An Agenda For Research & Design

In today’s age of technology and the immediate access to all types of information, Connected Learning is learning with consideration of one’s personal interests and social environment. It allows the individual learner the opportunity to experience information and learning in a way that is relevant to them. It also ties the educational world and the social world in a way that inspires learning and creates participatory learning, not just a passive student. “To “learn from experience” is to make a backward and forward connection between what we do to things and what we enjoy or suffer from things in consequence. Under such conditions, doing becomes trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction— the discovery of the connection of things” (M Ito et al.) As it relates to digital media, Connected learning allows the learner to “connected” to the material in a meaningful way through the use of technology. This technology connects students to knowledge, resources, peer groups, and mentors not possible in years past. Connected learning also bridges the gap between social classes offering those previously without the means or availability to access equal opportunities for learning. “The basic premise of student-centered, engaged learning is that to make a truly equitable and democratic society, we have to begin with a form of instruction that is itself equitable.” ( Ashton, structuring equality) This is what makes connected learning so essential in today’s classrooms.

The research is clear: Learning is irresistible and life-changing when it connects personal interests to meaningful relationships and real-world opportunities. Below are a few videos from the Connected Learning Alliance. The CLA was launched by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub of the University of California Humanities Research Institutewith support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative. The Connected Learning Lab at UC Irvine is its current steward.

In the article by Mizuko Ito, she suggests that “Connected learning is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward expanding educational, economic or political opportunity. It is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults and is, in turn, able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success, or civic engagement.” (M. Ito et al) In previous weeks we saw that computers were much more than a tool to facilitate passive learning. They were a portal to a new world and created a sub-culture that could not be ignored. David Buckingham perhaps summed it up best when he said, “In most children’s leisure-time experiences, computers are much more than devices for information retrieval: they convey images and fantasies, provide opportunities for imaginative self-expression and play, and serve as a medium through which intimate personal relationships are conducted. Recognizing this certainly means broadening our conception of technology – not least in education: information and communications technologies (ICTs) are clearly no longer just a matter of desktop computers, or indeed necessarily of computers at all. We need to acknowledge the fact that digital media are cultural forms that are inextricably connected with other visual and audio-visual media.” (Buckingham --digital media literacies) Again, it is here that we see the very essence of connected learning concepts. Technology has become part of who we are and must be considered part of our learning experience, not just a tool we can use if and when we need to. The ability to participate in learning has become a key factor in the success of this new culture and leads students to gravitate towards learning they can live, not just information they are asked to remember.

Participatory Learning is a concept that has been around for years and shares similarities to the Connected Learning Theory. As participatory learning requires the active participation of its members, so Connected Learning engages learners actively through participation and interactions. Of the key principles of participatory learning, the right to participate and the use of local knowledge and diversity are some of the same building blocks of Connected Learning. In fact, “Since the current generation of a college student has no memory of the historical moment before the advent of the Internet, we are suggesting that participatory learning as a practice is no longer exotic or new but a commonplace way of socializing and learning.” (C. Davidson) Therefore, participatory learning cannot be ignored when it comes to this generation of learners. How then does this affect the standard classroom? And where does participatory learning fit into the ever-expanding world of digital media technology?

Forty years ago learning was about studying, testing, and graduating. One chose a career path, studied the career, and then entered into the workforce. Today though, since information is growing at such a fast pace, the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful have grown too. “One of the most persuasive factors is the shrinking half-life of knowledge. “The “half-life of knowledge” is the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months according to the American Society of Training and Documentation (ASTD). To combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction.” (Siemens) This is what makes connected learning so vital in today’s world. Thomas and Brown discussed this very concept in their article, “Learning for a world of constant change,” The suggested that information is growing at such a fast pace that educators can barely keep up with teaching new content as it changes daily. Therefore, students, must become learners over and over again every class, and at every learning moment that is experienced differently than the last.“For more than a century, educators have strived to customize education to the learner. Connected Learning leverages the advances of the digital age to make that dream a reality—connecting academics to interests, learners to inspiring peers and mentors, and educational goals to the higher-order skills the new economy rewards. Six principles….define it and allow every young person to experience learning that is social, participatory, interest-driven and relevant to the opportunities of our time” (Educator Innovator - why-connected-learning/) - David Brodosi

Ito, Mizuko & Gutierrez, Kris & Livingstone, Sonia & Penuel,
Bill & Rhodes, Jean & Salen, Katie & Schor, Juliet & Sefton-
Green, Julian & Craig Watkins, S. (2013). Connected
learning: An agenda for research and design.

Davidson, Cathy N., et al. The Future of Learning Institutions
in a Digital Age. MIT Press, 2009.

Macbeth, Sarah. “About Participatory Methods.” About
Participatory Methods | Participatory Methods,

Siemens, George. “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the
Digital Age.” International Journal of Instructional Technology
and Distance Learning (ITDL), Jan. 2005, pp. 42–58.,

David Brodosi

David Brodosi is a senior-level specialist that leads strategic technological innovations and operations for teaching, learning, and instructional design at the USFSP. David Brodosi serves as a point of connection between teaching, pedagogy, and the use of current and emerging technologies across classrooms, online courses, active learning labs, and other learning environments. Direct oversight of instructional design, videography, AV, and technology services personnel. As the department lead, David ensures that the University's investments in teaching and learning technologies enable, inform, and serve continuous and innovative fulfillment of the University's teaching and learning mission.


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