Intellectual Exchange: A Bread Loaf Tradition

Dear NextGen Activists,

I’m late in reaching out to you, but I want to take a few minutes to invite you to think about an intellectual tradition in the Bread Loaf Teacher Network. I especially want to think about how you can help us re-invent this, even as you learn about it and carry it out.

Since the 1980s, teachers coming to Bread Loaf have studied, chatted, lived, and learned together and have reflected on their students all the while. During the school year, teachers connected with one another’s classrooms and studied books together, took on community action projects together, and published and analyzed the processes and products of their learning together. By the 90s, as the Bread Loaf Rural Teacher Network was formed, Bread Loaf teachers and students began to call these arrangements “online exchanges.” Most of these were conducted via text, through teacher email accounts and online “conference” spaces, with all of the conversation collected into transcripts for analysis. Many BL teachers and students published about the discoveries–the cultural, geographic, intellectual, and personal understandings–that emerged form writing to learn about one another and about texts together.

I have a site up at that will give you glimpses into this kind of work. Many Bread Loaf faculty engaged with classroom teachers and youth over the years, helping all of us to see the national (and often international) significance of the work.

You, my NextGen friends, now help us to understand how the mix of Bread Loaf’s intellectual resources and traditions and our current social media and social action landscapes, may be reinvented. Building from the assumption that meaning-making is a social process, and that we often gain skills when we have need to use them (including the joy of using them), how can we use one another as resources to learn and to build our capacities to understand and communicate over distance?


Tom McKenna
I'm the Director of the BLTN NextGen Leadership Network and Dir. of Communications for the BLTN.

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