Personal Stories on Connected Learning

Connected Learning Personal Stories are a growing collection of individuals, programs, organizations, and learning spaces that embrace many (or all) of connected learning's principles. Contact us if you have your own Connected Learning Personal Story to tell.

Bryan Alexander is a futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher, working in the field of how technology transforms education.Some of the areas he focuses on include social media, digital storytelling, mobile devices, gaming, pedagogy, scholarly communication, forecasting, and the future of academia... read more

Martha Burtis is Director of the Digital Knowledge Center at the University of Mary Washington. In this role, she oversees a peer tutoring program that offers support to students at UMW who are engaged in digital projects and assignments. She also works closely with her colleagues in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies(DTLT). ... read more

Jesse Stommel is Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at University of Mary Washington. He is also Director of Hybrid Pedagogy: a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology and Co-founder of Digital Pedagogy Lab. He is a documentary filmmaker and teaches courses about digital pedagogy, American literature, film, and new media. ... read more

Sofya Zeylikman is senior studying furniture design at Rhode Island School of Design. She has led workshops for both elementary and high school-aged students, teaching them about the intersections between STEM and STEAM, most recently as a coach for the Brandeis Design Lab Teen Fellowship Program. ... read more

Cas Holman is Associate Professor of Industrial Design at Rhode Island School of Design who designs learning materials for play and discovery. She uses constructivist "learn how it works by playing with it" principles in both her toy design and her teaching. Holman employs and advocates for a pedagogy of play, which informs her practice at all levels. ... read more

Jean Kaneko is the Chief Tinkerer and Founder at The Exploratory, a community makerspace in Culver City, CA, and a sought after program/curriculum developer and speaker in the world of STEAM education and Making. She encourages educators to experiment with making connections between projects and subjects, problem-solving and peers, between multiple subjects, and navigating all these actions with mandated standards – and when you learn something that works, help your peers navigate the territory you’ve explored... read more

Paola Ricaurte Quijano is a Professor and researcher in the School of Education, Social Sciences, and Humanities ITESM at University Tecnológico, Monterrey, Mexico. She encourages her students to take full advantage of technology and the connected nature of their lives to enhance learning and solve problems in their communities and beyond. ... read more

Darren Kuropatwa is Director of Learning for Hanover School Division in Manitoba, Canada. He has used blogging in the classroom to foster peer learning and facilitate connections between learners. ... read more

Eva Mejia is a Learning Systems Associate and Director of Special Programs for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Working in the area of network initiation, she leads partnerships with organizations that are launching Networked Improvement Communities and builds processes to accelerate learning and build capacity among practitioners... read more

Brianna Crowley is a Pennsylvania high school teacher who encourages her students to use social media tools to express themselves and expand agency in the classroom. She also asks her students to use these platforms to teach each other about a range of topics and to build a sense of connectedness and community. Before approaching her teaching, she asks students what they have to teach her. ... read more

Laura Ritchie is a teacher, researcher, performer, and learner. She is currently a Reader in Pedagogy at the University of Chichester. She created Cello Weekend, a time for complete beginners to come together with novices, students, and professionals to learn to play the cello. Through Connected Courses, she created an open, online connected course about creating a curriculum for connected learning about music... read more

Laura Fleming is an educator with 17 years of experience. She is currently a library and media specialist at New Milford High School in New Jersey where she recently built a makerspace from scratch so her students can have a place to become "content creators." Laura Fleming shows us that anyone can turn an empty space into a booming makerspace with just the right amount of planning... read more

"I don't put students in groups so they can learn to work in groups or be social...I put people in groups because I think that's how knowledge is created--by people who talk though ideas and puzzle through problems." Read how educator Dr. Kim Jaxon stretches the boundaries of 'literacy' in her classroom, and helps students draw on their strengths to make the group stronger... read more

"I think the most important thing is finding something you're passionate about. Computer programming worked well for me. But whether it's programming or playing the guitar, do it. Don't just go to school and do school. Do something awesome with your high school career." Check out this story of how teenager Zachary Baker has leveraged his learning network in pursuit of his passions... read more

"I would spend hours as a young 10-year-old coding my home page to host amateurish and practically useless graphics that I'd made...But hey, no matter how embarrassing it all was, it led me here." 16-year-old Veronica Valenzuela shows us that, with the right mix of mentor/peer support and exploration, even seemingly trivial interests can lead to robust learning opportunities and pathways... read more

"You don't take classes at studios most of the time," says dancer Yuri Doolan. "YouTube has become a venue for marginalized communities who aren't represented in pop culture to express themselves and create their own subculture and their own venue for exposure." Doolan uses Bollywood dance to shift debates around social justice issues... read more

