Disconnects with “connected” learning
Posted March 28, 2016on:
When I hear teachers talk about “connected learning” I ask for examples. If they have any, their stories sometimes tell me they do not understand and practice connected learning.
One story might read like this. As a teacher, I collect the best work of my students and share it via photos at a class website, Instagram account, or Pinterest board.
Another story goes like this. I ask for contacts somewhere else in the world to Skype with. After a fair bit of “Can you hear me? Can you see us?”, we have a “cultural exchange”. Sometimes this is a wonderful showcase; most times we do this once or twice a year.
Still another story, and an increasingly common one at that, is “Yes, I’m on Twitter!” and “I tweet around events!”.
None of these are good examples of connected learning in my books.
A teacher who shares student work is being more open and that is good. But openness is not the same as being connected. You have to be open enough first to want to connect, but that does not ensure connectedness.
If that same teacher does not encourage or even prevents her students from sharing their work on their own, then that teacher has not enabled connected learning. That teacher might have opened selective student work to others, but she has not opened channels for communication and collaboration.
Such channels should be open any time, every time, and all the time. Using Skype periodically gives teachers control over such “connections”, but that does not allow learners to legitimately and authentically connect with each other.
Teachers who mistakenly think that once in a blue moon Skyping is connected learning should ask themselves: Is the show of connection more important than the natural curiosity and social interaction kids have?
Putting on a show is, sadly, becoming more common in the edu-Twitterverse. I meet people who are Twitter zombies in that they come alive only when it suits them intermittently instead of giving to others continuously.
We should all question what connected learning means because there rarely is a shared understanding or practice. In 2014, I highlighted four aspects of connectedness (infrastructure, social, content, wider world). Some aspects might be obvious, some not. But they help question the assumptions we make about “being connected”.