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

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 six 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.

During these six weeks, I encourage you to follow your inquiry question throughout (and continue to focus if you have multiple questions). This week, for example, ask about the role of interest in connected learning and equity; and how does that relate to the questions you have about your own work and practice?

(If you missed our hangout last week, we focused on our inquiry questions. See the recorded archive and the related document.)

I also am going to suggest a shift in process … while I think most of us get trained in (grad) school to read/watch something and then respond to it, I want to encourage us to go the other way — ie. let’s make something first this week, reflect on what we make, and then start our readings/watchings to expand our connections.


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.

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 this week’s dive into interests by being inspired by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida as they choose to participate around an issue of immediate importance to them and their community.

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? Small kids have interests and things that matter to them that they want to share. Check out the work of some other teachers and young students who are documenting and sharing what they care about with their community in Bastrop, Texas (note this is posted on the blog of, a web tool and ed-tech vendor; you can find  educator reviews of Buncee and similar ed-tech tools at Common Sense Media.)

What matters here? Dan Meyer says that this is “such an underdeveloped question in math curriculum.” (And I’m curious what the math educators in this class think too.)

As you can see, tapping into interests aren’t just cultivated in civics and the humanities; check out Dan Meyer’s very successful blog dy/dan as well as The Youth People’s Project, an initiative of Civil Rights leader Bob Moses’ Algebra Project, to see ways that youth and educators alike are making connections between youth voice, questions and leadership through math and math education.

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, this week you should download a copy of Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom which we will use over the next six weeks. Please read the Introduction by Antero Garcia along with Chapter One: Interest-Driven Learning by Nicole Mirra along with educators Christopher Working, Chuck Jurich, and Meenoo Rami.


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

Final note

Check out a new project NWP is just launching on Tuesday called Writing Our Future: American Creed (the related documentary is showing on PBS on Tuesday the 27th at 9pm ET).

Have a great week ahead!

In connected learning solidarity,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *