I tried to find a clear definition of Connected Learning (CL), but all I found is quite ambiguous. People mainly talk about what it will involve, what’s the core values and what’s the principles but not exactly what it is. In my understanding, CL is a broad concept contrasting the traditional learning model. There is no particular rule or formula to follow; rather it is a discretional model that uses all available resources to facilitate learning.
Comparing with traditional learning model, CL has its advantages. Firstly, it is more student-centered. The traditional learning model is more of teacher-centered, that is, teacher lectures on what they think is important. This is one-direction learning, from teacher to students. In the CL model, it is multi-direction learning. It can be teacher to students, students to teacher and even students to students. This CL promotes the students’ learning incentives.
Secondly, CL follows the cognitive learning process of the students, and adapts the teaching method accordingly. The future students in high education are the new millennium generation. This generation (and some of us as well) possesses its own features: grown up with sophisticated computer skills, surrounded by social media in their daily lives. They learn and share information through social network, search and explore thing that interested them through internet. In some sense, they are self-centered. They are used to learn through images than words. Adaptation of social network or video/image that they are used to in teaching will help to facilitate their learning.
It is always exciting to have the opportunity to try new teaching model and apply new technology. But everything comes at a cost. My biggest concern of CL is the opportunity cost of time for teachers to adapt the new technologies. It is so easy to get lost in fancy technology. I think the core part of teaching is the content/subject/knowledge, and technology is just a tool that may help in facilitating the teaching and learning. So I would suggest using new technology with caution.
Given CL as an inevitable trend, my final thinking about CL is how can we prepare ourselves to future success in this trend. The most important one is to cooperate with expertise from other fields with an open mind. A successful CL teaching model is a hybrid of expertise from all fields. We all have limited time and cannot learn everything by ourselves. Everyone has their competitive advantage. Sometimes the young TA is better equipped in certain knowledge than the teacher. We want a close team work that each one is compensating the skill set of others rather than struggling by ourselves and learning all skills that take forever..