Join Educators and Take Action in the Afterschool for All Challenge!

The Afterschool Alliance is inviting you to take part in the Afterschool for All Challenge!

On May 22, educators from around the country will be in Washington, D.C., to meet face to face with Members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the Afterschool for America’s Children Act—legislation supporting the innovative advances occurring between schools and community-based organizations during the out-of-school hours.  We need your help to amplify their voices.

Call Congress now to support afterschool programs.

Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire learning, and help working families.  All students should have access to these life-changing opportunities, yet 18 million children who would like to participate don’t have a program available in their community.

If you’re feeling ambitious,  click here to learn how to set up a district meeting with your local Congressional office.

This year, the Afterschool Alliance is excited to team up with Educator Innovator and recognize your advocacy efforts when you take action in the Afterschool for All Challenge.  You have the opportunity to earn a digital advocate badge that will demonstrate that you have showed your support for the in-school and out-of-school partnerships that re-imagine what learning looks like and where it takes place.

To earn the advocate badge, make sure that your call is counted in our total.

By Nikki Yamashiro

Reimagining Art Museums With Help From Local Teens

Museum educators invite students and other visitors to share in the dialogue about art, transforming the role of the museum.

By Heidi Moore | Museums can be intimidating places, especially for young people who lack familiarity with art history and its insider language. Today a number of museum educators are seeking to change that—and, in the process, reimagine how visitors interact with artwork.

The blog of Art Museum Teaching, a partner organization of Educator Innovator, showcased a recent example with “Invisible Pedagogies.” A Madrid-based collective comprising educators from high schools, colleges, and art centers, Invisible Pedagogies seeks to transform the relationship between art and education. According to member Andrea de Pascual, invisible pedagogies are the nonexplicit “microdiscourses” that inform a pedagogy. Though hidden, these elements affect participants in a place or an experience.

Think of a classroom door, de Pascual says. “What is the meaning of closing a door in the classroom? And of leaving it open? Or asking the students which they prefer? In a museum the fact that the entrance doors are automatic or revolving or that one must push them will send a specifically different message to the visitor and will affect the way he or she interacts with the art inside.”

An open versus closed door provides an apt metaphor for the experience of visiting a museum. Is the museum hierarchical and didactic, or does it invite guest participation? Invisible Pedagogies seeks to disrupt what it calls the “power-knowledge barrier” between educators (the voice of the institution) and participants, who “in most cases feel they don’t have anything to say about contemporary art.” Decentralizing learning in a museum eliminates hierarchy and lends validity to multiple voices and viewpoints.

The collective was inspired by the work of Maria Acaso, a professor of art education at the Complutense University of Madrid. “Invisible pedagogies have many ways of changing people in their participation in the educative act,” Acaso writes. “They help them to learn or not. They get people to become passionate for knowledge or deadly bored. They make them feel fear or pleasure. They invite them to share or to hide.”

One arts organization that’s working to open the classroom door, so to speak, is the Milwaukee Art Museum. Writing in Art Museum Teaching, Chelsea Emelie Kelly, manager of digital learning at the museum, discusses an innovative program that invites local teens to study and interpret a work in the collection and then share their ideas about the work using digital media. The idea itself isn’t new—the museum has offered teen programming for more than 30 years—but the digital media component allows the museum to share these alternate viewpoints with a wider audience, both in person and on the program’s YouTube page.

Students in the Satellite Program at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo/ Front Room Photography

In fall 2013, students in the Satellite High School Program created vlogs (video blogs) exploring their evolving views of a single artwork. Using iPads provided by the museum’s education department, the teens wove together information from art historians and curators, peers, and their own subjective interests and experiences to create a unique interpretation of the piece.

“Some of my students have talked about how they look more closely and question things more that they’re learning about in history or in other classes—‘Why is this important? Why did this really happen? What effect did this have?’—because of this close looking at a single work,” Kelly says.

Working with digital media tools, teens in the program gain valuable career skills. And through visits with museum staff and curators, they gain exposure to potential arts careers.

The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from opening up the museum experience to other voices. “The staff at the museum has seen art in new ways as well, thanks to the videos the teens create,” Kelly says. After every end-of-the-program screening, museum staff “come up to me and say, ‘I never thought of it that way, but [after] that student’s comment, I have to look at this again.’ And it’s really exciting to have that impact.”

A similar experiment took place a few years ago at the Art Institute of Chicago. In conjunction with an exhibit on architecture and design, students were invited to map the museum as a way to document their experience there—in essence making the map, and the art museum, their own.

The teens, some of whom had never been to the Art Institute before, scanned museum floor plans and then created annotated maps organized around a specific theme of their choosing. Afterward, they discussed their work via Skype with the artist Michal Migurski of the design studio Stamen, which created the OpenStreetMap project Walking Papers.

An earlier project with a similar intention was Art Mobs, in which patrons created their own podcast tours of works at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

Yet inviting other viewpoints doesn’t necessarily mean discounting or devaluing the voices of experts or the museum itself. “Museums are a very trusted resource,” says the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Kelly. “So you still want to be clear what the facts are [and what] we know about a piece and how those facts can help us interpret it ourselves.”

