Category Archives: Shared Purpose

Connected Learning Principle

Join OLE!

You are invited to join the group of people collaborating openly about ways to learn together in our ALT Lab faculty course, Online Learning Experience. Share with them what you know and what you are researching. Learn with them the value of collaboration and co-learning so you include these Connected Learning principles in your own course design.

“We live in a world in which you can get the answer to any question within seconds,” Rheingold told us over Skype, “but it’s up to you to determine the validity of the information you receive. It’s so important for learners to understand that critical thinking is not just a tool in the toolkit that you can pull out on occasion, but an attitude towards seeing information that you swim in.” In other words, a digital literacy can be seen as a mental framework one develops through practice—a simultaneously personal and collaborative skill that one must constantly hone in the midst of our computer-mediated lives. Practicing Web Wisdom: Mindfully Incorporating Digital Literacies

Why Online? “Access Trumps Knowledge”

I’m writing in response to Harold Jarche’s post, moving to social learning, where he describes a decentralized social learning approach to change in our organizations. Since we are now so technologically connected with communication networks worldwide, access to a trusted network of people to guide our change in work practices makes sense. By engaging with our networks to cooperate, share knowledge and collaborate, learning online gives us the ability to do complex work more readily. We must create the structures necessary to support it.

Research shows that an effective knowledge network is open, transparent, and diverse. Social networks are by nature open; they can enable knowledge-sharing; which in turn fosters a diversity of ideas and opinions necessary for innovation.

If this adaptive social learning is happening in our workplace, helping students learn “how to search, find and make the connections”  is essential. We’ve labeled these principles connected learning in a networked world – access to information and a trusted network of people in order to collaborate and learn.

Knowledge workers – that’s us – also need to develop emergent practices through social relationships outside the workplace – and classroom. This keeps learning connected to the changing external environment, through human relationships and social networks. As educators, we help our students and colleagues connect the ideas worth exploring.

One thing your instructor can do

Communicate_by_Fenx07While reviewing ECAR survey data related to technology use, I’ve found student comments from the survey prompt “One thing your instructor can do” provide valuable insight.

Most of the student comments requested that faculty use technology to communicate more  — announcements, due dates, detailed information for assignments, grade updates, recorded lectures, simulations, practice cases and, most important, feedback. Examples are:

Communicate often, whether via email, Blackboard, group texting or other similar modes of digital communications.
Some professors could help more if they were more available online when we have questions or concerns.
Connect us to collaboration tools like shared spaces Google docs, drive,
Post lectures for review
Curate materials, especially videos, interactive case studies, or simulations, for students to use to “accompany what we are learning”.

Other research about teaching tells us the same. Community of Inquiry  research defines teaching presence.

your communication with your students is the most important part of the course. Facilitating discourse and sharing personal meaning creates presence. As you help your students stay on task, nudge those who are not as active as needed, answer questions so students don’t get stuck while attempting to do assignments, and ensure the comments in discussions are accurate and on the right track, you create presence.

Connected Learning principles also focus on the communication among learners provided by networked technologies to be essential in establishing shared purpose in a community of people who work together to achieve a shared goal.

Communicating regularly matters, especially to the students themselves.

Network a Shared Experience of Creating Together

…the importance of doing things together, the lip-dub project. It’s one thing to have all the tweeting and commenting, but quite another to have this shared experience of creating together.
It’s pretty simple. And yet so rarely done.  Reply to a post by Alan Levine (@cogdog)


Waag Society Do it together bio. Home grown bio paper and ink.

Waag Society Do it together bio. Home grown bio paper and ink.

And not a new concept. We know shared creating establishes learning more deeply.

Community-centered: Community-centered environments foster norms for people learning from one another, and continually attempting to improve. In such a community, students are encouraged to be active, constructive participants. Further, they are encouraged to make—and then learn from—mistakes. Intellectual camaraderie fosters support, challenge and collaboration. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School  John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown and Rodney R. Cocking, editors. National Academies Press; 1st edition (September 15, 2000)

So what’s different with the Connected Learning Principles we’ve been sharing, learning, discussing? How can they make community building in our (online and f2f) classrooms a reality? Shared Purpose. Interest Powered. Production Centered. Peer supported. = DO TOGETHER.

Openly Networked Community of learners connected to Open Educational Resources is the new possibility communication technologies and multimedia brings us. Students reflecting about their intriguing questions with those researchers who are developing the related knowledge, facilitated by teachers who make the connections. How do we “make together” in an online connected network of people not in the same physical place?

Pretty simple. ??

Certainly worth doing… We have some examples of students writing magazines together in a syndicated site; diagramming blood paths within biological systems on a digital whiteboard; researchers building shared databases of data; …

What can you imagine being openly networked will do for your students?

Why Now?

Hypermedia: Why Now?
by Jon Udell
…for the most part, publishers can just assume that an internet-connected computer will play sound as well as video. This was a long time coming, but we’re finally there.

