What is Connected Learning? Definitions & Status
19 August, 2017
Definition of Connected Learning
Connected learning is a relatively new term, having arrived on the scene with the application of rapidly-evolving digital technologies to education.
One of the definitions of connected learning describes it as an approach to education that is “socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity”. Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement. This model is based on evidence that the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition” (Ito et al., 2013).
As early as the turn of the millennium the term “connected learning” had already been coined and was being applied to explain some the affordances of Internet that could have potential benefits in education. However, at the time the focus was more on ICT competences, e.g. the skills of using a computer rather than than ICT being just an enabler to reach non-technological learning outcomes or outside ICT-related courses (Curry 2001; Kearns, 2002).
The need for a new ‘literacy’ that makes it possible to understand the new content produced in these new online environment had started to be felt (Downes & Zammit, 2001; Mason, Weller, & Pegler, 2003). The first experience of “connected communities” were already being analysed (Bielefeldt, Moursund, Underwood, & Underwood, 1999).
Rheingold (2014) defines not just the potential of being a connected educator/learner but also how to be a good one: “The key to becoming a successful ‘connected educator-learner’ involves spending the time needed to learn how to learn and share in an open, connected environment. Once you make the decision to enter into a dialogue with another user, you become a connected educator/learner and tap into the power of networks to distribute the load of learning. Depending on their age, you can even facilitate an awareness of peer networks among your students”.
According to Ito et al. (2013), “the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition” and connected learning is well-poised to do just that.
Now that connected learning is a clearer concept to grasp and its potential well-recognised (Gogia, 2014) – in what is even being recognised as a “golden age” (Flora, 2016) – the time is ripe for individual learning to exploit such opportunities. Resources for connected educators, from instructional design (Sharpe 2013; Garcia et al, 2014) to accreditation, from Open Education Resources complete with libraries of OER content to free and open tools for creating online connections and learning environments that go beyond the traditional school walls (Bilandzic, 2016), abound. The Connected Educator Starter Kit is a good entry point.
One of the most popular and visible manifestations of connected learning is certainly the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). After years of experimentation with MOOCs – with 2012 being labelled as the “Year of the MOOC” – the heated debate in academic circles on the position of MOOCs in the education spectrum is still simmering, with such issues of accreditation (Feldman, 2016), quality, what we understand by being “open” and the commercialisation of a supposedly “free” opportunities for self-education still in contention.
Research and maturity of Connected Learning
Researching connected learning remains a challenging task according to Kumpulainen & Sefton-Green (2014), for its has to go beyond “traditional boundaries” in social sciences. “The key challenge for researching connected learning is how to capture the dynamic nature of the making of connections, which works at a number of levels. Using connected as an adjective to describe the participle learning implies a certain sense of completed-ness, of the learning being fulfilled by making the connection”.
3CL is committed to supporting research in this field.
Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning. Routledge.
Bilandzic, M. (2016). Connected learning in the library as a product of hacking, making, social diversity and messiness. Interactive Learning Environments, 24(1), 158-177.
Curry, D. B. (2001). Collaborative, connected, and experiential learning: Reflections of an online learner.
Downes, T., & Zammit, K. (2001). New literacies for connected learning in global classrooms. In Information and Communication Technologies in Education (pp. 113-128). Springer US.
Feldman, P. (2016). Are ‘challenger institutions’ really gamechangers for the future of higher education?. Jisc. Retrieved 3 January 2017, from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/are-challenger-institutions-really-gamechangers-for-the-future-of-higher-education-21-dec-2016
Flora, C. (2016). The Golden Age of Teaching Yourself Anything. Psychology Today. Retrieved 3 January 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201607/the-golden-age-teaching-yourself-anything
Garcia, A., Cantrill, C., Filipiak, D., Hunt, B., Lee, C., Mirra, N., … & Peppler, K. (2014). Teaching in the connected learning classroom.
Gogia, L. (2014). The Case for Connected Learning. Retrieved 3 January 2017, from https://rampages.us/connectedlearningcollection/wp-content/uploads/sites/11480/2015/09/TheCaseforConnectedLearning.pdf
Ito et al. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.
Kearns, P. (2002). Towards the connected learning society. An International Overview of Trends in Policy for Information and Communication Technology in Education.
Kumpulainen, K., & Sefton-Green, J. (2014). What is connected learning and how to research it?. International Journal of Learning and Media.
Rheingold, H. (2014). The peeragogy handbook. Arlington, MA: Pierce Press and Chicago: PubDomEd Press. Published with a CC-Zero copyright waiver.
Author: Martin Debattista