Connected Learning: A New Research-Driven Initiative
Connected Learning, a new research-driven initiative, was introduced at the Digital Media and Learning Conference 2012.
We see a growing gap between the learning mediums with which young people engage in-school and out-of-school. New social media enables young people to have greater choice and autonomy in pursuing their interests—whether academic, creative, or social—in domains outside of formal learning institutions. While engagement with culture and knowledge outside the classroom has changed markedly in the past decade, schools have been slower to adapt to digital and networked media. This gap between the more engaging social learning environments young people encounter outside of school, and the top-down and standardized curriculum that they encounter in most classrooms, is the source of a troubling and growing generation gap that is leading to academic disengagement for many young people. Addressing this gap requires a reconsideration of how learning is organized between settings of school, after-school, home and peer culture. When informal and youth-driven interest-driven learning does cross over to other learning contexts, we see the opportunity for what we call “connected learning”—learning in a socially meaningful and knowledge-rich ecology of ongoing participation, self-expression, and recognition (http://dmlcentral.net/projects/3677).
The historical roots for this current research agenda is grounded in two pieces of work:
- Henry Jenkins’ Participatory Culture
- Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures
Henry Jenkin’s introduced Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century through a white paper in 2006. He speaks more about it in his 2010 TEDxNYED talk.
Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media
“Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures” was a three-year collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley, the digital youth project explored how kids use digital media in their everyday lives. Mimi Ito discusses it in the following video.
At the core of connected learning are three values:
- Equity — when educational opportunity is available and accessible to all young people, it elevates the world we all live in.
- Full Participation — learning environments, communities, and civic life thrive when all members actively engage and contribute.
- Social connection — learning is meaningful when it is part of valued social relationships and shared practice, culture, and identity (http://connectedlearning.tv/connected-learning-principles).
This initiative is being driven by the following design principles:
- Shared purpose — Connected learning environments are populated with adults and peers who share interests and are contributing to a common purpose. Today’s social media and web-based communities provide exceptional opportunities for learners, parents, caring adults, teachers, and peers in diverse and specialized areas of interest to engage in shared projects and inquiry. Cross-generational learning and connection thrives when centered on common interests and goals.
- Production-centered — Connected learning environments are designed around production, providing tools and opportunities for learners to produce, circulate, curate, and comment on media. Learning that comes from actively creating, making, producing, experimenting, remixing, decoding, and designing, fosters skills and dispositions for lifelong learning and productive contributions to today’s rapidly changing work and political conditions.
- Openly networked — Connected learning environments are designed around networks that link together institutions and groups across various sectors, including popular culture, educational institutions, home, and interest communities. Learning resources, tools, and materials are abundant, accessible and visible across these settings and available through open, networked platforms and public-interest policies that protect our collective rights to circulate and access knowledge and culture. Learning is most resilient when it is linked and reinforced across settings of home, school, peer culture and community (http://connectedlearning.tv/connected-learning-principles).
Questions I Pose:
- What is the role of connected learning within established school institutions?
- Will teachers and students find “themselves” within the demonstration case studies?
- How will the ideas of K-12 teachers and students drive and provide feedback to this research agenda?
- What proactive steps will be taken to help the public-at-large (kids, parents, students, community members) understand and connect with Connect Learning?
- What are the researchers long term mission and agenda in terms of affecting broad and deep change in the educational policies in the United States?
The importance and significance of connected learning cannot be understated. Young people are engaging in informal learning stating that they often learn more outside of the school environment than inside of it.
The urgent need to reimagine education grows clearer by the day. Research has shown that too many students are disengaged and alienated from school, and see little or no purpose to their education. Business leaders say there is a widening gap between the skills of the workforce and the needs of businesses seeking competitive advantage. Additionally, technology and the networked era threatens to stretch the already-wide equity gap in education unless there is decisive intervention and a strong public agenda (http://connectedlearning.tv/connected-learning-principles).