You may say I’m a dreamer… I’m not the only one

A few years ago, I was invited to join a group of 5 other secondary ELA teachers and 2 principle investigators, Dr. Nicole Mirra (Rutgers University) and Dr. Antero Garcia (Stanford University) in what was named Digital Democratic Dialogue (3D). What would happen if 6 different educators serving diverse learners were able to connect in discussing social issues that were important to them?

None of us could ever fathom the continuing outpouring of gifts this project nourishes us with even today. All six of us from Alaska, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, California, and Texas had and continue to have life-changing experiences because of Dr. Mirra and Dr. Garcia bringing us together.

I could go and on, and I will, but please check out the first article resulting from this work: I Hesitate but I do have Hope from the Harvard Educational Review. The power of youth voices cannot be ignored, but this research is also a story of nurturing the supportive ties connecting the educators doing this important and difficult work. It’s a story of building a community of trust and collaboration of expertise. At the heart of our work is doing the best we can to respond to the ever-changing needs of fostering the civic engagement of our youth and understanding this is not work we can do alone. Please see our project’s collection, Building Critical Civic Empathy Across Time and Space: Fostering Digital Democratic Dialogue with the NWP 3D Project at National Writing Project‘s The Current.

Whenever we share our experiences, educators always want to be a part of it, and we love this validation. They want to know how they can connect and transform not only their own practice but also the learning experiences for their students. That’s a tough one.

The 3D approach to civic literacy involves so much responsiveness to learner choice in and education world where prescribed curriculum and high stakes testing seem to drive decisions. Educators who want to embark on the 3D journey must have a clear sense of purpose while remaining open to evolution. Although many have expressed interest, it was only last week that I saw real action taken.

On June 9, 2021, when I shared Center to Support Excellence in Teaching‘s Normal Was Never Good Enough webinar series, it was a reminder of the opportunity that we have as we prepare for the new school year. I didn’t know this would be a chance to help another educator begin their 3D journey, but when Glenn Rhoades replied to my post, the excitement was afoot.

From there, we got to know more about one another’s teaching philosophy and values—- an essential step in creating any community. Once we found our pedagogies to be compatible, we made brainstormed how our learners might connect. Glenn writes more about our first exchanges in his blog post, Twitter Collaboration. Since we both do book clubs based on learner choice, we discussed the possibility of having our students possibly have Twitter chats and Zoom Harkness Discussions. It was very organic and enthusiastic, and it has me so hopeful for the next school year.

Glenn and I highlighted books about social justice, and truthfully, when looking at various book lists, these are titles my learners tend to choose. Our intended plans take more action steps towards a Restorative Restart.

It started with a tweet. It flowed to an understanding of our common foundations while celebrating differences as learning opportunities. It leaves us with collaboration, reimagination, and hope.


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