Academic, Civic, Community and Career Connections

“Learners flourish and realize their potential when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunity” (Ito et al. 2013:8)

“It is important to consider the context of academic learning being framed: educators must push to integrate the socially and culturally meaningful contexts of youths’ lives with the academic expectations of today’s classrooms.” (Garcia, 2014)

During a recent gathering, one of us asked for a definition of “Connected Learning.” The graphic above is one way that Connected Learning has been represented, ie. with youth interests in the center of a larger connected ecosystem of learning.

Another way look at it is in this image above where Connected Learning happens at the intersection of youth interests, peer culture, and opportunities (whether these be academic, community, career, etc.).

This week, as we return from spring break, let’s dive into this opportunity aspect of Connected Learning, also known as the “academic principal,” which ultimately connects academic opportunity to the civic, community, and career connections that are important in being a truly connected learner.

And, since we are all situated in this academic circles, let’s up the ante a bit and do our making alongside a set of students and their teacher from Philadelphia.


Kathy Walsh is a science teacher at Building 21 in Philadelphia and an alumna of Arcadia University (who also took ED677 in 2015). Last semester she and her 9th grade students were exploring the question “What are the chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday lives?” The students researched this question after choosing a topic that was of interest to them and then created blogs to share their findings.

Kathy tells us this about the problem frame and the context:

Problem Frame: Since we are exposed to so many chemicals and take these chemicals for granted when we use products, we consume products without a lot of knowledge about the chemicals involved.

Context: As part of an introduction to chemistry in a Grade 9 (first year of high school) as part of a physical science class, my students were supposed to pick a topic or consumer product they use and inform people about the chemicals that are involved in the use of that product to help them make more informed decisions.

Kathy asked that our ED677 class look at, read through, and respond to the students’ work. They have these blogs shared with the world but have not yet gotten much response. And, as many of you are new bloggers yourselves, I thought you could relate and might want to support the kids with some input and feedback. And given this is our “academic” week, it seemed like a perfect connection!

Here is a document that links to all 31 of these blog posts. In order to make sure that all the students hear from us, here is my suggestion for a process:

  1. Pick 4 of these blog posts to read this week.
  2. Add your name next to the post if you are reading it so we can spread out.
  3. Draft one Flipgrid video response for the 4 students you read (no need to respond individually).
  4. Create a Flipgrid response that we can share with the students here:

Here are some suggestions for how to organize your Flipgrid:

  • Start by introducing yourself as an educator, blogger, etc.
  • Then say something encouraging about their work that you connect to and/or were excited about (I noticed that … I was excited to see … You got me curious about …)
  • Add something you are wondering about to prompt the students to respond back (see Kathy’s recommended list of questions below)

Here are Kathy’s recommended questions you can use to connect with the students about their experience creating the website:

  • What was your goal in creating this web page?
  • What problem were you trying to solve by creating this web page?
  • What questions were you trying to answer by creating this website?
  • Who was your audience that you would impact with your website?
  • How might your web page help someone?
  • What do you expect someone reading your web page to come away with?
  • What have you learned about creating web pages?
  • What would you do better if you made another website?
  • What was the hardest part of this project?
  • The next time you create a web page what would be the goal?

I made this Flipgrid three-minutes long; let me know if that seems like enough time for this kind of response.


Let’s start our reading this week by returning to Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Chapter 3: Academically-Oriented Teaching starts on page 39 and as you will notice, Antero Garcia asks what is “academic” in the first place. He then introduces us to Janelle, Larissa, and Nick and their students.

Reflect on these questions as you read these chapters and the blog posts from Kathy’s class:

  • How are youth able to bring the socially and culturally meaningful contexts of their lives into the academic expectations of these classrooms?
  • In what ways are youth in these examples being college, career and community-readied?

Extending our thoughts about what is means to be “community-ready”, Joe Kahne posits in this Washington Post opinion piece, Getting kids “college and career ready” isn’t enough.

Young people know and care deeply about many things. And the way to revitalize our democracy is to provide supports and opportunities for youth to connect to the issues they care about in informed and effective ways.

Holding onto Joe’s call for civic participation and community-readiness, let’s dive into this important article that has been part of Marginal Syllabus the past semester by two people you’ve been reading a lot from already, Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia. I encourage you to read and/or write annotations along the way: Civic Participation Reimagined: Youth Interrogation and Innovation in the Multimodal Public Sphere.

Finally, let’s also return to the Educator for Democracy in a Digital Age collection at the Teaching Channel and dive into the discussion around the teachers’ questions: How do I further students’ civic knowledge and understanding?


In thinking about digital equity at a meeting this week, I was reminded of the ambitions of the US Department of Education’s updated National Educational Technology Plan that they released under the previous administration in 2016. In that plan they focus on both equity and accessibility; and in the commitment to these two things, bringing us to a focus on the “digital use divide.”

Here’s a quick infographical description:

This week, I encourage you to look for a) active (vs. passive) uses of educational technologies in your learning and teaching communities and/or link to examples you find online. And then b) reflect on these questions again in relation to the examples you find:

  • How are youth able to bring the socially and culturally meaningful contexts of their lives into the academic expectations of these classrooms?
  • In what ways are youth being college, career and community-readied?


We will be gathering again online this Thursday March 22nd at 7pm ET. If you weren’t able to make it to our last gathering, here is the recording and the related document; please take the time to watch and catch up with the groups’ conversations.

This week will be exciting! First, Kathy Walsh from Building 21 will be joining us to talk about this chemistry research/webwork and her connected learning goals for her students. Second, our classmate Mary John will also be sharing some of the work by her kids influenced by her Maker Education class in the previous semester.

Please take extra efforts to join this week if at all possible; looking forward to connecting.

A few additional resources:

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been at a few events and ran into some resources I thought others might be interested to some of you, including:

#stayinteaching: Colleagues of mine from the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project have kicked off an initiative called #stayinteaching for early career teachers. For those of you early in your careers I though this might be of interest as a place to connect/share: follow the for more.

KQED Learn: Just launched! KQED Learn “puts media literacy front and center” and supports 13+ students in connecting with each other to do investigations and develop the inquiry and writing skills they need to be successful in today’s world. Check it out:

Recrafting Mathematics Education: I shared this with Katie but I thought others might appreciate it too (mathematicians and artists alike!). More about this project and a link to their blog

In connected learning solidarity,


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