“Opening up interpretation, for me, means that we bring in visitor voices as a way of making our collection and our institution more accessible to more people and certainly more relevant,” she adds. “We educators learn something new about the piece by opening it up. It can enrich what we know from an art historical standpoint as well as making it more real and humanizing for the visitor.”

Find the Milwaukee Art Museum teachers’ resource guide here.

Join #TeachDoNow Summer MOOC

By Matt Williams, Educational Technologist, KQED

#TeachDoNow is a free, collaborative learning experience offered by KQED this summer in partnership with Educator Innovator and the National Writing Project. This online opportunity is open to anyone interested in learning how to use Twitter and other media sharing applications to promote social and civic discourse with students and will take place this summer from July 7 – August 17.

Weekly activities will center around KQED’s Do Now, a program that allows students to engage and respond to current issues in science, news and the arts. using social media tools.

In #TeachDoNow, participants will engage in weekly discussions designed to promote deep discussions among formal and informal educators. The topics to be covered include: civic discourse, mobile technology in the classroom, student safety and digital citizenship, visual communication, 21st century communication and connected learning. The discussions will be accompanied by weekly missions that challenge participants to learn new tools and skills, discover and share new knowledge, and creatively express themselves using new media tools. To accomplish all of this, participants and facilitators will be working together as both learners and change agents in an open environment known as a Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC).

To participate, please sign up at the #TeachDoNow blog and join the #TeachDoNow G+ community.

Throughout the MOOC, discussions will take place on a variety of platforms and in a variety of media formats from tweets, to photos, to blog entries, to video and audio, with everyone encouraged to contribute and follow along. It is through participation in these discussions that learners will gain new knowledge, share their experiences and views, practice new tools, and learn how to promote digital conversations with their own students. Teachers, administrators, after school program leaders, and connected learning practitioners will find the #TeachDoNow MOOC a fun and powerful way to use social media tools for deep learning. All are welcome to participate at the level and to the extent that make sense for their own individual learning goals, but we encourage a deep dive.

The goals of this MOOC are to:

  • Engage participants in relevant and important conversation around issues critical to 21st century learning.
  • Use a collaborative, challenge-based approach to learning and employing new tools to promote digital conversation and civic engagement.
  • Create an opportunity for participants to plan to implement digital conversations and Do Now in their own educational settings in the fall.


Week 1: July 7 — What are the best strategies for accessing professional learning online?

  • Join moderators from MindShift, KQED’s influential blog charting the future of education, as we share and explore the best resources for understanding current trends in education and develop and share strategies to achieve our own professional learning goals.

Week 2: July 14 — How can we use Connected Learning principles to promote 21st century learning and address Common Core State Standards?

  • Teachers from the National Writing Project will share Connected Learning principles and resources and lead an exploration about how to promote the kinds of skills in students required by our 21st century culture and CCSS.

Week 3: July 21 — What media making and social learning tools are best at engaging learners?

  • We will examine a wide range of tools and tips that enable communication through multiple modes of media. Educator Innovators will moderate a creative expression of ideas that takes place through audio and visuals created and shared through the use of these tools.

Week 4: July 28 — How do you engage millennials in civic discourse and promote community engagement?

  • Experts from higher ed, as well as innovative K-12 practitioners will lead an inquiry into how to best use participatory media to promote positive student engagement in their communities – both online and offline.

Week 5: August 4 — What are your biggest concerns about online safety and digital citizenship in a web-based learning environment?

  • One of the critical roadblocks for teachers interested in student media making and online discourse is concern about safety and behavior online. Join moderators from Common Sense Media in an important sharing out and examination of these issues.

Week 6: August 11  — How do you manage learners, tasks, resources, and assessment in a connected learning environment?

  • The skills required of 21st century learners are clear. How to manage a 21st century learning environment that actively promotes those skills is less so. Join leading education innovators in thinking about how to transform your learning environment and the pedagogical strategies needed to teach in a connected learning environment.

MOOC Ends August 17

View the #TeachDoNow course blog to register.

How Afterschool Programs Are Preparing Kids to Join the STEM Workforce

By Sara Needham

Every year a group of public high school students from all over Pittsburgh gathers at Winchester Thurston School for an afterschool course that teaches them how to program mobile apps. Some students might learn how to design a game. Others might learn how to create a painting program. And some might learn how to build a simple app to track their favorite sports team’s scores.

“The students have come up with some pretty wild ideas,” program head David Nassar said in a recent article. “It’s exciting to see their creativity take them in directions I wouldn’t have thought myself.”

It’s called the Mobile App Lab, and it’s part of a nationwide wave of innovative afterschool programs designed to capture students’ imaginations and interest in computer programming, engineering, and other STEM topics. A recent Afterschool Alliance brief points out that these much-needed programs are filling a gap in STEM education, especially when it comes to computers and engineering—fields that will make up nearly 80 percent of future STEM jobs.

