Unpacking 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. Nicole Mirra, DML Central

As we start our transition into the second half of the semester we will begin to dig into Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, our guide 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 question/s throughout and continue to refine the inquiry you are focused on. This week, for example, ask about the role of interest in the question you surfaced about yourself as a connected learning or as a teacher designing for connected learning and equity.

This week …

Start this week off with a visit to Letters to the Next President 2.0, a project from 2016 where youth were asked to write a letter to the next U.S. president — whomever that person was to be — about matters that mattered most to them.

… when we think about the word “interests” … we think about the hobbies, the passions, things that we like to do, things we enjoy … 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? And what do I need from my community, what do I need from myself, what do I need from my government? Ben Kirchner, presentation DML 2013

Find 3 letters that stand out to you. What role does interest play in these letters? What else do you notice about them? What questions are raised?

You should also download a copy of Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. This week, please read the Preface and Introduction along with Chapter One: Interest-Driven Learning by Nicole Mirra along with Christopher Working, Chuck Jurich and Meenoo Rami.

Then, dig into this video which is a discussion between grantees of the LRNG Innovators Challenge in 2014. Here they are sharing aspects of the work they did to create “No Bells, No Walls” for learning out of the interests of their students.

Watch this video which I have embedded in another social annotation tool called Vialogues. Add comments while viewing for yourself and others. What is the role of interest in the work that the teachers are talking about? What are the implications in these examples?

Here are links to additional information about these projects that some of you read/watched already — they are here as additional resources to the conversation above if needed:

Finally, picking back up on the thread 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 at Edutopia she describes how her work with games-based learning led her into a focus on interest-driven pedagogy.


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 revolutionary about it? What are the implications for teaching and for equity?

This week, write your own letter. Like we encouraged at Letters to the Next President 2.0 last summer, letters can be written in text, but also can be spoken word, video, images, political art, etc. (There are many resources here you are welcome to browse to support letter writing and/or making an argument around a topic of interest for public distribution).

Express your ideas about something you care about to someone else who has some power to do something about it; this can be a hypothetical person, a group of people, an open letter to a more public community, etc. You can publish your letter on your blog or else just share a piece of it with us.

After writing your letter, blog about the implications of this kind of this letter-writing and/or interest-focus on learning. What are the implications for equity? What does it make you think about vis a vis your inquiry?

Find 5/6/7

This week it’s easy because you already did part of it — find and share 5/6/7 letters by youth and/or your classmates that are interesting to you vis a vis your inquiry and the role of interests in designing for connected learning and equity.

Final notes

I made some adjustments to our ED677 syllabus I want to highlight for your information: First, I moved the mid-course self-assessment until next week; Second, I also changed around the order of the principles we will be looking at over the next six weeks to follow the order that they appear in the Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom book that we are reading.

Also, check out this blog post by Remi Kalir about the work we’ve been doing here at ED677: Marginal Syllabus as OER and OED.

Have a great week ahead!

In connected learning solidarity,


Leave a Reply

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