Week 3 – The Networked Learner through the lens of Connected Learning

“Probably the most important thing for kids growing up today is the love of embracing change.” I thought this was an interesting way the MacArthur Foundation chose to start their video, Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner, with this quote from John Seely Brown. I didn’t catch it at first, but when I re-watched it, it struck a cord in me. I asked myself, do I love to embrace change? I tend to think that I fair rather well with change, better than most people I work with or have went to school with. But do I love it? It’s a great question, and I think a lot of people do not love change, let alone love to embrace it. This idea of learning to not only love change, but loving to embrace it is a very neat twist on how we look at change. If we were to start applying this lens over top of how we normally approach change, I think we would start to make tremendous progress in education.

I really enjoyed John Seely Brown’s The Global One-Room Schoolhouse “Entrepreneurial Leaner” video. I couldn’t agree more with his description of the 21st century learner. In fact, I love it! In the video, he says:

How do you move from a being like a steamship that sets course and keeps going for a long time to…white water kayaking. You have to be in the flow and be able to pick things up on the moment. You gotta feel it with your body. You gotta be a part of that. You gotta be in it, not just above it and learning about it.

This closely resembles how I learn, if not mirrors it almost perfectly. This may come from my strong sense of adventure and me just loving white water kayaking, but I do believe this will continue to be a strong idea of learning as we move forward; and being able to adapt to the fast-paced and always changing ways of today’s culture will be key in advancing education.

I love how John says that play is the essential thing to rebuilding our conceptual lens. But what I love more is how he defines play. He says that play is more of “a permission to fail, fail, and fail again, until you get it right.” Being able to have that permission as a student and freely explore different ideas in a “safe place” would have made my elementary and middle school educational experience a lot different.

The Connected Learning excerpt (pp. 4-12) was rather interesting. I like the statement on page four that “connected learning addresses the gap between in-school and out-of-school learning.” I also noticed this mentioned in the Rethinking Learning video mention above. Diana Rhoten said, “we know that the learning outside-of-school matters tremendously for the learning in-school.” This is a crucial part to education that I feel is always overlooked. When I attended grade school, I used the words ‘school’ and ‘education’ interchangeably. And for me, I was not excited about either. I got my education in school, or so I was told. What I did not know then but know now, is that most of my education, the stuff I’m super passionate about, happened outside of school. How can we develop a school system that incorporates and combines out-of-school and in-school learning? What if we made the student excited and passionate enough to take his or her school home and bring their home to school. This is when we will have passionate learning.

I loved the Connected Learning report, but I feel it fell short where it talked itself up. There was a lot of talk about equity and pushing an equity agenda, which is awesome. This is an important topic and one that should be focused on. The idea that “connected learning [focuses on] deploying new media to reach and enable youth who otherwise lack access to opportunity” is phenomenal. The authors state that, “[connected learning] is not simply a “technique” for improving individual educational outcomes, but rather seeks to building communities and collective capacities for learning and opportunity.” Fast forward a few paragraphs and this is where I got tripped up:

We discuss our approaches to learning and media engagement in general terms, but because our research centers on the U.S. and Great Britain, our frameworks will likely be most relevant in places that share similar social, cultural, and economic conditions with these two countries.

How can a report like this focus on equity for those who “lack access to opportunity” if it’s research only spans two of the world’s most advanced economies? I still think connected learning is great. But how would this article address those young people who do not have the world at their fingertips? Like children in a poor region in South America? Or Africa? It appears we are still just on the tip of the iceberg with education.

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4 thoughts on “Week 3 – The Networked Learner through the lens of Connected Learning

  1. @sac251 – I’m currently on trying to schedule a guest speaker who has experience and research in doing mobile learning in Africa, so hopefully he can offer us some insights in this area.

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  2. Zach,

    I would agree that the Connected Learning report is a little limited in scope, but I think the scope problem has several factors, one of which could be logistical–scientific. It is likely difficult to coordinate a study of educational uses of technology in South America or Africa, given differences in what learners have reliable access to and what universities in those regions are focusing on. I know nothing really about the intricacies of setting up research in a foreign country, but I wonder if these issues are a factor. That said, a more global emphasis should certainly be pursued.

    As for your commentary on elementary school and middle school education, I agree that starting at this level of education is key. I can think of a few great projects I did in middle school that would probably be made more compelling with what is available now.

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  3. I totally agree about how “love of embracing change” is worded and also think that sometimes it’s the change that we didn’t seek out ourselves (as unique individuals) that seems to annoy us. When people have to learn something new that isn’t particularly interesting to them, there is often resistance!

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