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Do Now

How can we use Connected Learning principles to promote 21st century learning? What should be the role of schools in this environment?


Kids are learning everywhere. Today, the traditional school forms a single, albeit important, node in a larger learning environment. The model of Connected Learning acknowledges this shift in where students learn, how they learn, who they learn from, and how they express that learning. Take, for example, the following excerpt taken from An Agenda for Research and Design, produced by the Connected Learning Research Network.

Clarissa is a 17-year-old aspiring screenwriter, growing up in a working-class household in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her passion is fantasy fiction. When friends introduced her to an online role-playing site that involved writing fiction interactively, she jumped at the chance to connect with others who shared her interest. Online, she found a community of like-minded peers who shared her interests, and who collaboratively wrote stories and critiqued each other’s work. Clarissa made great strides in her writing, engaging with it in ways that felt more authentic, and more motivating than her writing classes at school. In the end, she was proud enough of her work to use it in class assignments and in her college applications. She was admitted to two competitive liberal arts colleges, Emerson and Chapman, and attributes her success to the writing skills she developed in the role-playing world.

Clarissa’s out-of-school engagement in creative writing is an example of what we have dubbed connected learning—learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person pursues 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 possibilities, or civic engagement. Digital and networked media offer new ways of expanding the reach and accessibility of connected learning so it is not just privileged youth who have these opportunities. Connected learning looks to digital media and communications to: 1) offer engaging formats for interactivity and self-expression, 2) lower barriers to access for knowledge and information, 3) provide social supports for learning through social media and online affinity groups, and 4) link a broader and more diverse range of culture, knowledge, and expertise to educational opportunity.

Young people today have the world at their fingertips in ways that were unimaginable just a generation ago. Clarissa connected with like minds and immersed herself in a collaborative effort to develop characters and stories through an online forum. Worldrenowned lectures, a symphony of voices and opinions, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities are all a click away. Through digital media, youth today have countless accessible opportunities to share, create, and expand their horizons. They can access a wealth of knowledge as well as be participants, makers, and doers engaged in active and self-directed inquiry. The most activated and well-supported learners are using today’s social, interactive, and online media to boost their learning and opportunity, attesting to the tremendous potential of new media for advancing learning. (p. 6)

This week we will examine the role of school in this larger context by working together as a community to explore physical learning spaces, course design and scheduling, assessment, learning activities, connections with the school community and the world, and other issues surrounding the design and implementation of 21st Century, Connected Learning Environments. By bringing our collective ideas to bear we will have arrived at a better understanding what the work ahead for each of us.

Our driving design questions:

  • Who are the students in our classrooms today? What do they care about? How do they want to learn?
  • What are the skills, knowledge and attitudes that you believe are the most critical for students in the 21st century?
  • How can we create opportunities for learning that are both relevant and rigorous? How do we best assess that learning?
  • What are the best student-centered activities you have seen for promoting 21st Century Skills?
  • How will the common core state standards impact the teaching and learning in your learning environment?
  • How do we arrange and design our physical and technological spaces to best server the needs of our learners? How do we best use our time and students’ time?
  • What are the best ways to leverage our greater communities to support the learning of our students?


TEDxMidAtlantic video Diana Laufenberg – How to Learn? From Mistakes
In this popular Ted Talk, Diana Laufenberg talks about the changing role of schools and how to engage students in powerful ways while learning from failure.

You can respond to this Do Now using Twitter, G+, Instagram, or Vine. Be sure to include #TeachDoNow in your response.

Follow us on Twitter at @KQEDedspace and join our Google+ Community. For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage participants to reply to other people’s tweets and posts to foster more of a conversation. We also value community generated media that can be linked to tweets or posts. You can visit our video tutorials that showcase how to use several web-based production tools. 

Click here to go back to the #TeachDoNow course

More Resources

Connected Learning Video Series
This excellent series focuses on the vision of Connected Learning and on the new visions of learning better suited to the increasing complexity, connectivity, and velocity of our new knowledge society.

Connected Learning eBook Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom
From the Forward: “What follows is not a how-to guide or a set of discrete tools, but a journey to rethink, iterate, and assess how we can make education more relevant to today’s youth. The chapters in this volume represent a bold re-envisioning of what education can look like, as well as illustrate what it means to open the doors to youth culture and the promise that this work holds.

#TeachDoNow Webinar Episode 2: Using Connected Learning principles to promote 21st century learning?
Special guests Paul Oh (@poh), Antero Garcia (@anterobot), Nicole Mirra (@Nicole_Mirra), and Terry Heick (@TerryHeick) share Connected Learning principles and resources and lead an exploration about how to promote the kinds of skills in students required by our 21st century culture. 

#TeachDoNow Tagboard
Our #TeachDoNow tagboard aggregates all of the tagged posts from Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, and Vine into a single feed. With the ability to respond to tweets and posts right from the board, it’s a great place to be able to follow the whole discussion.

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