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.]