“Someday we’ll find it. . . the rainbow connection”

For anyone familiar with the IB, specifically the PYP, framework, the notion of Connected Learning isn’t too far fetched. Connected Learning? Huh? The jargon might be new, but take a look…

Wikipedia defines Connected Learning as,

“…a type of learning that integrates personal interest, peer relationships, and achievement in academic, civic, or career-relevant areas.”

The Connected Learning model suggests that,

“…youth learn best when: they are interested in what they are learning; they have peers and mentors who share these interests; and their learning is directed toward opportunity and recognition.”

Certain components of the PYP echo the Connected Learning approach. Students are given autonomy to showcase their learning for their summative assessments. During a unit of inquiry, students are often seen in partners or groups for collaboration, feedback, and support . Furthermore, students are given the opportunity to take action – to go beyond the summative assessment – as a result of the learning process. Their action extends the student’s learning or it could have a wider social impact; for example, to benefit the school community.

I’ve color-coded the possible relationships between the two. See what I mean? Obviously there’s more to each framework, but you get the idea. You can read more on the research synthesis report of the Connected Learning Research Network here.

However, if your schedule doesn’t allow you to dive into the 100 page report, Dr. Mimi Ito’s article, Learning That Connects, provides a quick summary of Connected Learning. She discusses its main principles and presents current studies of the shift of education with the youth culture. All was good and well until I came near the end of the article in a section entitled “Offering Opportunity.” Dr. Ito says,

“Helping equip young people to thrive in this environment of abundance, cultivating mindfulness and attentiveness are a new set of capacities for a new kind of landscape that we have to navigate as educators.”

“Educational institutions need to connect young people’s learning to their social lives, their communities, their interests and their careers.”  

I get you, Dr. Ito. We’re in the process of doing just that. But what about everyone else? What about other educators who don’t have access to this research? What about schools who lack the resources to train their teachers? What about Title I schools who can’t afford to study the research, much less the technology to be (and stay) connected? One of the core properties of the Connected Learning experience is that it is production-centered – “digital tools provide opportunities for producing and creating a wide variety of media, knowledge and cultural content in experimental and active ways.” Schools serving low-income students and families sadly have to prioritise their needs.  As much as they would like to provide the tools for the future success of their students, the notion just seems out of reach. I feel that we are missing out on THEIR potential. But how can we reach them? How can we connect? Connectivism and the Connected Learning approach won’t work if we can’t do just that: connect. 



One Reply to ““Someday we’ll find it. . . the rainbow connection””

  1. Kehri,
    You bring up a very valid point regarding the impact of lack of resources available to schools, teachers, students and their families to take advantage of connected learning. There is a research out there that confirms your concerns with this ‘digital divide’ ( Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor) and it’s impact on education. This is a big issue affecting large number of students around the world. It’s something to be addressed locally, nationally, and globally. Here’s an article from EdSurge that has some suggestions
    How Teachers Can Provide Equal Learning in a World of Unequal Access including a ‘do what you can with what you have where you are’ aspect with a goal of advocating for more resources.

    Schools and teachers have to really look closely in how they are using the resources they have effectively and productively no matter the amount of resources and access they have. And another important component is training their teachers and setting expectations of how connectivism and connected learning is implemented. Teachers and students can have all the tech in the world at their hands and still lack those powerful learning connections.

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