc shared:

Sean suggests:

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.

Sean Ruday

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.

An Example

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.

Thanks to CLmooc and Sean Ruday for their inspirational sharing.

What strategies do you have for inviting a connection between student interests and classroom learning?

Photo Credit

Vasco da Gama Bridge Photo

Flickr: by William Warby

CC 2.0

cropped and added text in Bazaart frame


on “CLmooc BC Affinity Bridge
5 Comments on “CLmooc BC Affinity Bridge
  1. I think by asking students to apply literacy strategies to pop culture also encourages them to become better critical thinkers. Over time, they will recognize weaknesses and fallacies in the messages they are hearing.

    • Yes Charlene. That’s also an important aspect of authentic learning — to include the things students are interested in — or don’t like at all, so they can critically examine either. Great point. Thanks, ~ Sheri

  2. Bridge is a good way to think of it, as metaphor, and you are right to connect these ideas from the book to the article. A teacher finds and/or makes those bridges, if we want our classrooms to relevant to students.

    • Yes, I think many teachers are making these connections and adaptations. Even for those of us who are beginning to understand connected learning and affinity networks, it’s not easy to create such learning within our classrooms due to the institutional structures of our schools. But we can begin building the bridge to the future, in our own schools, knowing the future is already here.

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