…merely reading isn’t enough. Deep skill in reading cannot be attained without deep skill in writing. Thus we teach not only attention to others’ words, but adaptive skills and strategies in creating those words ourselves. Now, students are going to film school not simply to land a job in the film industry, but to master the skills and strategies of sophisticated visual and aural communications.
We’re living through a radical transformation of our communications environment. Since we don’t have the benefit of hindsight, we don’t really know where it’s taking us. And one thing we’ve learned from the history of communications technology is that people tend to overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies — and to underestimate their long-term implications….”
…a transition from a world in which the PC really was the computer, to one in which the network is effectively the computer. It has led to the emergence of “cloud computing” … by John Naughton

books on a shelf

What’s possible now in education that has not been possible? Each of us can create and publish our own story. We can use text, images, audio, music, and video to our unique purpose. Five years ago we had text. Downloads were impossible in the remote places I was teaching. The difference between reading a text and having the author read to you is, for me, huge in gaining the understanding the author is trying to convey. Now add an image or a movie of the story, accompanied by the music that touches our imagination as we watch and listen. Then share the lecture that tells the opposing view.

The best part of this as an educator is that I can have my students listen and watch the best of the lecturers, the best of the thoughtful practitioners, and the worst. I can comment, make connections, and help students see the difference in the information being presented as true, whether the medium is text or “sophisticated visual and aural communications.” In that conversation, we learn. The network allows many perspectives to be heard in that conversation. We can ask our students to retell the story in their own medium, and remix the concepts to fit their own understanding in context. The network of listeners in the open conversation will be sure to add their opinion if the new story doesn’t fit.

As Naughton suggests, print changed who learned. Books made it possible to hear the conversation when you couldn’t hear the lecture. This new networked “radical transformation of our communications environment.” will certainly change the place where we learn. How will we imagine teaching in this environment??




What’s Coming

The Teaching Professor Technology Conference audience loved Alec Couros’ message. I, too, enjoyed his talk and his message about networked, connected learners — what’s possible and what’s coming.

My presentation about the differences in teaching online was also well received, but in the response to both talks, I heard “It will take a decade for the rest of us to catch up to these ideas” about connected learning and networked open courses. Yet the conference program had great ideas, especially about blended learning strategies and blogging, active learning and collaboration. The enthusiasm of the people attending was obvious in their questions and comments. The teachers I’ve met in my several years of attending conferences and working as a faculty consultant have always been interested in doing the best job they could for their students. I hope the concepts of open, connected learning and blending course activities between the classroom [virtual & f2f] and the web will be adopted more quickly than predicted, as the communication tools evolve. The yet unimagined possibilities hold much promise.

Open, free access to quality learning – Our Goal?

I’ve been reading several articles suggested by the I’ve quoted a few ideas below that begin to define my thinking in response.

The principles of connected learning suggest “student experiences of social connection, self-expression, relevance, and interests … are at the core of connected learning.” Describing the Why of Connected Learning

“Learning will come unbundled from the pursuit of a degree just as songs came unbundled from CDs.”

“Demand for knowledge is so enormous that good, free online materials can attract extraordinary numbers of people from all over the world”

“The audience for education [is] people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system…”

“It’s possible to educate a thousand people at a time, in a single class, all around the world, for free”

Napster, Udacity, and the Academy by Clay Shirky

Much like Clay Shirky’s example of listening to live musicians vs recorded music, how do we reproduce the individual feedback of an expert when we are learning? If you define teaching as content presentation, then offering the lectures of fascinating experts is much like listening to recorded music, valuable and inspiring, and often better than many faculty could provide. We can provide focus questions and examples of possible responses. We can automate feedback on exams. We can provide activities that support student learning by having them produce and do authentic problem solving. Peer and self assessment techniques can be a valuable means of supporting learning.

How can we “unbundle” teaching from content presentation and certification? Quality teaching is about helping individual students in particular make connections among concepts, giving feedback on student products, diagnosing difficulties with learning, facilitating the conversation among a community of co-learners, supporting peer collaboration, providing direct instruction in response to student questions in the moment  … How many students can one teacher teach?

We can now provide open access to organized content and continue to improve that access. How can we provide a space for thousands of learners to become a commons – a community of practice/inquiry –  for peer collaboration and individual feedback from an expert?  We know meaningful connection to a faculty member/mentor matters to students’ success. How do we make it possible to also teach to the many?


Why I Teach

Just listened to Mike Wesch’s question — Why we need a “Why?”   when we teach. I’ll attempt to describe my personal Why?

There was a time, decades past, when I was criticized because there was too much movement and talking in my classroom. I had moved my students’ desks out of rows and into groups so students could talk with each other (cooperative learning, serious play) about data and how they might represent it in graphs.

Even though it was messier and certainly noisier, I felt then that the students, especially the English Second Language students, were doing authentic problem solving and asking questions together — learning.  Connected Learning describes this principle as Peer supported. It involves curiosity and fun, shared purpose and doing. It was the conversation that made the difference — the conversation about why.

That was the year I purposely questioned my choice to teach as a profession. And decided I would continue to study teaching and learning. That was the same year they added a computer lab… It’s been an amazing journey and I’m pleased to be part of this current conversation that emphasizes the construction of knowledge by learners studying together.