Researchers Introduce a New Model of “Connected Learning”
3.1.12 | A team of researchers has introduced a new learning model that aims to tap into the potential of information and online collaboration available to youth in their daily lives.
Speaking this evening at the Digital Media & Learning Conference in San Francisco, the researchers cited an ever-widening gap between in-school and out-of-school learning. Learning, they stressed, is most effective when it is interest-driven and reinforced in the multiple contexts of children’s lives by parents, educators, and knowledgeable peers.
The scholars call this new model “connected learning,” and it will explore widening the definition of who we traditionally think of as responsible for education to include a “distributed network of people and institutions, including schools, libraries, museums and online communities,” which, the researchers say, is increasingly made possible by digital technologies.
We are seeing a growing gap between in-school and out-of-school learning as more and more of young people’s learning, attention, and access to information is happening outside of classrooms and through online networks and exchanges.
– Mimi Ito, University of California, Irvine
“We are seeing a growing gap between in-school and out-of-school learning as more and more of young people’s learning, attention, and access to information is happening outside of classrooms and through online networks and exchanges,” said Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in youth and technology. She is one of the principal investigators in the new Connected Learning Research Network, funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
“That’s the disturbing news,” Ito said. “The good news is that new technology also hands us opportunities for bringing young people, educators, and parents together in cross-generational learning driven by shared interests and goals.”
Future work will examine how social networking, games, and online sharing affect learning, along with the effect of mentoring relationships with peers and adults. Researchers are paying special attention to issues of civic engagement and learning in marginalized communities, among other things.
Members of the Connected Learning Research Network also announced the launch of two new websites, connectedlearning.tv and clrn.dmlhub.net, which will offer research, blogs, video and weekly webinars for educators, researchers, policymakers, youth workers, and parents..
Here’s more from the researchers’ description of connected learning:
This approach proposes knitting together of three crucial contexts for learning:
Interest-powered…Research has repeatedly shown that when a subject is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes.
Peer-supported…In their everyday exchanges with peers and friends, young people are fluidly contributing, sharing and giving feedback in web-powered experiences that are highly engaging.
Academically oriented…When academic studies and institutions draw from and connect to young people’s interest-driven pursuits, learners flourish and realize their true potential.
...and the embrace of three key design principles:
Production-centered…Connected learning prioritizes the learning that comes from actively producing, creating, experimenting and designing, because it promotes skills and dispositions for lifelong learning, and for making meaningful contributions to today’s rapidly changing work- and social conditions.
Open networks…Today’s online platforms and digital tools can make learning resources abundant, accessible, and visible across all learner settings.
Shared purpose…Today’s social media and web-based communities provide unprecedented opportunities for cross-generational and cross-cultural learning and connection to unfold and thrive around common goals and interests.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in education and learning who doesn’t feel an urgent need to reimagine learning for the new century,” said Connie Yowell, director of education for U.S. programs at MacArthur.
“Our schools are struggling to prepare young people for fulfilling adult lives and careers. Connected learning represents a path forward,” Yowell said. “It’s learning that is socially rich and interest-fueled. In other words, it’s based on the kind of learning that decades of research shows is the most powerful, most effective. And connected learning is oriented towards cultivating educational and economic opportunity for all young people.”
Read more about some of the foundational work on connected, interest-driven learning and how youth are using new media at Spotlight, including Ito’s study, “Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media,” which was the impetus for the YouMedia site at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago (now expanding around the country). Other members of the Connected Learning Research Network regularly covered here include Katie Salen and her work on game-based learning in the classroom, and S. Craig Watkins, who focuses on participation gaps and how black and Latino youth use mobile media and other technologies.
The new research network also includes Kris Gutierrez from University of Colorado, Boulder; Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics and Political Science; Bill Penuel from University of Colorado, Boulder; Jean Rhodes from the University of Massachusetts, Boston; and Juliet Schor of Boston College.
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