Monday, July 22, 2013

Blurring the Lines of Learning

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Shilpa Yarlagadda & Roya Huang,  two of the students who started Club Academia.  (If you aren’t familiar with their site I would encourage you to check it out.)  The site currently contains over 300 student created videos to help foster peer to peer learning.  

Club Academia strives to organize existing knowledge in ways that make learning easily accessible while simultaneously inspiring people to discover and innovate. Club Academia promotes “education of the students, by the students and for the students ©”  Through brevity, humor, and the student perspective, we foster a fun and creative educational atmosphere through our videos.”  

While meeting with Shilpa & Roya, I was struck by their passion, enthusiasm & dedication.  A little over a year ago, four high school students came up with a great idea that they believed would help enhance learning for students and they did something about it.  They spent time outside of school learning how to make videos, brushing up on content & creating. They weren’t doing any part of this for a grade or because it was assigned to them, they were working on a project they felt passionate about.  Now, with some of the original founding students heading off to college they have a created an amazing website that supports peer to peer learning and has opened up all sorts of opportunities for them.  Club Academia was recently awarded a Westley Prize & the students are being invited to speak at educational conferences across the US.   Shilpa shared that the students plan to continue this work even as they head their separate ways.    Reflecting back on the last year, they can’t believe all that they have learned and are eager to find ways to share both their passion and knowledge with LASD students (more to come on this at a later date.)

While these students have created something remarkable, I wonder what would have happened if they were encouraged to work on this personal project during the school day?  How might teachers have helped to facilitate this learning as a part of their school experience?  Why was it something they had to work on late at night after they finished their homework?  How many personal learning projects never get started because of these hurdles?  How can we blur the lines of learning between what is learned during the school day and what students want to learn?

Thankfully, I’m not the only one asking these questions.  I see it as a regular topic of conversation in my twitter feed and know there are great examples of “20% Time” & “Genius Hour” projects happening across the country.   Regardless of what the projects are called, I love that schools are starting to carve out time to help nurture personal passions of students.  Beginning next year in LASD, students at Blach Intermediate School will have the opportunity to take an elective geared towards the nurturing of personal passion.  It will be exciting to see what develops as we start to blur the lines of learning!

Contributed by Alyssa Gallagher, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Community Partnerships

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