Connected learning is a learning model that broadens access to learning practices that are within social contexts, interest-driven and oriented towards academic goals. Connected learning practices are when students learns more about a specific passion or interest while collaborating with peers and linking this learning to collective academic goals and objectives. Connected learning attempts to merge formal learning with informal learning practices, as many students are able to use digital media during their leisure time at home to participate in shared interests with peers through the use of open-source software such as websites blogs. This also assists in solving contemporary educational problems by bridging the gap between intergenerational disconnects such as those between different class structures, new equity gaps and by creating more opportunities for addressing non-dominant youth who would otherwise have low participation levels in formal learning environments. During the connected learning process, the students would have access to a variety of different digital tools which would provide the students with several opportunities for experiential learning through creating and producing content specific to their shared interests. The students would then be able to communicate and share their content using open source software such as social media, websites that would help to form communities around common topics and interests.
Connected learning environments are also guided by design principles such as participation, learning by doing, challenge is constant and that learning is inter-connected. In the connected learning environment students actively participate in experiential ways while producing content specific to there shared interests while actively contributing in different roles in an interconnected way. Students are always challenged during the learning process, as they are motivated to continually learn more about their interests through a variety of different means.
I would implement the connected learning model in the classroom by instructing students to think about a variety of different interests and passions and then get students to generate inquiry questions regarding their interests based on what they want to learn about that interest. I would then group the students according to their shared interests and get students to conduct analysis and research collaboratively according to their questions. In addition to this, I would get students to focus on collaborating on a production with collective goals and objectives based on their shared interest. This would promote and foster creativity, as students would be utilizing digital media tools and reframing practices while collaboratively producing, creating, experimenting, and designing content. Furthermore, the students would realize a sense of purpose while engaging in the connected learning environment, as students would be oriented to accomplishing shared academic goals. This somewhat solves the problem of student disengagement in formal learning practices, as students would be highly engaged while realizing a sense of academic purpose when learning more about their interest and passions through creative practices with their peers. In my own experience, I find that students may not want to learn about a concept, as they do not understand the purpose of learning the subject due to their inability to relate the concept to real life contexts. Interests provide motivation for students to learn which would inevitably increase their engagement within the learning process. In the connected learning model environment, students would want to learn more about their interest as they could easily relate to the interest and would thus easily collaborated with others with same interest. The students can then proceed to address how the learning process regarding their interests relates to academic learning goals so that students feel a sense of academic accomplishment and achievement. The connected learning model would also bridge the gap between informal and formal learning practices as the learning environment extends from the school, to the home and community through the use of openly networked platforms such as social media, websites, blogs etc.