Living in the 21st century implies discovering and trying new ways to learn. Each person is unique and therefore, each one has a dominant learning style. Among the most recent approaches in social learning, connected learning offers a great opportunity to take advantage of social interaction and learn in the process. In order to know better this approach, the present article will start off providing a short definition on connected learning. Then, you will have a brief summary about the theory behind it. As a final plus, you will discover some incredible benefits and advantages for learners.
What is connected learning?
It is a type of learning where someone pursues a personal interest with the constant support of his/her mentors, friends, colleagues, etc. This learning technique implies the existence of a passion that motivates the learner and that can be pursued by applying cooperative work. Moreover, its main objective is to demonstrate that young people learn easily when they are interested in what they are learning. According to the theoretical bases, it is a great plus to count on people that share their interests. This is because they will know the right direction to go and achieve the targets set.
As mentioned above, connected learning is a recent approach in education. The term was first used in 1990 when it referred mainly to connected knowing, a key concept that highlighted the importance of context in women’s learning processes. It was not until the early 2000s that connected learning started to be used in research publications. In that moment, Cronwell and Cronwell presented it under a framework based on different principles.
The set of principles was made of 13 principles that worked as the theoretical bases for creating a new alternative to traditional education. All of them were focused on the learner and his/her role in society. First, on the relationship between peers that pursue the same interests. And second, on a society where interaction constitutes the perfect chance for building a learning process.
Another point to improve was the way in which assessment was carried out. As the approach was learner-centered, it was required an adjustment in both summative and formative methods. This latter is the best fit according to the theory.
In terms of how to direct the learning process, the theory states that the bases of knowledge should be empirical. Therefore, connected learning looks for a more active process. The idea is that all stakeholders work together to meet the same goal while serving everyone’s needs. This is the only way of ensuring that the objectives established by the national standards can be meet or even exceed.
All contents involved in the learning process must be relevant but, how to define what is relevant? According to the principles, knowledge becomes relevant when:
1. Learners are interested in it
2. They are passionate about the content they are learning
3. They feel they are not alone in the process
4. They know for sure that they have the support of their peers and mentors.
The knowledge that is built on social bases is knowledge that goes beyond the theory. It becomes part of everyone’s daily life as it turns into an active constant learning. This can be rethought and adjusted based on the needs of each situation.
Some benefits connected learning offers
After reviewing some theory behind the connected learning approach, it is precise to name the main advantages and benefits it offers the learner:
1. A considerable improvement in the learner’s communication skills.
2. Strengthening intra and interpersonal intelligence.
3. An increase in the learner’s interest and motivation.
4. A coherent curriculum that matches contents and learners’ interests.
5. An opportunity for learners to identify which strategies work better for their learning style.
All of these benefits have been proved by some studies carried out by the National Conference of States Legislature and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. The research has been conducted in more than 60 schools that used the connected learning approach and they all show positive results. In all cases, students have improved their performance in both math and reading. Also, students have admitted to be more motivated and committed to their learning process. To sum up, the results keep track of the advances that this approach takes in current education.