In reading Situated Language and Learning, I have learned about affinity spaces . Gee contrasts traditional schooling with affinity spaces and describes its characteristics.
In a study cited by Gee, students learned more through discussing with peers than with authority figures. During peer-to-peer interactions, there was more “reflective discourse” and “empathetic engagement.” Affinity spaces are portals in which students can participate in many ways and there is no divider between those who are more knowledgeable or less knowledgable. Basically everyone has access to the same information from various perspectives.
Many of the aspects of affinity spaces could help to improve student learning in traditional schools. However, these affinity spaces do not come without challenges and there is much work need to be done in determining how exactly these affinity spaces can work in the schools and how to increase student access to material and people without compromising safety.
Here are a few ideas I am thinking about:
Creating a school-wide or district-wide site where students can discuss and participate in various topics of their choice. This could possibly be open to community members whom the school grants temporary access to post on the site; in a sense, it would be a virtual visit.
Creating a educator version that would allow teachers to discuss ideas, share resources, and discuss current issues in education.
Showing students how to annotate texts and discuss what they read through website like Hypothes.is. I am a proponent of teaching students to annotate, especially for high school students. As Gee argues, we learn best through a cultural process or learning through doing. Annotating texts through Hypothes.is allows students to be active in the reading process without the expense of replacing books with markings in them. This would likely require some funds on the part of the district for access to the texts in electronic format. Of course, students should not rely on peers’ comments; otherwise, they might not be critically engaging with the text and forming or informing their point of view.
These are just some thoughts, and maybe something like this exists somewhere out there.
In Getting over the Slump, James Paul Gee discusses factors contributing the fourth grade slump. Essentially, there are two slumps. The first is that students are not prepared to read in the upper grades especially when it comes to content area topics in math and science. The second is that students are not prepared to use technology in ways that enhance learning. Students need the access to “well-designed learning systems and mentorship built around new digital technologies” (Gee, 2008, p.12). The most interesting point to me is that these two gaps “interact with each other” (Gee, 2008, p.12). As technology becomes more complex, students are required to have greater technical skills in order to develop digital literacies. Additionally, students’ ability to read specialist language (such as content in math and science) is required to benefit from educational technology.
Learning to blog has made me think of something that we do as readers and writers: make text-to-text connections. The literature calls these intertextual connections. On the web, intertextuality goes far beyond the typical ‘text’ you would think of referring to in offline writing. I see this happening as I am writing this post. I have the capability of not only referring to text, but also making other texts a part of this one. In doing so, I am inviting my readers to travel the pathways of connections I see. This is one thing I like about blogging. Bloggers can share resources, and the connections we make to other material come into clearer view. With all this in mind, it becomes important to teach students to navigate these pathways and critically assess all texts involved.
As technology advances, it becomes increasingly important for teachers to evaluate and incorporate new technology that is up-to-date with the ideas, vocabulary and topics of the day. One resource I have found helpful is the Common Sense Media website. This is a website that provides reviews of anything from apps to movies. It gives an approximate appropriate age or age range. It also gives parents some a heads up on things like consumerism and violence.