#clinquiry Authenticity and Engagment


How do I create authentic learning spaces of making and reflecting that empower self-directed learning?

How do I empower learners — to encourage agency for their own learning?

This summer, I spent much time investigating that question on my own and with colleagues from #clmooc. Michael Weller instigated the process of considering a question to guide our course during the school year.

I’ve documented my first process and thinking of this inquiry in BlendSpace, and the Google Slides below summarize the inspirations from several projects and book clubs completed over the summer. As I have learned over thirty years of teaching, it is the doing that brings the learning. Therefore, I “did” all summer — I created and discovered spaces to make and reflect on the power of directing my own learning.

As I consider how to create these learning spaces in my classroom, I’ll share more on this blog. For now, I’ve gathered the summer inspirations here:


Sketch and Images

by Sheri Edwards

I am from

I am from


From tag games and hide-n-go-seek, Red Light Green Light, and long walks on hot pavement with friends, I today still love the feel of sand or pavement underfoot during a lazy walk in conversation with friends.

Although now those conversation occur as I take “walks” in photos from friends from all over the world in Flickr groups, in Twitter chats for conversations, or in blogs with photos and text conversations as my world has expanded as a connected educator.

I am passionate about education reform for more student-centered learning based on student interest and demonstration rather than teacher/district directed mandates and tests. Our futures depend on those who can ask the questions of the world and people around them that will dig into issues to find solutions together, for mutual benefit in a global world.

This post is an example of sharing with a group of teachers finding answers to their questions, of which mine is:

How do I create authentic learning spaces of making and reflecting that empower self-directed learning?

A twitter and #clmooc colleague, Julie Johnson, gathered together middle school teachers for the purpose of creating a CLmooc for their students, a “clmake’ of cycles for students to create based on topics, share out through blogs, and connect through comments, or through whatever develops from the students’ connections.  It will be an authentic learning space of making and reflecting. Will it also empower self-directed learning?

That is my question, and this my introduction example.

“Green Light.”

crossposted at What Else 2 Learn

#clmooc #makeaninquiry Getting Started


Michael Weller asks questions. He’s a reflective teacher in the best sense of the concept. In that questioning about his practice, as a connected learner, he has invited others to join in the journey to become better teachers, focused on improving one’s pedagogy. Michael is part of  the team at #clmooc, where the invitation began. I’m late to the inquiry party, whose hashtags are #clmooc and #makeaninquiry.

I have been thinking about it, and my musings are captured in Blendspace here.


  • testing, testing, testing
  • students as persons, not numbers
  • lack of joy
  • students playing the game of school


  • students are self-directed learners
  • students discover their talents, interests, and passions
  • my classroom helps them get to those places


  • expectations of compliance to education mandates
  • testing, testing, testing, and more testing


My general question is:

How can I bring authenticity back to the learning environment so students are empowered to become self-directed learners?

Next Steps:

I need to check out the work of others in Make an Inquiry.  Michael has started these:



Digital Portfolio Chapter 1

Matt Renwick Portfolio

Matt Renwick of Reading by Example has invited educators to a month-long book club study of his Digital Student Portfolios ebook. Read his overview intro post here and join the Google+ Community. It promises to be a great learning experience.

Chapter One: Purposes for Digital Portfolios

First, digital portfolios reinforce meaningful and purposeful learning: they represent the student’s choice in reflection and sharing to their audience as well as the school; they differentiate for the learners and their goals, and are part of the daily work of students as creators and designers of their own learning in collaboration with the teacher and peers. This picture tells more than any standardized test score, report card grade, or mark on a piece of work.

Technology provides a variety of tools through which students can explain their growth and their mastery. Technology allows students more options in the content, and can choose relevant topics; access to current events and historical documents online allow the curriculum to be relevant. By sharing on line, others can participate with feedback of celebration and of suggestions. Technology allows teacher and learner work to be comprehensive and personalized.

Thinking about the Digital — It’s about engagement, so what is the:


Available — for students to connect

Connective — bandwidth

Compatible — with needs of learner

Allocation — time, funding, training


Resources — why that tool?

Content — how connects to expected essential understandings

Integration — with curriculum, instruction, assessment to support learning

Agency — that students may self-assess and revise to improve


Visible — learning is sharable

Independence — able to self-assess and work towards potential

Inquiry — results in further thoughts and research

Empathy — engaging in conversations, feedback, and learning with others

How do we lead others? 

I appreciated the review by Matt Renwick of Michael Fullen’s book The Principal. I believe the in the concept of “learning leaders,” which the principal must be, because in my classroom, I must learn along side my students as the lead learner there. I cannot forget what it means to be a learner, and I will learn about and from my students. A principal should do the same with his/her staff. Read the article for other key points.

And what are we learning?

In my classroom, we learn for two purposes: the state requirements and the student’s interests and development as a whole person.

In our school, we learn for two purposes: the state/federal requirements and the practices, pedagogy, and essential principles that engage students and empower them to self-directed learning.

1M : The Prompt

An important rationale for a learning portfolio is “to provide a vehicle for reflection and exhibition.” Reflection means to look at the process and product of the work so far, to see what was done well and what needs improving. That would include the benefits of “make learners aware of their own growth” and “to accommodate for students’ individual needs.”
In the classroom I see this as formative assessment with criteria [perhaps a rubric or checklist], which grows and changes as the project continues and the student’s work is revised. I see perhaps an annotated list of links whereby students share where they are and where they need to go, and when they get there, they explain and share that link, if different. Peers and teachers can provide feedback.
At the end of the project, a final review of the process and product would be easier, and students then publish their final project with a link to their process of learning. I’m still considering the tools. Blogs would be the final published product, I think — but a website would also work. As a Google Apps school, a Google document or slides would work for the reflective pieces, and I’m pretty sure there’s a Chrome add-on or extension to add audio.
One writing strategy students learn is elaboration. We learned several elaboration strategies, and then students read a one-page story to identify the strategies used by quoting from the story and pasting the quote into a google form to explain what and why that quote exemplified the strategy. Then students visited the resulting spreadsheet and agreed/disagreed with their peers responses through comments. I was pleased they responded to each other, and in positive ways.
In this way, students helped each other learn, and I could see at a glance two different ways which students understood. This helped them apply the strategies in their own writing because they truly understood it. The students who did not understand all the strategies talked about it to each other while they were commenting. We then came together as a class to discuss the nuances of two strategies [details / description ] that overlapped. We would not have had that deep of a conversation with this process.

Technology: How It Helps

Matt Renwick PortfolioSummer professional development: my choice!

Matt Renwick of Reading by Example has invited educators to a month-long book club study of his Digital Student Portfolios ebook. Read his overview intro post here and join the Google+ Community. It promises to be a great learning experience.

We’ve started with a challenge, answering:

How has technology impacted your instruction and student learning?

I’m still learning and growing with technology, and helping students develop a portfolio is one of my goals this year — for them to have more control of their learning through their reflection, revisions, peer reviews, and sharing. I’ve got some of this in place… but hope to learn from my new colleagues at Digital Student Portfolios.

This video explains the Thinglink below, which links to the changes in my classroom, changes that have brought more engagement, more focused learning, and more collaboration between students and myself and students and their peers. It’s not entertaining, but… here goes:

Open Thinglink to view and click links to resources.