The Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning (3CL) is a joint venture between the Ministry for Education and Employment in Malta and the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver. Set up as a Foundation in 2017, it operates as a knowledge hub for a global network of groups, agencies, institutions, educators and activists interested in the rapid deployment of programmes for connected learning in the Commonwealth and the EU.
The principles of connected learning have been part of the education vernacular for several years and before the advent of the Internet. Built on the three core values of social equity, full participation and social connection, connected learning advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic or political opportunity (Ito et al., 2013). Rather than focusing on a specific technology platform or pedagogy, the focus is exclusively on the learner experience.
The emergence and mass uptake of networked and digital technology revived interest in connected learning as a learner-centric framework, with its thinking adapted by Internet academics such as Benkler and Rheingold. Social media, digital games, and digital production tools are used by lone educators to push against the boundaries of one-size-fits-all curricula in the belief that the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest combined with social support. This is inclusive yet very personalised learning by praxis, overcoming adversity and providing recognition for skills gained via alternative routes.
For educators adopting connected learning principles, the various experiences, interests and contexts in which learners participate―in and out of school―are potential learning opportunities that may also lead to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement. The use of online social networks also activates communities that are not necessarily geographic: young people use social media to connect with others who share similar interests and co-learn; older learners can lever on online peer-learning networks to pursue niche interests in the information age where in principle, social connections are abundant; academics can actively start to pursue opportunities for curriculum re-design.
Within this context, connected learning draws on technology to activate people’s interests, friendships, relationships and academic achievement through experiences grounded in hands-on production, shared purpose and open networks. It represents a framework for understanding and supporting learning, as well as a theory of intervention that grows out of our analysis of today’s changing social, economic, technological and cultural context. Connected learning experiences are also increasingly associated with 21st Century skills and ‘deeper learning’ demanded by the labour market. Framed against this ideal context is the embedded 20th century model of teaching and learning in classrooms that still have young people in assembly lines.
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