As I mentioned in a previous post, we are taking advantage of the relative lull in activity on Out of Eden Learn to contemplate how we might develop and improve our materials and website moving forward. Having clarified our learning goals, we are now reviewing our materials or “footsteps”, as well as the overall structure of our website.
Below I summarize some of the most important initiatives we have planned or are considering.
Making Paul’s walk and writing more accessible for students
We have heard that many young people – and educators – are inspired by Paul’s epic walk and that they find his writing to be beautiful and poetic. We have also heard that Paul’s dispatches can be challenging to read, particularly for younger participants and English language learners. We are developing tools to help students understand selected dispatches, while keeping Paul’s original text intact. There will be hover buttons with definitions of difficult vocabulary, as well as explanations of specific cultural references. Furthermore, we will point out where Paul does things that we would like students to try out for themselves – such as paying close attention to small details and listening attentively to others. We will also experiment with translating some dispatches as we pilot a multilingual walking party this fall.
Improving orientation and support for both educators and students
We are redesigning our sign up process and opening activities to try to get students and educators oriented as quickly as possible regarding how Out of Eden Learn works and what its potential can be. Educators will be able to access printable materials, including all the footsteps upfront, to aid them in curriculum planning. We are going to facilitate greater educator-to-educator communication within individual walking parties to encourage coordination and the sharing of ideas, as well as the building of relationships: we hope to provide a “back-channel” to aid this communication. We will continue to promote the development of a broader Out of Eden Learn educator community via our Educator Forum, Google+ Hangouts, and other strategies including our use of social media. There will also be opportunities for educators to participate in the development of a research agenda.
Offering new tools and activities to support student interactions
In the last iteration of Out of Eden Learn we did not pay much attention to supporting students in their interactions with one another. While there were certainly some nice exchanges among students, we would like to experiment with tools to help students to go “deeper” in their interactions. My colleague Carrie James is spearheading the design of an exciting new “toolkit” for students, which will feature different strategies for leaving comments and initiating conversations.
Potential changes to the learning journey structure
We are considering dividing our existing learning journey of 12 footsteps into two distinct learning journeys. In this scenario, each learning journey would have a coherent beginning, middle, and end but the first “foundational” learning journey would clearly come before the second. The idea behind this re-organization would be to make each journey approximately one semester long and more manageable in scope and pace; we would also add some activities and tools to deepen the current footsteps. The first journey would involve neighborhood maps, walks and interviewing a neighbor. The second journey would focus on global connections and connecting our lives to bigger human stories. We are also open to keeping our existing format but trimming it in some respects and enriching it in others.
Another option would be to give educators a choice of signing up for either a longer or a more condensed learning journey according to their preference and needs. Furthermore, we are interested in offering more specialized learning journeys that roughly correspond to different areas of the curriculum, such as history or English or geography or photography/visual art; were we to go down this route, we would collaborate with educators regarding the development of new materials. Again, the idea would be to allow educators greater flexibility; different learning journey options would also enable students who enjoy Out of Eden Learn to undergo a variety of learning experiences.
We would love to receive your feedback – either publicly on this blog or privately via email. We are trying to create learning opportunities that reflect as far as possible the needs and preferences of practicing educators, so please do be in touch.