I am a very text oriented person. I am a visual learner and love to read things in order to understand them. I will fully admit that I am not artistic, so the idea of actually drawing anything was very intimidating. Even as a teacher I rarely draw for my students, even diagrams make me nervous because I just don’t see myself as being an artist at all. However, as I have already mentioned, I feel I am strong with words, and words often guide me in my learning journeys. Therefore I felt it was appropriate to make my learning map in a text format.
I used the website wordle.net in order to create my map. Wordle is a website that takes a block or blocks of text and pulls out and analyzes the words that are in the text. Depending on how often a word is used in the text block the size of the word changed in the wordle. Those words that appear more often show up larger than those that are not used as much. I use this tool often with my students to help them figure out the main idea of passages we read, as well as things that they write. Wordle boils down a whole lot of text into simple words that create a visual picture of the main or important ideas. My students love to use this program because it helps them to see not only what their main ideas are, but it allows them to add style to their pieces by replacing words that maybe are too common or too often used.
After using wordle so much during the year I actually create an individual gift for each of my departing students using the website. At the end of each year I do a project with my students where they have to describe every student in the class in one single word. I then take this compiled list of words and create a unique wordle for each student that is framed alongside a picture of them from the first day of 5th grade. The students really seem to enjoy this gift and I think it creates a lasting memory of their 5th grade year and the kind words that their classmates had to say about them.
Therefore I thought it was only appropriate that I used a wordle to analyze my Connected Learning journey so far. I took all my blog posts that I have written this semester and plugged them into wordle to see what ideas stuck out the most. You can often customize wordle to change the shape/color/layout of your wordle. Most times I have to play around with the wordle a bunch to ensure that the layout works and is appealing. However I simply clicked on the first wordle that came up after plugging in my blog posts and I absolutely loved what came up! It is clear from my wordle that “students” is a word that I have used most often this semester, and it is nice and separated from the rest of my wordle. I felt like this was such an omen, that “students” was so large and prominent…because isn’t what all of this is really about in the end? While I want to professionally develop myself for my own fulfillment, in the end I am pursuing this Connected Learning degree as a way to better support my students. While so many of my posts this trimester have been focused around me and what I need as a learner to be successful, I am impressed that everything in the end still comes back to my students! I feel like this map keeps me grounded in what is important and gives me a renewed sense of energy as I go in to the second half of the trimester.
In this journey I think my peers in this class have been very helpful in opening my eyes to new ways of thinking and learning. From learning about how equity is being worked on in a math classroom, to hearing about equity and connected learning through the lens of an art teacher, I am fascinated by how much my peers know about connected learning and how much they are pushing themselves to incorporate it in their classrooms. I also have another peer/colleague who just completed the Connected Learning certificate and I have found her to be extremely helpful in pushing me to think differently about connected learning and equity and how they can be applied to my classroom. This colleague was the one that suggested opening up time before school for students to come in and use the computers in my room to complete projects. I am always in my classroom about 2 hours before the students come in for the day, but it never occurred to me to utilize this time to create equity in my room. After her suggestion I now have several students come in each week to gain access to the computers at school and complete assignments that they are unable to complete at home. This simple change in mentality and time management has created a greater sense of equity in my room and I have seen a positive impact on my students since it has been implemented. I think leaning on and relying on peers to help solve the equity problem has been very useful for me. I always tell my students that they are not expected to “go it alone”, that I am always here to help. And I am glad I have this class and colleagues that feel the same way about me on my journey!