In #the4thbox, I believe participation is the final step following equality, equity, and liberation. Considering my lack of artistic ability, I searched for an image that I thought went with the theme and represented the end of the journey of those three people.

In equality, everyone is treated the same, regardless of any distinguishing feature. There are countless systems in place that are old and antiquated, creating a ‘wall’ that prevents some from not only success, but envisioning success. In education, there are outdated systems that prevent students from even imagining what success looks like.

In a math classroom, I gets kids in high school that have been ‘beaten down’ by previous curricula and leave them unable to even think about what math success looks like. Often, one semester’s worth of classes isn’t enough time to build back the confidence needed to get started on the path to success. All the students were treated equally, but it leaves some behind on a permanent basis.

Moving on to equity, some students are given a little bit more of a leg up on their situations than others, based on need. Some students require some more support, some are placed in higher-level classes, but the outdated systems still block most from success, even though everyone can see what it looks like.

Some students have an IEP or 504 plan, while some others are put into AP classes. Success is different for every student; some need to pass to get a job in a union, some need to be valedictorian. The teachers still control most of the learning, but success is achievable for every student.

In liberation, the wall has been torn down; new systems are put in place to allow every student to not only envision success, but experience it. I believe our education system largely languishes between this step and the previous one. The educators still control what the requirements are, but the students are more free to explore those requirements and take on a little more responsibility for their own learning.

I believe the story completes with participation, which could be looked at in several ways. The picture is supposed to signal that the people behind the wall are the ones playing the game. There are no walls, and everyone who wants to participate in the game is now free to come in from off the sidelines.

My connected learning dream is to have a class where the teachers and students are closer to being peers than anything else. Most of the learning comes from student-to-student rather than student-to-teacher. We can think of the teacher as the manager of a baseball team, while the students are players. The players are the ones having the experience and making the most difficult decisions, while the manager is there only if things go astray.

I also thought a Jackie Robinson picture was specifically important to recognize that there shouldn’t be any inherent impediment to participation. Those walls have to be torn down by changing antiquated systems, and it’s quite difficult, but taking risks can have really positive results.


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