What is Connected Learning? Why is it useful?

My two major thoughts after our first class were:

1) What is connected learning? Why is technology such a large part of it? Why is connected learning needed or important for the future?

I still did not have a concrete definition of connected learning. I was unclear what traits a course would have to feature for it to fall into this model. Are connections being made to people, to ideas, etc? My initial impressions was that connected learning was ambiguous, more of an abstract philosophy than a specific, concrete model. So I did some light research to try to get a clearer vision of connected learning. At first I found this difficult as descriptions seemed vague. Phrases such as “seeks to”, “it asks”, and “it seeks to” seemed to stress ‘what’ connected learning wanted to achieve rather than ‘how’. After continuing to go through the course materials, websites, articles, and reports, I found myself getting more settled. I was able to synthesize common principles and see how they would aid learning.

My current short-definition of connected learning is: sharing knowledge, interpretations, and ideas with others, to the benefit of both the individual and the community. Technology is a prominent feature due to its ability to connect people across huge spectrums of age, gender, wealth, ethnicity, location, education, etc. While allowing for a broader range of individuals to connect, technology also allows for focus and specialization by connecting people with particular interests. Technology is “enabler and facilitator of human capability”.

The course material of Seth Godin speaking on YouTube in a way related to this definition of connected learning in the context of blogging. By forcing yourself to express your thoughts in words, even in rough or undeveloped fashion, it helps you to consider and articulate your ideas. This is beneficial to yourself. You’re also forced to think and to verbalize your thoughts, which adds your insight into the community of ideas, benefiting others.

2) Does connected learning work? What evidence is there that demonstrates it is beneficial?

On the Connected Learning Alliance, it lists one of the six principles of connecting learning to be “interest-powered”. It states: “research has repeatedly shown that when the topic is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes”. Reading this really helped to make things click for me. I was already curious about the relationship between interest and learning from my previous experiences as a GTA. I noticed some students would perform well and express enjoyment doing their work, while others moaned, complained, and struggled. I wondered how people are driven by different motivations such as interest, money, careers, fame, peers, parents, etc. Believing that interest could be a powerful driving force, the claim that connected learning is beneficial because it allows people to learn what they’re interested in seemed to make sense to me. With this said, I would still like to delve deeper into the data and research.