By 2020 there will be nearly 1.5 million new computing jobs and 600,000 new engineering jobs, according to the brief, on computing and engineering in afterschool programs. That’s a lot of high-paying jobs. But while demand is rapidly increasing, not nearly enough college students are graduating with computer science or engineering degrees to fill these jobs. So what gives? Why the lack of interest?

One reason is many kids are not exposed to these subjects. According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, “AP Computer Science is taught in just 10 percent of U.S. High Schools.” Engineering classes are fewer and farther between. In President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address, he urged schools to become better equipped to meet high-tech needs. “We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math—the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.”

While many schools across the country are working hard to engage kids in these subjects, it takes time and resources to make that happen. Afterschool programs can be more responsive and provide more immediate solutions to the challenge of providing kids the skills they need to get ready for these future jobs.

It’s not just a matter of training—equity is important too. Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields. “Computer science is actually more male-dominated today than it was a decade ago,” according to a recent New York Times article. And many minority students simply don’t have access to computer science and engineering classes.

Afterschool programs can reach a much more diverse population with fun, hands-on projects. One such program is Project GUTS—“Growing Up Thinking Scientifically,” an afterschool program in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A collaboration between Santa Fe Public Schools, MIT, and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, among others, the program serves 300-400 urban and rural middle-school students a year. Forty-one percent of participants are female, 58 percent identify as Hispanic/Latino, and 35 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. Students create and test computer models that address real-world issues—like the population dynamics of an ecosystem, for example.

Unlike many school classes, these programs allow kids the freedom to explore, solve problems, and most importantly, to fail and keep trying. As a result, many become interested in computing and engineering, and some even discover it’s their lifelong passion. Some of the students who complete the seven-week Mobile App Lab go on to become mentors, both in the program and in their school communities. And that makes student interest go viral. “We really want to bring computer science education to the forefront of people’s minds in Pittsburgh and the larger area,” said Nassar.

Photo/ Jeremy Wilburn

Connected Learning Certificate Program Launching

toy hack

By Kira Baker-Doyle, Assistant Professor of Education, Arcadia University

In the summer of 2013, 15 teachers in Philadelphia gathered around a classroom table at Arcadia University to hack some toys. Discarded Barbie doll heads, wheels from plastic dump trucks, and board game pieces lay strewn across the table as teachers chatted with each other and used glue guns to create new creatures from the toy wreckage, and then went on to tweet and blog stories about their creations.

“I loved hacking toys,” one participant blogged. “I think the hands-on experience, the permission to play, and the removed barriers helped to unleash creativity. I can see how the experience could help students connect on many different levels—through interests, shared purpose, etc. I wonder about the academic element to toy hacking—but after reading others’ posts—have a better sense of a connection to creative writing.”

Christina Cantrill, senior program associate who directs the Digital Is project at the National Writing Project, facilitated this connected learning workshop for teachers through Arcadia University’s School of Education as part of last summer’s Making Learning Connected MOOC (#clmooc). It was an opportunity for participants to learn more about Connected Learning Principles, and it was also an experiment by Arcadia University—testing the waters for interest in a new certificate program in connected learning.

The experiment was a success and Arcadia will officially kick off its new Connected Learning Certificate program this May with the first course in the program, “ED676: Teacher Practice in a Connected World,” to be taught by Meenoo Rami, author of Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching (Heinneman 2014), Co-founder of #engchat, and teacher at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

The Connected Learning Certificate, a 12-credit program being offered by the Arcadia University School of Education, is the first of its kind being offered at a College or University. Its aim is to break the mold of traditional teacher education practices by encouraging program participants to become co-creators of curriculum for the program, and to participate in an openly networked platform to make their work public.

Connected learning, a pedagogical approach and philosophy developed by researchers and educators at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, is based on the idea that learning should be: student centered, production-oriented, equitable and participatory, openly networked, and relevant to learners.

A team of scholars, teachers, and non-profit leaders, including Rami and Cantrill, designed the program at Arcadia. Participants can complete all courses online or can choose to enroll in hybrid or traditional courses. In addition to three-credit courses, the program offers participants the chance to enroll in a “Connected Learning Camp,” a one-week intensive one-credit course on a hot topic in connected learning offered during a Spring or Summer break.

Participants that complete the Connected Learning Certificate will not only learn to leverage connected technologies in teaching and learning, they will also become connected, public practitioners in the Arcadia Connected Learning Network, a university-based node in a broader community of connected learning organizations.

Also, Connected Learning Certificate graduates will be able to nominate, design, and facilitate Connected Learning camps.

“The Connected Learning Certificate at Arcadia University is an exciting opportunity to work through the tensions of the aspirations of the connected learning framework within an institutional setting with its own requirements, traditions, and context,” said Cantrill, who will also teach one of the certificate courses.

Some of the institutional constraints of working within a higher educational setting may also lead to innovations and shifts that have the potential to re-shape teacher education on the whole, Cantrill contends. “Facilitated through the use of open networks, practices, badges, and portfolios, this certificate program will provide access and opportunities for learners to become leaders and teachers themselves, strengthening both the shared knowledge based around teaching and learning, as well as the connected learning community at the University and beyond.”

Learn more about the Arcadia Connected Learning Certificate.