Connected Learning and Sewing!

Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito, a passionate expert in young people’s use of digital media, tells us in Learning in Social Media Spaces how informal learning in online communities need to be valued. This is indeed places where students can freely:
– build technology skills
– learn media literacy
– create
– share their work

The challenge for educators is to incorporate in their teaching those three types of online activities already mentioned: hanging out, messing around and geeking out, and create a framework for it, to guide students in a meaningful way. Once again, the survey Living with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) details its findings; looking more closely at “messing around”, which, as we know, is the start of a more serious, “media-centric” form of engagement, we see that it involves “an interest in and a focus of the workings and the content of the technology and the media themselves”.
At that stage, young people will naturally start tinkering, exploring and will, therefore, extend their understanding of their subject of interest, but also of the digital technology.

The big idea of this section of the course is: “Connections can strengthen learning and open up new learning opportunities“. As we slowly need to start moving away from theory and start practicing, our homework is: what we can learn when with connect with others?
I gave some thoughts to what I wanted to learn right now, knowing that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine in place, shopping is very limited besides the essentials.
I was a bit puzzled when my daughter suggested it could be an opportunity to (finally!) learn how to sew to mend rips in our clothes! Yeah! I agree!

For years, this was my mother’s job when she came to visit; I even have a box with the basic sewing equipment.

Nostalgia Box

Now that she isn’t coming as often, and has painful fingers due to arthritis, my dear colleague and friend Charlotte took over the job! I would take the tee-shirt with a hole, or a pair of trousers with a tear, to school, and she would very kindly repair it during her lunch break or take it home. I know, I am lucky! <3

Charlotte mending a blouse

But now might be the moment when I take responsibility and repair my own clothes! How should I proceed to learn basic hand sewing, on my own?
It seems like a daunting task.

First of all, let’s find out what Jeff Kaufman‘s theory about self-learning is, as his book title is intriguing: “The First 20 Hours: How to learn anything… Fast“.
Here is how he explains it:

I can identify when Kaufman says that the biggest obstacle is not our lack of abilities but our emotions stopping us: we are indeed often anxious at the start of a new project, because of our level of incompetency: this is normal as we are about to learn something brand new.
[and here we can have some sympathy for our students]
If we get over the fear, and follow these steps, we will be able to learn anything we want to, from a new language to playing an instrument… the list is endless!

Kaufman'steps to learn anything in 20 hours:
1 Deconstruct 
2 Learn enough to Self correct 
3 Remove distraction 
4 Practice 20 hours

Next, I read Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design and it appears to be the perfect sequence, as this research report (led by Mizuko Ito among others) showed the importance of Connected Learning:

A young person should be able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adult

On a professional level, it makes so much sense, and I am happy to see that our library is moving towards that direction as we offer a Library Club with varied activities chosen by students and not all linked to reading but also to technology and crafts, a Creativity Studio with green screen, filming and audio equipment, a board games collection, chess tournaments, the IRIS Award, a reading collaboration program between international Schools in Western Europe since 2016.
It is increasingly more explicit that I need to take the leap from the lurker I was [still is] to at least a connector, and possibly to a creator, as I am one of the caring adults that need to support our student through their Connected Learning journey, either for a classroom project or for a personal one. So far, some colleagues have filled in that role, but I definitely want to join in!

About my own current homework, I might not be a “young person” anymore (still is at heart though!) but, nonetheless, realized that I also need support to put in practice my project. Based on that awareness, here is the plan I developed.

Christel’s 10 actionable steps towards learning basic sewing:

  1. Check sewing-field vocabulary in English
  2. Identify online tutorials in English and in French + WikiHow FR
  3. Phone friend and expert sewer Charlotte with specific questions
  4. Look around for family clothes needing mending
  5. Watch the best tutorial(s) and practice directly
  6. Ask feedback to Charlotte (via video call)
  7. Practice on the other clothes to be repaired
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As I shared my most recent learnings with my family, I was happy to be a connector as my husband decided to apply Kaufman’s theory and learn how to sing Buddhist mantra in 20 hours!

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