Connected Learning in the Classroom

Connected Learning is

socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning 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.
(Ito et al., 2013, p.4)

While teachers may strive to design learning opportunities which engage students in ways that meet these goals, the structures of schooling in 2019 are often prohibitive. Far from feeling free to develop learning which enables agility, creativity and flexibility, teachers’ days are packed full as they navigate the demands of standardised testing, and content packed curricula and requirements of competing external and internal stakeholders.

During our regular #LCN600 Connected Learning tutorial, I asked the teachers what they saw as obstacles to the integration of connected learning into their practice, they agreed with the hurdles suggested by teachers in this article, by Nicole Mirra, and cited:

  • Lack of understanding from colleagues
  • Poor technology infrastructure and lack of access
  • Timetabling issues for integrated approaches
  • Curriculum and assessment demands that limited opportunities for creative pedagogy
  • General lack of time

It is therefore not surprising that:

While connected learning principles are seen flourishing in out-of-school spaces, there are fewer articulations of how connected learning can help inspire and shift existing teacher practices.  (Cantril et al., 2014, p.6).

Is all hope lost?

Absolutely not! While libraries and co-curricula activities may be the obvious home for connected learning environments to emerge, there are definitely still ways for the classroom teacher to introduce aspects of connected learning into their everyday practice. Even within the structures and time limitations of the everyday classroom, small changes can be made to harness student interest, relationships and opportunities to connect learning to authentic real life experiences and goals.

When designing a new lesson, curriculum unit or assessment task, why not ask yourself the following questions, to see if it is possible to embed the spirit of connected learning where possible into teaching and learning.

Click image to access a printable PDF version

Connected Learning leverages digital technologies, and makes best use of the connective and amplifying affordances of social media, but it is not dependent upon technology.

Developing a connected learning environment in the classroom is as much about creating a mindset of ‘why not?’ and cultivating an atmosphere of openness and sharing.

Be inspired by connected learning that you see flourishing ‘in the wild’, and take what you can into your practice. With small steps towards a connected approach, great things may emerge!

Interested in more resources to guide your connected learning in the classroom journey?

Check out:

The new and amazing Connected Learning Guide developed by Chicago LX

This inspiring short read by Nicole Mirra, From Connected Learning to Connected Teaching: A Necessary Step Forward

Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom – reimagining teaching for today’s youth.


Feature image created by Marco Zamora and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

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