September 22, 2017

Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia on Connected Learning, Civic Engagement | TDS14

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TN_TDS2014_GarciaMirraIn a tag-team presentation about connected learning during LJ and SLJ’s virtual event, The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center, held October 1, academics Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia described civic engagement, social responsibility, citizenship, and shared purpose as key components to this approach to education.

During their talk, entitled “Creating a Collective Culture of Education: Classroom/Library Partnerships that Support Students’ Academic and Civic Learning,” Mirra and Garcia said that relationships among people, not the “shiny digital devices” that enhance their communication, are at the heart of this concept.

Mirra, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education (GSEIS), said that connected learning is “taking knowledge and expertise you care about, going out and doing something with a shared purpose.” It is “the “idea of connecting with students to give them the best educational experience possible.” She cited the National Writing Project as an example.

Garcia, a professor at Colorado State University who works with the Colorado State University Writing Project and the National Writing Project, said that connected learning is “relational.” For it to succeed, “there needs to be trust, and also a willingness to engage and put yourself out.”

“Citizenship is not something we assume when we are 18,” Mirra added. “We live in a democracy—we are connected to each other by laws we choose to obey and a system of self-governance.”

Garcia said that the fan-based Harry Potter Alliance and YA author John Green’s Nerdfighters, along with online knitting communities, are “examples of what connected learning can look like.”

Another instance of collective civic engagement among educators, Garcia said, is the Twitter hashtag #FergusonSyllabus, used by educators and others to share opinions and information relating to the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.

Garcia also cited the “timely example” of teachers and student in Colorado’s Jefferson County school district protesting the school board’s wish to take references of civil disobedience out of an AP history curriculum.

Mirra believes that librarians are well positioned to initiate connected learning. “The atmosphere around education is so urgent and sometimes ominous,” she said. “Librarians are in a powerful place to add this fun and imagination to learning….Kids can tap into areas of interest in the library in a way that is not high stakes.”

She went on to describe a UCLA-initiated collaboration with students in the city that involves “Youth Participatory Action Research.” UCLA faculty and students guide teenagers through the process of researching issues they feel passionate about, such as student leadership, and support them in bringing their thoughts and research to the public. Mirra and students often “partner with librarians and use the library as a community hub.”

Mirra (@Nicole_Mirra) and Garcia (@anterobot) encouraged listeners to reach out to them about connected learning with the Twitter hashtag #TDSConnected, in addition to the event hashtag, #TDS14.

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Sarah Bayliss About Sarah Bayliss

Sarah Bayliss (sbayliss@mediasourceinc.com) is associate editor, news and features, at School Library Journal.