The Question: Connected Learning and Deeper Understanding

The Question(s)

How does connectedness relate to student learning?  Does connectedness promote deeper understanding and how?

The Answer

Connectedness is the state of being able to recognize, understand, and act on connections across content, people, space, and time.  It relates to learning in multiple ways.

  1. Making connections across content is a time-honored form of learning that I do not feel I have to defend.  If we are going old school, it is found in Bloom’s taxonomy in terms of “synthesis.”  It is the basis of interdisciplinary education.  Dewey. Montessori It is pattern recognition.  It is Meyers and Land’s threshold concept.  It is Vygotsky’s movement across the zone of proximal development.  It is the “if this then this” of logical argument.
  2. Making connections across people is the basis of social learning.  It is in dialogue education. Mezirow, Freire, Vella. Vygotsky. Bruner. Lave and Wenger. It is being introduced to and contemplating the position of “the other.”  From another vantage point, making connections across people can speak to social networking. Forming personal learning networks allows learners to seek out, find, and engage in learning experiences during which they make connections across content.
  3. Making connections across space and time is the basis of reflective learning.  Schon. It is about looking about across your past acts and experiences and transferring knowledge to your current contexts.
The question of connectedness and deeper understanding is an interesting one, because what does deeper understanding mean to you?  This is a buzz phrase without great definition – or, rather, lots of great definitions, but no real consensus.  So I’ll give you mine.  Deeper understanding goes back to my definition of connectedness: the state of being able to recognize, understand, and act on knowledge.  This isn’t just about being able to answer questions on a test (arguably a form — superficial form — of understanding), this is about being able to use the information to inform your actions and creations within your authentic life as a human in the world.  This concept is embedded in the value system of connectivity.  Students who are able to connect concepts (synthesis), connect with people (discourse and discovery), connect with themselves (reflection)…they approach challenging learning spaces and ideas with more resilience and flexibility.  And when they can connect ideas to communities and humans (who are in constant movement and flux and need), ideas become oriented towards action – and they are vectorized.  The ability to vectorize learning IS transferability, the holy grail of formal education.
And so, I answer your question in the following way: Connectedness IS learning.  Connectedness IS deeper understanding.