Building Relationships

What characterizes classrooms where peer-connected learning takes place? – Cindy O’Donnell-Allen in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom

Shared purpose is perhaps one of the most urgent aspects of the connected learning framework, in that the relationships that drive it are essential for motivation and, in turn, feeling and experiencing love in the classroom. – Danielle Filipiak, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom

Welcome back from Spring Break! I hope you found time to some time to relax and reboot. Over the break I had a chance to catch up on all your great writing and, as Mekenzie wrote, I am also inspired by all the wonderful links you found related to youth and the work they are doing in the world. 

In the wake of all of this, let’s keep going in our thinking about how to design for connected learning in our own contexts but continuing to read and watch the work of our colleagues. Start this week with a making project but maybe also experiment a bit …  start working on your map and then stop to go through a bit of the readings/watchings, and then go back to your map. How does making while you read and think about building relationships impact the ways you remember and create your learning journey? 


This week I’d like you to start by Making A Map!

What is a map? According to Wikipedia, “map” comes from the early 16th from medieval Latin mappa mundi, literally ‘sheet of the world,’ from Latin mappa ‘sheet, napkin’ + mundi ‘of the world’ (genitive of mundus ).

Start to make a map, or a world napkin, of your learning … a map could show a path you’ve taken or one you are thinking about, it can show places you’ve been and artifacts you’ve collected, it can pick up dreams you’ve had or ambitions you are fostering, or a map can support another in finding a way. Your map can start anywhere … and end anywhere … and like these educator-made examples, your map can be on paper, can be made with watercolor, it can be digital and interactive, it can be textual, it can be chronological. It can even be a collage or a mash-up.

How you make your map is completely up to you. However, on this map, I’d like you to describe your own journey/journeys as learners and as you go highlight the role of peers, mentors and caring adults along the way. How did these individuals make a difference in your journey of learning? And what do you think are the implications for you now as a teacher?

Then go back to your map and think about shared purpose. Do you see it here and if so where? How did those purposes impact your learning and your journey? What do you think are the implications for you now as a teacher?

Please share your map with the rest of us and then blog about your reflections about your map making as well as what it makes you notice about learning, about teaching, and about equity


Building relationships in connected learning are described by the overlapping ideas of connecting with mentors, family, peer culture as well as media while working with a sense of shared purpose.

What does shared purpose look like? Let’s hear from the National Veteran’s Art Museum in Chicago.

Dig back into Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom this week and read chapter 6 re: Shared Purpose curated by Danielle Filipiak (page 87). Then go back to chapter 2 of Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom with Cindy O’Donnell-Allen’s chapter about Peer Support Learning (page 25).

Additionally, here are a set of conversations that pick up on similar themes. Engage with those that you find interesting here …

Here is a conversation I had last year with educators Laura Bradley, Kate Fox, and Jennifer von Wahlde as we discuss the ways they have been supporting students by finding authentic audiences and making connections outside their classrooms that are meaningful beyond the standard audience of one, the teacher.

Tap into this discussion recorded by Danielle Filipiak back in 2013 and featuring panelists: Tolu Olorundu, Nicole Mirra, and Joshua Nelson, each of whom talked about the ways they thought about generating stronger connections between classrooms and the community.

If you are thinking about work with young kids you might be interested in browsing this resource On Becoming Change Writers about a group of young people who work together as peers around a shared purpose in their work as well as with community members both on and offline. They are “doing history” says Gail Desler:

Here are some other middle-school age kids “doing” math and science via a suite of app tools from the NY Hall of Science: Math, Science and Recess. What might be important about this work?  In what ways could these projects connect youth to family and community, to mentors, to peers as well as to academic content and ideas?

What happens also when educators work together as peers and mentors? Similar to the Writing Project where I work, Math Teachers Circles create a space for educators to connect with the joys of discovery and collaborative problem-solving, creating lessons that inform their classroom practice. Check out some of the work they are exploring.

Speaking of educators working together, over at Marginal Syllabus this month we are learning from Debbie Reese, an author and educator tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, who writes about the problematic ways Native people’s stories are represented in books, classrooms, and schools. Reese advocates for critical indigenous literacies and shares how Native people’s stories are often written and taught by non-Native people as being part of the past but rarely the present. What kind of relationships does Debbie Reese’s work make you think about? What kind of shared purpose is possible in thinking about the ways we celebrate the many cultures in our communities and classrooms?

(I encourage you to dive into this discussion if you are interested; free free to use our class group too if you don’t want to annotate publicly.)

Finally, let’s close this week with the words of Brother Mike, formerly of the Digital Youth Network in Chicago, talking about the role of mentoring in his and his students lives. (Brother Mike died in 2014; he leaves a legacy that continues.)


This week organize your finds around shared purpose — this is a principle of connected learning that I find particularly interesting as well as complex. What are examples of shared purpose you have seen or experienced? What does it mean to learn with a shared purpose? In what ways does it make you think about your own inquiry questions about your work?

I can start us off with some recent work in connected networks. What is the role of shared purpose in these projects? What are the implications for learning and equity?

  • Student Voice “brings students voices into the education conversation.” Check out their Student Bill of Rights and other projects they are working on.
  • Writing Our Future: American Creed. Check out what some of the youth have been publishing. And look for insights into the work happening in classrooms under Resources/Visit Our Classrooms.
  • Share Your Learning is a “national movement to transform schools into places where students can communicate, collaborate and contribute.” Visit their website to see what they are up to and why.


Tonight, Monday March 18, is our next ED677 Gathering at 7pm. Kathy Walsh, a former ED677er and science teacher at Building 21 in Philadelphia, will be joining us. Please find the link in Canvas.

In connected solidarity,


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