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Connecting with Connected Learning

Kids Fishing Day at Hensley LakeI’ve had about four hours so far to wrap my head around the buzz about Connected Learning. That’s how long it’s been since the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast I attended this evening. (I’ll add a link to the archived show when it’s available.)

I’ll admit that I came to the discussion with some misconceptions. Perhaps the most incorrect misstep was my belief that when people talked about “connected,” they meant using technology to reach pedagogical goals. I thought it was going to be yet another way of describing what I’ve known by names such as computer and writing, techrhet, and (most recently) digital humanities.

I was wrong, and I’m still trying to come up with my short explanation of what connected learning is. Elyse Eidman-Aadahl opened up the discussion with a description of the concept, but I admit I was just trying to keep up. When your definition is so far away from what’s correct, it takes a little time to catch up. (I think we can officially say I was mired in cognitive dissonance.)

Elyse mentioned Mimi Ito, and it was on Ito’s post on “Connected Learning” that I found a video and some additional details about what the term connected learning means. If you’re as new to this as I am, go read Ito’s post and watch the video. Here’s how Ito summarized what connected learning is:

In a nutshell, connected learning is learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented towards educational and economic opportunity. Connected learning is when you're pursuing knowledge and expertise around something you care deeply about, and you’re supported by friends and institutions who share and recognize this common passion or purpose. (Mimi Ito, “Connected Learning” )

The key buzzwords mentioned during the webchat included engagement, out of school opportunities, breaking down batch thinking, and passionate learning. And there was HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out).

Don’t quote me on this, but from what I can tell so far, connected learning is what I’ve always thought learning is supposed to be. It’s about building, and supporting a learning community that lets kids engage with education according to their own interests, building their own knowledge, and reaching out to (yes) connect with other learners. If I understand, the notion of connected learning is really the same notion I had in mind when I dropped out of the elementary education major and went on another path (but I’m going to save that story for later).

I know that I’m still having a hard time putting what connected learning is into words, but I realized that I do think that I know what it looks like. It’s those kids trying to find out what that fish is like in the picture at the top of this post. And I think it's all these kids:

Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge connecting with giant pandas connecting kids Kids enjoy birdwatching at Ankeny NWR

And I’m pretty sure, it’s none of these kids:

SJSA Grade Six -  The Year I Rebelled Exam Taking a Test.

And this kid.... well he is desperately trying to connect. I hope the connected learning pedagogy spreads quickly enough to reach him.

When my son takes standardized tests

 

[Photo: All images are creative commons from Flickr. Click on each image for the original and more information. This post has been cross-posted on my personal website.]

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Comments

dogtrax's picture

Traci

I appreciated the honesty. As part of various NWP circles, the terminology has come up for me, and I have not yet had enough time to dive in and understand what makes Connective Learning any different from the kinds of learning going on already. Your sharing of the definition and reflections are quite helpful.

Kevin

 

dogtrax's picture

I saw Chris Sloan had shared this infographic out, too.

http://connectedlearning.tv/infographic

Kevin

tengrrl's picture

Thanks for linking to the infographic, Kevin. I looked at it last night, but to my ways of interpreting the world, it's very messy and hard to use. Far too busy. I need something simpler as a foundation before I'm dropped into that multi-faceted, all-inclusive, infinitely adaptable interpretation of CL. I have a feeling I'm going to return to that image each time there's a webcast, looking for the things I missed and trying to make all the ideas fit. Fortunately, there's no standardized testing involved, so I can take my time figuring it all out :)

Elyse Eidman-Aadahl's picture

Traci,

Your very thoughtful blog post has me itching to find the time to write more than a comment, but I'll start here. You say "Don't quote me", but I will...because it's the great:

Don’t quote me on this, but from what I can tell so far, connected learning is what I’ve always thought learning is supposed to be. It’s about building, and supporting a learning community that lets kids engage with education according to their own interests, building their own knowledge, and reaching out to (yes) connect with other learners. If I understand, the notion of connected learning is really the same notion I had in mind when I dropped out of the elementary education major and went on another path (but I’m going to save that story for later).

I think that's exactly right. I'd go a step further to say that it is what learning "is". For folks in the ELA/writing/socio-cultural-constructivist-progessive-pedagogy type camps, it's perhaps a yawner. We already thought this. But where the 'technology piece' that you assumed (not wrongly) to be part of the concept comes in is that we now have different tools to act on this concept of learning than we might have had years ago. In my view, this is what JSB was saying in his keynote when he said that perhaps John Dewey and Maria Montessori were 75 years ahead of their time. 

So the buzz is perhaps more about trying to galvanize the implications. If we could get more people, especially outside the usual suspects, to take learning seriously ('learning' as opposed to 'education' or 'schooling') and realize that with the affordances of the Internet and digital tools we now face the possibility of building on this understanding of learning in a more expansive way, could we create contexts where more young people get to experience this kind of empowering learning...and not just in great classrooms and schools, but also in the community, online, at parks & rec, in games, at home with the family, wherever? So for me, it's really about the design principles.

