Leakiness of Connected Learning

I’ve finished a draft of part one of my chapter two on “What is Connected Learning? ” The second half will be devoted to “How do we Assess Connected Learning?” particularly in US higher education settings.

I’m planning on putting it out there for you to see and comment on soon.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be brave enough today. But recently I’ve shown some of my cards and I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from some of you – enough to start forming some even bigger picture ideas about what Connected Learning is and can be.

A couple of days ago I put out a post and infographic about some of the ways Connected Learning the pedagogical framework/design principles could link to some of the work of some educational research greats – Dewey, Wenger, and Papert.  To me it was a slam dunk, to others, not so much.  And in the ensuring conversation I came to the exciting conclusion that Connected Learning is an exercise in connection, itself.  If we are supposed to be inspiring students to make innovative connections across disciplines, domains, space, and time, should we be doing the same as we seek to describe Connected Learning?  My connections won’t look like your’s and hopefully your’s won’t look like mine.  I think that’s ok as long as they are logically sound.  If we lock people into “one true lineage”…well, that doesn’t even make sense.  And the rhizomatic flexibility of Connected Learning is what makes it different from some of the other things out there.

This links to my idea that Connected Learning as a field should continue to have “leaky boundaries.” I use that term because I use it in my draft in my description of networked learning environments.  To me, networked learning environments can be characterized through their qualities of openness and distribution; openness relates to flexibility within the network and leakiness of the boundaries around it – that’s a broad statement. I go into it for several pages in my draft. Distribution relates to the dispersal across space (like affinity spaces, multiple platforms), time (networked spaces challenge academic conceptualizations of time – they are timeless – ephemeral and permanent at the same time) and domains (spheres of learning, disciplines, informal/formal, etc).

If Connected Learning is to live in networked environments, it (as a field) should embody those characteristics; as a field of educational research, design, and practice, connected learning should have the same sort of leaky boundaries that its networked learning spaces have.

Connected Learning: The Design Principles

Because I like to make pretty little pictures of the things I obsess over.

 If you are interested, you can download it here as a pdf or here as a png.
Now I embarked on this as a fun way to blow off some steam after a rather intense two weeks (or was it three months?) of writing. But after I put it up on Twitter, I immediately got some loving pushback …something like this: 

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and this

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsYou know, I’m starting to really like these guys.  All that aside, it tipped me off that a little more explanation might be in order, so here it is.

The Connected Learning described in this infographic is Connected Learning the pedagogical framework outlined in Ito et al. 2013 and also here, on the Connected Learning Alliance website. They do not encompass my personal interpretation of connected learning in its entirety or representations of Connected Learning (note the capitalization, lower case…they are different) elsewhere.

Moreover, these are just examples; the motivation behind this infographic is to demonstrate the rich epistemological foundations for Connected Learning.  My choices are not meant to be comprehensive. They are meant to be illustrative.

Finally, as my twitter debate with the guys continues, it seems safe to say that the connections between Wenger and Shared Purpose and Papert and Production Centered are fairly non-controversial, but let’s talk about Dewey and Openly Networked for a moment.

“Openly networked” is a great opportunity to bring in the networked learning literature, connectivism, and the great web architects (like Bush and Engelbart).  I know it’s a great opportunity because I do so in Chapter 2 of my dissertation.  However, read Ito et al, 2013 and the Connected Learning Alliance website carefully.  And then pay attention to the fact that a full 1/2 of their framework is devoted to creating connections across individual, peer, and academic cultures.  And then understand that these connections demonstrate a certain type of openly networked, specifically related to crossing space, time, and semiotic domains.  And you will find, with a deep read of Dewey, that he talks about these exact same things.

And so, given that this poster is illustrative, not comprehensive; given that it is based entirely on Connected Learning the framework and not connected learning the body of literature; given that I was looking to connect to educational researchers and philosophers who have already stood the test of time; given that I have an internal motivation to show people that Connected Learning is not new, but rather a recontextualization of participatory, social, integrative, situated, social, learning; given all that,

I give you Dewey.

🙂 Stay tuned for more – about 30 pages of it.

Stitching the Diss: What is Connected Learning? (Reprise)


*A brief introduction to the section of my dissertation in which I introduce the history and current state of connected learning.  If any of it rings your alarm bells as being off-base, feel free to drop a comment.  I welcome all questions and concerns. 

Since the mid-1990s, educational researchers have used the term “connected learning” to mean a variety of things. In educational technology fields, connected learning is often used to indicate the technical, logistical, or computing aspects of digital learning spaces; in this respect it is often used synonymously with e-learning, online, or distance learning (Watson, 2007; Lennox, Davis, and Heirdsfield, 2006; Bowen, 2011). However connected learning has also referred to integrated, interdisciplinary, or general education (Boxer, 1998; Creighton, 2006; Smith & Morgain, 2004).  Occasionally, it means collaborative, experiential, and situated learning that may or may not include the use of digital tools (Long & Shobe, 2010; McElvaney & Berge, 2009). 

For the purposes of the current research, connected learning will be defined as a synthesis of these concepts: a learning philosophy that supports experiential, integrative, interdisciplinary and social learning in the context of networked, digital learning environments.  Connected learning in this form privileges the act of making connections – connections between people, resources, and people and resources – in the process of learning and the production of knowledge.  This perspective on learning is steeped in a rich epistemological history, beginning in the modern era with the work of progressive educators like John Dewey, social constructivists like Vygotsky, Bruner, and Lave and Wenger, and constructionists like Papert. Connected learning continues to develop through the work of networked learning scholars before emerging in 2013 as a specific pedagogical framework (“Connected Learning”) and an agenda for educational research and instructional design (Ito, et al., 2013). In the following section, I will briefly review the epistemological lineage of connected learning before providing a detailed description of the pedagogical framework called Connected Learning, including representative learning objectives, activities, and examples of Connected Learning courses that have been implemented in higher education settings.