"We educators have this need or impulse to take an expert stance in the classroom," says Mia Zamora, Associate Professor of English at Kean University. "I found that relinquishing some of that stance and giving students ways to be the experts can lead them to lean over each other's shoulders, teaching each other as they teach themselves, and ultimately teaching me something I didn’t know."... read more

"There's a magic that manifests when you take an idea that you thought up and produce a physical object that represents the thing you had in your head," says Ian Gonsher, part of the faculty in the School of Engineering at Brown University. "My teaching style isn't so much about imparting knowledge (although that's part of it), but about creating conditions where the creative process can occur."... read more

Rikke Toft Nørgård, Assistant Professor at the Center for Teaching Development and Digital Media at Aarhus University in Denmark, practices something she calls "gelatinous pedagogy" in which she tries not to enforce a detailed curriculum from a fixed syllabus and rubric for all students but acts, in her words, "more like a jellyfish that's adjusting to the students, rather than making the students adjust to my teaching."... read more

Danielle Filipiak didn't start with technology, or even with the core curriculum or community issues. She started with questions: "What does it mean to be a human being?" followed by "What prevents people from living fully as human beings?" Filipiak's reasoning: "If you don't believe you have a voice and that your literacy practices can do anything for you, then you aren't engaging fully as a human being."... read more

"Since I'm a teen and I'm teaching, why not give other teens the opportunity? So I'm working on a project where I hope to get young adults and kids involved in teaching what they love to their peers and their community." The story of 15-year-old Scratch expert Caroline Cambemale is evidence of the emergence of young teenage teachers as new tools & resources expand the scope of learning and teaching beyond traditional schooling... read more

"It's important for me, and for my future, to take charge of my learning," says 14-year old photographer Charles Raben. His journey from growing a side hobby into a definitive part of his personal identity has helped him become more engaged in his community, proving that young people can make a difference now... read more

At the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, heavy-duty shipping containers have been vibrantly painted, reshaped and stacked ceiling-high to form a collaborative K-6 learning space. Comfy couches and oversized pillows are scattered throughout the converted classroom pods, giving them a warm and inviting home-school feel. An industrial shell encloses the entire 47,000 square-foot arena... read more

A video pops up on the screen of longtime Richland Farms resident Marie Hollis. Two minutes go by -- click, click -- and a second interview appears. This time it's of Andrew Johnson, a horseshoer from Richland Farms. The two interviews are nearly identical, the sole variance being a small "Youth Voices" emblem that's displayed in the video lead-in... read more

Welcome to Bertie County, the poorest county in North Carolina, where just 27% of 3rd-8th grade students in 2007 were passing English and Math state standards, and where approximately 95% of public school students receive free/reduced-rate lunches. Where the population caps around 20,000, the largest local employer is the Perdue chicken processing plant, and the main economy is agriculture... read more

Before stepping foot inside YOUmedia, “Brother” Mike Hawkins never took any particular interest in slam poetry, nor did he consider himself a slam poet. That all changed when he began forming relationships with the program’s teens in 2009. “They opened me up to this whole new world of slam poetry where youth could freely express themselves... read more

At the age of 10, Asha Richardson’s father attempted to introduce her to basic HTML coding. But as a lover of the creative arts, she wanted nothing to do with it. At the time, Asha believed she had to choose one over the other. It was a paintbrush or a keyboard. It couldn’t be both. But after speaking with staff members from Youth Radio’s journalism training program, she came to the realization that the two could -- and very much should -- go hand-in-hand... read more

After spending just a couple minutes with Jabiz Raisdana, you quickly realize he is not your average teacher. When you ask him how his school year is going, you won't hear stories about the woes of standardized testing or disengaged students. Instead, Raisdana will proudly tell you about his school's growing familiarity with blogging and Google Apps. Or how his students are studying photography and filmography by producing their own content..... read more

Years ago, Liz Rayment had an epiphany about her sons' learning: "you have to find a pathway that fits your kid". Now in high school, both boys remain in public schools. But both of them, along with Rayment, take a very active approach to supplementing their in-school experiences with out-of-school learning that revolves around the boys’ interests, including robotics competitions, science fairs and video games... read more

They wondered: Why it was that in every school, in every city, kids couldn’t wait until the bell rang at 3 o’clock.

Why everyone -- teachers and students alike -- couldn’t wait until the weekend, or summer, or vacation, or graduation.

Why the passion for the “why” of learning never seemed anywhere near as important to the powers that be... read more