In the Connected Learning Alliance’s video “Connected Learning: The Experience of Education Reimagined” I heard experts speaking student affairs language like it was new. To hear David T. Goldberg (1:07) describe connected learning as “ecologies” where individuals passionately and excitedly engage in the sharing of ideas warms my little residence life heart. When Katie Salen (4:04) describes the need to seek learning beyond teachers and experts it reminds me of mantras echoed in student affairs meetings for decades. Connie Yowell says “they are learning everywhere, in part because of digital media, in part because they always have” (5:04). Yes, Connie, YES! We’ve been facilitating this and learning from them for decades.
We often obligatorily complain about the “siloed” nature of institutions of higher education. Being raised in student affairs I saw it less as selected isolation and more as not being invited to the party. Yet, as many of my brilliant colleagues, I have always believed in the power to co-create and share powerful learning environments and experiences that transcend the boundaries of the institution and of students’ compartmentalization. I remember my own powerful experiences in residence halls, in job training, with peers, faculty, and staff. Those I remember most, those that drive me today were rarely discovered in a classroom. I may have followed up with seeking classroom knowledge to expand my understanding (this doctoral thing, for example), but the start was never so confined.
The beginnings of my connected learning experiences didn’t come with such a title and were certainly less technologically networked than they are today. What’s probably most surprising to me about the concept of connected learning is that we treat it as new wave when, as Yowell said, it’s always been happening. Just as we’re only now starting to place value in the connected learning possibilities by investing in student participation and inter-divisional engagement at the academy – VT’s Student Experience “collisions” and the Beyond Boundaries initiative – it’s really less about a new idea than it is about giving the value, already evident to quite a few working in the margins, and investing time and resources to the good work that’s always been laying the foundation and continues to evolve in the digital age.
I understand the critical importance of sharing and spreading this idea, and I celebrate it. As a student affairs professional steeped in these ideas, I also feel obligated to make it known that we are here, we’ve been here, and we want to continue to play our part.
Where else have we seen connected learning taking place, and how do we channel it without bounding it too much?