Tag Archives: Interdisciplinary

Networks in Teaching & Learning

The “Networked” in Networked Teaching & Learning was a purposeful choice. Not only does it represent the “N” in eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies), but the idea of networked teaching and learning is a contemporary one that has many applications outside of education.

Most educators see the networked teacher as one who uses modern technology and Web 2.0 skills. However, to truly be networked, one has to think beyond a Twitter account or a classroom web page. The networked era of education is more than just the tools we use.

Networked Teacher Diagram - Update

Networks or networking are new ways to look at the organization of knowledge. Topics or don’t simply connect or lead to just one other topic or set of topics. Ideas, things, and phenomena connect to multiple topics, creating a complex system more closely resembling a web than a tree.

For those of you steeped in theory as you take graduate courses, the idea of networks is a familiar one. No longer are things or ideas divided into dichotomous keys. Now we look at our world through a networked lens. Let’s have Manuel Lima explain…

How does this apply to schooling? On a very basic level, we have to look at our traditional structure of dividing disciplines into separate classes. A networked approach would result in interdisciplinary lessons that would incorporate multiple perspectives on one problem or issue instead of continuing to work on individual islands within traditional constraints. The same can be said for exploring the networks between grade levels, genres, schools, sectors, etc.

Recognizing networks allows us to see the real-world applications of what we do in school and to make those connections available for our students to discover. When students discover those networked connections, they begin to see the real world value in what they learn at school. In other words, authentic learning happens in the network.

How do you use a networked approach to better relate content to your students? How does networking knowledge alter your perspective on teaching and learning? How does technology make networked teaching and learning possible?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

We Use Math in Science?

My son came home from school today and asked me if I had a ruler. He said in a very irritated tone, “We are learning metric in science which is stupid!” I asked him, “Why is that stupid?” He responded with a “like duh” look on his face, “Because it’s math, not science!” We did have a short conversation, to his dismay, about all the ways we use math in our daily lives and connected them to the different “subject” areas.

Afterwards, I began thinking about what he said. Somewhere along the way, my sixth grader has learned how to identify and categorize subjects, topics, etc. However, he has not learned to see things globally and how they interconnect. I know I’ve had these conversations before with both of my children. But, his experiences have been very “packaged” into the core subject areas of math, science, social studies, and communication arts.

My kids have both had very dedicated, knowledgeable, and conscientious teachers throughout their entire school career. Both were fortunate enough to be in an eMINTS classroom for one year. However, the majority of their education has been textbook and worksheet driven.

My challenge to all teachers this year is to keep going back to those essential questions and the five E’s from the inquiry-based lesson plan. I know it is challenging. I found it difficult to take the time to create authentic learning activities for my students while making sure I met the GLE’s and the Standards. However, the learning and improved process and social skills that authentic learning fostered made it worth my extra time and effort.

Think of ways you can intertwine concepts from all the core subjects. Here are few ideas:

  • During math lessons, infuse historical information about when those concepts were developed and how they changed cultures, economies, and life in general.
  • During social studies lessons, have students communicate in ways in which they communicated during that time period and have them reflect on how information was transferred, perceived, and sometimes lost.
  • During science lessons, allow students to explore how science shaped history. Give them an opportunity to find relationships between science and math.
  • During communication arts lessons, use forms of writing to help students connect to their world.
  • Art and music lessons can provide an opportunity for developing a deeper understanding of customs, cultures, and history.

The list is short, but hopefully it will spark some ideas on how you can create authentic experiences for your students. Maybe one day I will have a conversation with my grandchildren about learning metric in science and their response will be something like, “Why wouldn’t learn math in science? We use it all the time!”

Cara Wylie is an  area instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.