Day 23: Trying to Make the Walls Transparent

Write about one way that you “meaningfully” involve the community in the learning in your classroom. If you don’t yet do so, discuss one way you could get started.

I think the community is really important in the classroom, and it bothers me every day that “learning” is supposed to take place devoid of the rich context of the local environment. It makes sense if you are trying to bus entire populations of 5-18 year olds, but it doesn’t make sense for learning. Context can be everything to meaningful engagement and deep learning.

Having stated that, I feel like this is an area where I am still floundering to discover the “solution” for my classroom.

Last year we brought in a marketing team from Hershey Entertainment and Resorts (the MAIN industry in our small town). They shared with our media studies students about their strategies for marketing Hershey Park and how they made creative and strategic decisions. That was a very cool, local connection for our advertising unit, and I could tell the majority of students appreciated it…even though it meant sitting in just a larger room with a larger screen and slightly more adults talking to them.

Results from the student feedback form we gave after the Marketing presentation
Results from the student feedback form we gave after the Marketing presentation

Last year a colleague of mine was generous enough to let my students attend two more guest speakers–alumni who had gone on to publish a novel and work in the entertainment industry in New York. (Mark Malkoff anyone?) Again, this was such a cool experience to “bring the world in” to our classrooms. The students were able to drive the conversation through questions they wanted to know. It was lovely to have the outside perspectives.

2014-04-16 12.57.30

But I still feel like these experiences are one-off, “special” events. I haven’t quite figured out how to bring the outside in and take the inside out…make the classroom walls transparent… connect the learning to the context that makes it authentic.

One thing I’m trying this year is social media. We have an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to try to connect and learn outside our walls. My hope was to engage former students of my classroom and parents of my current students to interact with our discussions, questions, and experiences. So far we’ve mostly shared out what we’ve done, but I’ll keep looking for those opportunities for dialogue and connection. I’m confident they will come!

Mr. Crowley's class posted a video of their own, and we all provided feedback.
Mr. Crowley’s class posted a video of their own, and we all provided feedback.

Last year my husband and I used Edmodo to connect our classrooms. He teaches 4th grade students at the private school while I teach high school at the public school. We decided to do a poetry unit in the spring; my 11th grade students created videos teaching his 4th grade students about different forms of poetry. That was a pretty cool learning experience for all involved! Even though it was classroom-to-classroom, we were in different school communities, and in some way different worlds because of the age difference and backgrounds of the students.

Here's how our conversations looked on the Edmodo wall.
Here’s how our conversations looked on the Edmodo wall.

Take away?

I’m working on it. I hope I find a way to connect more authentically with the community this year. If I do, I’ll report back here with that victory.

What about you? What has worked in connecting your classrooms to the community outside of them?


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