Connecting Interests

I [am] reminded of just how revolutionary it is to say out loud that learning should be shaped by what our students are interested in. Amplifying the Teacher Perspective on Connected Learning, Nicole Mirra, DML Central

… when we think about the word “interests” … we think about the hobbies, the passions, things that we like to do, things we enjoy, which is one kind of interest … but another kind of interest is a more political type of interest, meaning a sort of need, demand, a kind of self-interest … in other words, what are my interest in this game, what do I have at stake here? Thinking about Interest-Driven, quoting Ben Kirchner, presentation DML 2013

Congratulations everyone! It is mid-semester and you all are doing a great job working on your weekly cycles and sharing and learning together.

This week we are going to first stop for a moment and do some self-assessment — you can work on this over the next few weeks, no rush here. This self-assessment is the same one that I will ask you to complete, and turn in to me, at the end of the semester. This mid-semester one is not a requirement to turn in now, but simply meant to be a tool for your own learning and reflection. I have also included a link for you to give me feedback as the instructor.

See the ED677 Self Assessment Guide 2019 and feel free to email me if you have questions or want to talk this through (please note that I will be out of the country from March 1-10 with intermittent email access).


As we start our transition into the second half of the semester we begin to dig into Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom which we will use a main guiding text for the next three weeks. This text is divided into six chapters, organized around the six Connected Learning design and learning principles, and draws together work and reflections by educators.

Another way to describe Connected Learning looks like this:

During these six weeks, I encourage you to follow your inquiry question/s while we dig into these principles and the role of interests in learning and equity.


When we first started this process of connecting our learning here at ED677 we took the time to honor our interests. This week we are focused on unpacking interests — personal, professional, political — and thinking about their implications for learning. What does it mean for learning to be driven by one’s interests? What is, as Nicole says above, revolutionary about it? What are the implications for teaching and for equity?

This week, write a letter that expresses your ideas, makes an argument, or otherwise advocates for something that matters to you and that you are passionate about. Choose an audience for your letter; this can be a hypothetical person, a real person, a group of people, an open letter to a more public community, etc. Choose a purpose for your letter; what do you want to express, share, advocate for, question? Your letter can also be made with or include multiple media, including text, images, drawing, video.

Need inspiration? Visit NWP’s Letters to the Next President 2.0, a project from 2016 where youth 13-18 were asked to write a letters to the next U.S. president (before the election) about matters that mattered most to them. Want some support thinking about public writing? Check out NWP’s Civically Engaged Writing Continuum for support and additional student created ideas.

You can publish your letter on your blog or else just share an excerpt of it or a highlight with us (no need to share if it’s personal/sensitive … again, please make your own decisions about this). After you write your letter, take some notes about your process reflecting on the how, why and what of your letter, as well as consider the implications of this kind of making for connected learning and equity.


Start your reading/watchings this week by downloading a copy of Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom; please re-read the Introduction by Antero Garcia along with Chapters One and Four: Interest-Driven Learning by Nicole Mirra and Production-Centered with Cliff Lee.

Let’s think about these interests and check out a Teaching Channel “Deep Dive” called Educating for Democracy in a Digital Age. Read the overview blog here and then dive into their resources related to student voice with a core question: How can students voice their perspective on issues that matter to them?

Remember this video that we watched a few weeks ago? Young kids clearly have interests and things that matter to them that they want to share. Check out the work of another group of teachers and young students who are documenting and sharing what they care about with their community in this resource Today’s Reasons Why We Need Students To Write for Authentic Audiences from Bastrop, Texas.

Then, going back to our discussion about around play and games, Constance Steinkuehler is a games-based learning scholar from the University of Wisconsin and in this interview on Interest-Driven Learning published to Edutopia she describes how her work with games-based learning led her into a focus on interest-driven pedagogy.

Finally, let’s think about the role of authenticity and purpose in our own professional learning with this recent Marginal Syllabus reading: “Generative Principles for Professional Learning for Equity-Oriented Urban English Teachers” by Allison Skerrett, Amber Warrington, and Thea Williamson. A related interview with the authors is also here:

Finding 5/6/7

This week find and share inspiring work created by youth that to speak to their interests.


This week spend some time reflecting on the role you see interests playing in your learning as well as that of your students. How might interests provide a path towards equity? How might production enhance interest-driven learning and support equity?

In connected learning solidarity,


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