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Outside the Classroom

Connected Learning: Learning That is Powerful, Relevant, and Engaging

What Is Connected Learning?

Technology is moving education into a new phase that is defined by connections. In today’s small world, everyone and everything is connected! This makes sharing information and collaborating with others easier than ever.

Connected learning is an approach to learning that is designed to meet today’s demands and opportunities: it’s designed to be relevant and engaging. This new approach was developed by the Connected Learning Research Network.

Connected learning bridges the gap between students and specialists. Students develop an understanding of how to use connections to find answers, seek out mentors and experts, investigate procedures, experiment with possibilities, and develop competencies.

Connected Learning Infographic

Credit: Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub. This Connected Learning infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Connected Learning Brings Together Three Spheres of Learning

One goal of the connected learning approach is to incorporate different domains for learning that are often disconnected and at war with each other in young people’s lives: peer culture, interests, and academics. Connected learning is all about building connections between these spheres to create more opportunities for learning.

Spheres of Learning

Credit: Connected Learning Research Network and Digital Media & Learning Research Hub. This Connected Learning infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Connected Learning Environments Are Designed to Be:

Peer supported

Some young people are reached best through their friendships and social relationships. Learning in the context of peer interaction is all about participation and engagement. In this sphere, young people are contributing as well as sharing and giving feedback in social experiences.

Interest powered

Others are best reached through their personal interests. These interests power the drive to acquire knowledge and expertise. When a subject is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes.

Academically oriented

Peer culture and interest-driven activity needs to be connected to academic subjects. Learners flourish and realize their potential when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunity.

Connected Learning Involves Three Core Properties

Students need opportunities for hands-on learning that involves creating, making, experimenting, and designing products.

If you’re hoping to connect these three spheres of learning, the Connected Learning Research Network states you need to establish environments that meet three criteria.

Production centered

Connected learning environments need to give students opportunities to create and produce. These environments should provide tools and opportunities for learners to create, circulate, curate, and comment on media. Students need opportunities for hands-on learning that involves creating, making, experimenting, and designing products.

Shared purpose

Connected learning environments draw together young people and adults with shared interests. By participating in joint activities that contribute to a common goal, students make cross-generational connections and participate in meaningful learning and inquiry.

Openly networked

Connected learning environments are designed to link learning in school, home, and community. Student achievement is greater when learning is reinforced and supported in multiple settings.

What Does Connected Learning Look Like?

Quest to Learn is a public school in New York and the first initiative by the nonprofit, Institute of Play. Charles Raben, a former students at Quest to Learn, saw firsthand that by connecting the many spheres of his life—peer relationships, interests and academic pursuits—new learning experiences could present themselves.

In the summer of 2012, Charles utilized his photography skills and the petition website Change.org to capture and share the story of Jerry Delakas, a longtime local newsstand operator who was in danger of losing his New York City license over a technicality. “I wanted to have that experience of creating change myself,” Charles said.

The petition-making process proved to be a life-changing learning experience for Charles. After he became more engaged in school, his academic work improved, and he began to feel a new sense of identity. A single sentence on his photography blog eloquently describes his newfound identity: “Each face tells a story and I try to capture just that.”

Sources

Connected Learning Alliance

Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. 2013. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

About the Author

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Adam Barnes

Adam is an Editor for Edgenuity’s Product Development team and has worked for the company since 2012. He graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in secondary education, with a concentration in history. As a board member for the Arizona Council for the Social Studies, he has written curriculum and facilitated professional development workshops for K-12 teachers on topics such as primary source analysis and Common Core State Standards. He has also worked with the Arizona Historical Society where he aligned Arizona state teaching standards with the museum’s educational programs.