Meeting with the Expert: Part One

As many of you, my dear readers, already know, most of the posts on this blog are for my Writing in Discipline course for my English Education major. Our last project, the Unfamiliar Genre Project, proved to be a challenge and a half, but I can honestly say I have never pushed myself so hard or learned so much in four short weeks. Now, with the second half of the semester upon us, our brave little class is taking on even more projects.

The topic I chose this time is called “Connected Learning.” I had absolutely no idea what connected learning was, or the impact it can have in a classroom, when I walked into our class today. I sat down in blissful ignorance, ready to delve into my subject and finally figure out what I had gotten myself into. However, our professor had other plans. She had invited Antero Garcia, a professor at Colorado State University and a guru when it comes to the wide world of education. I have had the pleasure of talking to Antero in the past, but this was the first time I finally sat across the table from him and picked his brain.

Antero is as personal as he is professional. He is not afraid to admit when he does not know something, but he is incredibly humble when asked for his opinion. He has a wicked sense of humor, a smooth voice, and a calm  demeanor that I am sure can keep anyone’s attention for hours at a time. He patiently answered our questions and gave us his insight into connected learning. It only made sense to bring this up, as he practically wrote the book on it.

Connected learning in the classroom is a style of teaching that incorporates not only the curriculum that a teacher needs to cover, but also the outside interests and passions of the students. Antero talked about using games, such as Minecraft and Dungeons and Dragons, as a base for understanding how our students learn. “Students hate school because it seems like work. These games are just as mentally vigorous, if not more so, as school. So why not use that style of learning to teach?” he pointed out. Students are much more likely to engage in learning when they find it fun. They may not even realize how much work they are putting in.

He also pointed out how important it is for teachers to connect with their students. He made it clear that technology is becoming an essential tool to learning, as it needs to be, but the real connections lie in face-to-face interactions. Establishing connections in the real world as opposed to just over emails, social media, or whatever else are what will make the students more comfortable and make it easier to further their learning.

My only regret was having a maximum of fifteen minutes to talk. I could listen to Antero speak for hours at a time. I look forward to talking to him more later in the semester, a meeting on which I will update you, my dear readers. In the meantime, let’s dive into the world of connected learning.

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  1. Beth,

    i loved meeting with Antero almost as much as you did. I thought he was incredibly insightful and rather profound though i doubt he would ever admit to it. I wish we could have kept asking questions because i have so many more. I love how he gave both practical and theoretical advice. Someday when i have my own classroom it would be amazing to have someone like Antero on speed dial to ask questions and run ideas by.

    I was personally enraptured with the idea of making games into learning, but i fear the gimmick of “we played a game, now here’s a learning topic related to it” rather than truly having skill and strategies integrated into the actual game-time. And if you manage to do that, how to you make sure that students are learning and using skills that are transferable and applicable to their other work. it’s just such a wide field and there’s so much variety, how can you possibly make the right choice? that’s kinda how i feel about all teaching choices though, there are just too many options and not enough time and too much pressure to get it right the first time. But that’s our job, to narrow the field of possible learning opportunities to those that we think are best suited to our students and those which will best help our students to grow and learn and become independent.

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