March 27 | Connected Learning: Critical Participatory Cultures & Informal Learning

  • Ito et al. (2013) – Connected Learning: An agenda for research and design.

Ito et al. (2013) describe connected learning as “socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity” (p. 6). I was personally drawn to this document and found it to be a very interesting read. The question I was left with was why don’t more schools and classrooms incorporate connected learning when it touches upon so many important aspects, within and beyond the curriculum?

When I was reading about the goals of connected learning, I was reminded of my own personal experience. When I was in high school I was interested in art and design. Although I pursued these interests through the courses I took, I also joined extra-curricular activities/clubs where these interests could be used for other social purposes (e.g. yearbook committee). Reflecting back on this experience, I would consider it connected learning because I pursued “a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults” (p. 6). I was also able to link this interest to my academic courses as the concepts I was learning in my courses were being used in my extracurricular activities and vice versa. This example is not uncommon, as connected learning can take on multiple disciplines and perspectives.

Furthermore, highlight interest and inquiry in relation to Connected Learning is highly important. When I pursue my own interests in my academic courses, I am far more invested in my learning than if I were simply assigned a topic. I think the same would apply for many students, which is why it’s important to provide students the opportunity to pursue their interests in the classroom. Similarly, inquiring about a topic that is interest-driven would result in a deeper investigation and deeper learning. These are the ultimate goals of connected learning.

A point that resonated with me from the Connected Learning document is: “[connected learning] is not simply a ‘technique’ for improving individual educational outcomes, but rather seeks to build communities and collective capacities for learning and opportunity” (p. 8). I think the idea of using connected learning to build a sense of community in and outside of the classroom is important because it focuses on shared purposes and shared interests. Likewise, “connected learning takes root when young people find peers who share interests” and when academic and community institutions “provide resources and safe spaces for more peer-driven forms of learning” (p. 8). I think it’s essential for teachers to bring connected learning into the classrooms and connect it with academic content. By creating a safe space within the classroom for students/peers to pursue shared interests, a greater sense of community and belonging can be achieved.


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