So part of the reason for working through the language of the Connected Learning principles (the design principles that folks derived together) was to provide a way for folks in different sectors to talk with each other and name that this is what learning looks like...not like that awful animation from Waiting for Superman where we open up the kid's head and poor stuff in...so that in our different sectors we can make/do/leverage more 'connected learning' stuff and less of the stuff that gets in the way. Or for all of us who have been 'fighting' the stuff that gets in the way for so long (and here I would put the ELA/writing/socio-cultural-constructivist-progessive-pedagogy, it gives us a way to engage allies and co-developers ourside our usual spheres: in media and game design, in parallel learning institutions like museums and public libraries, etc.) What are the common design principles that we would pull into our respective fields from this understanding of learning?

Wow...that's a long comment. Blog post masquerading as a comment! BTW, love the pictures. Yes, you have it.

christina's picture

Hi Elyse and Traci and Kevin ... what great conversation emerging out of this show last night. I am just jumping because I viserally remember talking to Elyse about that scene in Superman too and it was so disturbing and so opposite of all I have learned about teaching and learning from my years at the writing project that I started to talk to my friends who are outside the NWP about it ... is this a dominant image of what teachers do? I just wanted to understand better and then figure out what I could do about it.

Peter Kittle, in a recent Ignite presentation he did at MacArthur's DML conference, talked about educational memes and the ways that memes spread ... and how the goal of a meme is to spread, good or bad. And he called for more good educational memes to be created so that they could spread and for us all to work on that together:

our task, as educators, is it figure how we give the good teaching that goes along with inquiry way better memes than it has now

I think your pictures here, Traci, and the stories we heard last night on TTT, start to do that work. I think the case studies and hopefully the webinars via connectedlearning.tv will help to do that too.

What other ways can we work together to do this? That's a question I continue to think about.

tengrrl's picture

Memes, buzzwords, soundbites (or bytes, if you like) can all help get the word out. It's sort of funny, but perhaps the biggest challenge for the CL pedagogy is connecting with the stakeholders. Getting the notion out there means connecting in meaningful ways with families, communities, schools, administrators, budget committees, goverments, and everyone else. I'm not sure the best way to do that. 

We need an action plan, a communications plan, some notion of how to get the word out in ways that grabs and engages the audience. Talking about it with other educators is the first step, but I'm going to need to think more about the best ways to reach beyond that circle.

tengrrl's picture

Thanks for the clarification Elyse. So CL *is* adding the digital dynamic -- so essentially a new name for the same thing I've been doing for years. I guess I have some more thinking to do to see how this "new" idea relates to the existing body of pedagogy. Today's webcast was hyper-digital in focus. Had I seen it before the TTT webcast, I'm not sure I would have written this post. Going to let it all sit for a bit longer and see what I can make of it. 

 

 

Elyse Eidman-Aadahl Admin's picture

Hi Traci,

No need to keep comments going back and forth...but I was thinking, yes, this is what you (especially) have been up to for many years. The digital provides us with this inflected moment that includes the possibility of broad access, low cost yet powerful tools for production and distribution of knowledge, global collaboration, etc. etc. etc.  Early in the DML -- which is, after all, digital media and learning -- we talked a lot about the digital. But now, it seems important to balance it by saying there's a learning and participatory model here that is slightly different than 'the digital.' What's the difference between this approach and, say, Kahn Academy? Both tout the affordances of the Internet. Are they the same? 

For me, I've been playing with several design possibilities that are hyper-digital in some ways and not in others:

  1. If we shift focus to the learner (say, digitally enabled entrepreneurial learner) and note that school is just one node on his/her leaning network, how do we in the learning institutions rethink our institutions and, in particular, in relationship to each other? What if schools, libraries, museums, youth-serving CBOs, and media took this seriously and configured themselves as 'webbed' so that learnings could cut trajectories between and among them that added up to something?
  2. How do personal portfolios/badge systems and other au currant ideas about assessment, display, and accumulation of 'markers' fit into the way that learners could move among a 'web' of learning opportunities as above and including learning on the web too? How do these systems become something that doesn't reduce to just a possessive individualism of 'adding up bits' like our current credit systems.
  3. If we say that 'learners' can connect all over the place as a way to power their own learning, how do we create platforms and environments that build dispositions to participate in other people's learning? This is a version of 'yes, everyone can post a blog, but does anyone read it and respond?" Yes, learners can connect, but does anyone experience the environment (f2f or online) as requiring you to connect back?  We're worked so hard to 'assign' education to professionals like teachers, librarians, etc. that we have also sent the message for people outside of those professions that it's not their job too.

Oh, just musing and need to stop writing...

JonBarilone's picture

I definitely look forward to hearing your thoughts, Traci. Very refreshing to see someone analyzing connected learning closely. I assume you're referencing the 3/22 Connected Learning TV session with Mimi, correct? I'd love to get your feedback and impressions so we can make those sessions as inviting and conversational as possible.

tengrrl's picture

Hi, Jon,

Yes, I was referring to the 3/22 session. I plan to write more after I've sorted through some of the resources mentioned there and here. Elyse's link to the Connected Learning principles  is probably the most useful thing I've found. It's clarified a lot -- but also raised some new questions for me. Still digesting it all.

Traci

paulallison's picture

samim05's picture

The pictures are perfect. They show exactly what I picture connected learning to be. I hope that in the near future all schools can move toward more connected learning and away from so many tests and "one size fits all" approaches.