First Blog Prompt: Connected Learning

I am hoping to enter a career in Academia, so the idea of more connected learning is not only an abstract theory, but a practical tool to better educate students. In the readings this week, the author described the need for new models of learning. Models where learning is “powerful, relevant and engaging”. In some ways these three things have always been the hallmarks of effective learning, I think the renewed emphasis on them reflects the challenges instructors face when trying to overcome student’s conditioning to only learning for a standardized test. The “cram and dump” style of learning is really not learning at all (at least not in any classical meaning of the word).

Besides this systemic conditioning of students in grade school, instructors at the college level also have to contend with all the other technological distractions that are bombarding their classrooms. Students in my class, with only their smart phones, have access to almost all of the media, knowledge and online social networks in the world. That is pretty stiff competition to fight for their attention and focus.

Connected learning really resonated with me as a way that I could leverage this enormous technical ability to overcome the disconnectedness in the classroom. It is a way to connect students to “academics, a learner’s interest, inspiring mentors and peers”.

I recently changed my first written assignment from an essay on the material to a policy paper that will be sent to the student’s representative. This is a direct result of trying to connect the material we’re learning about to the real world in which they live. Because this is my first time doing this I’m not sure how it will work, but here’s hoping for a more connected world!

Connected Learning with limited resources?

Although, I like the concept of connected learning I find it hard to wrap my head around how it is possible to accomplish this goal with the limited resources we have? Teachers are not paid nearly enough and the amount of time and effort it would take to individually curate and work with a student’s interest would be monumental. The current system (although severely flawed), seems to work – teachers can disseminate knowledge to all students through a structured curriculum and course outcomes can be used to evaluate whether students fully understood the concepts. Exams also reinforce learning and critical thinking skills. This sort of a system obviously tends to ignore student interests and possibly students that are outliers i.e. those who are having a hard time coping up with the material and/or those that have exceptional talent. In an ideal world a connected learning environment (in school) would be best for every student.

I’ve gone through several different types of learning environments which have all been in stark contrast to each other. Through all of my schooling years we were tested purely on our abilities to memorize (understanding of concepts was of far lower value and marks on the exams were of paramount importance); in contrast the undergraduate years were a little more relaxed – there were some courses (not nearly enough) with project based learning (PBL) that were extremely fun. I can look back and say that I definitely got a lot more out of such PBL courses.

Graduate school on the other hand has been far more liberal (both in terms of course selection and in terms of the curriculum) – I enjoy the format of most graduate level courses which to me is connected learning, based around a structured curriculum. Typical format of such courses have interesting and challenging homework’s based around key concepts discussed in class, followed typically by a mid-semester and/or final project that is fairly open ended. I have come to really like this style of teaching and learning – such a format ensures that I not only learn the key concepts, but also apply them to a project, which reinforces the learning. Graduate school to me is a good model of connected learning – however such an environment is hard to implement in schools and undergraduate institutions, partly due to the large class sizes and partly due to the nature of the curriculum in the courses. Several undergraduate classes (such as Calculus I, II) build on your base knowledge – project based learning would be hard to implement in such courses.

Jedi, year 7, & other drugs.

When I heard the word Gedi /ˈdʒɛd.aɪ/ for the first time, I though directly in Jedi from the Star Wars movie. Then it turned out to be a completely different term which is an abbreviation for “Graduate Education Development Institute”.  Well, does Jedi have anything to do here?, the answer is yes. The Jedi is an individual who uses a special force to fight for peace and justice. The first thing that this individual needs to do is to study the energy of this force. This leads us directly to learning. Specifically, to a type of learning that did not take place in a school.

Learning beyond the school should be seen as normal and essential for every one. A man should keep looking for knowledge all his lifetime and learn from all the situations he faces in his life. Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Being well-known, what else could be said about this type of learning? Well, this type of learning now affects students in school-age. As information becomes available everywhere today, students tend to learn not only from school but also from every source they could get their hands on. Students in school begin to learn about specific topics according to the curriculum. Topics in the curriculum are selected by some experts to suit students’ age and to include indispensable topics for the kids. However, kids should be encouraged to look at other sources of information especially in the topics they like.

In this context, I want to share my experience with my second grader son who began to get involved with this type of learning in his seventh year. My son studied about planets and space among other topics in science. He became very interested in these topics and began asking a lot of questions. The same happened in some topics in social studies. His teacher at the school told us to get him more books  in the topics he likes. This helped him to get deeper in these topics. I also allowed him to use voice-enabled search engines on my tablet, or phone, to get answers for what he wonders about. To get the point from this, I see that kids should not be limited to what there in school books. We should encourage them to learn more and more about what they like or get interested in. Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

The next question is, do students need these curricula or they could only learn about what they like? My point of view is that, students still need to learn about essential topics. For example, it is not good to have a scientist who know nothing about the history of his country or about another branch of science. So students need to integrate what they learn in school with their personal interest stimulated by topics studied at school, this type of learning is known as connected learning.

Back to my title, the next half of the title reads “& other drugs”.  Actually, this is a reflection to the movie “Love & other drugs”. In this movie, one company was producing a drug for blood pressure. The drug was not so effective in treating blood pressure but it had other side effects that allowed it to help many men in having successful relations. The company of course developed the drug to serve this, but my point here is they learned from a side, meant to be a bad, effect. This also relates to connected learning, learning from experiences or career relevant sources is a an important aspect of connected learning.

In a nutshell, connected learning is inevitable due to the huge sources of information available these days. It should only be oriented from mentors to the way that helps students.

Connected Learning: The Great Equalizer?

The beauty of connected learning lies in the idea that, because of technology, learning has become even more inclusive. According to the Connected Learning Alliance in “Connected Learning: The Power of Making Learning Relevant,” through the internet, social media, and, of course, schools, gathering information has become easier than ever. Sometimes, learning an entire skill can just be a click away. Since learning and information is becoming even more accessible to the masses, it leaves me to wonder: is connected learning the great equalizer?

Apart from the students who, for one reason or another, have limited access to education or the internet, most students of today are essentially equipped to learn anything their heart desires. Want to learn how to make a basket? You can Google that. Want to learn how to use HTML to build a website, but never took a computer science or graphic design class? There are YouTube tutorials for that. Therefore, in a way, connected learning allows students to become their own expert through the expertise of others. Thanks to the internet, everyone (again, with the exception of some) has the ability to go after exactly what they want and when they want it.

With that being said, do you think there is potential for the internet, social media, and web-based tools to ever become so accessible and powerful that it, in a way, depreciates a formal education? Do you think it could ever get to a point that everyone has enough information at their fingertips that the “standard” education could be replaced?

Learning Process through blogging

This week we are supposed to write a blog post related to connected learning procedure for our GEDI (Graduate Education Development Institute) class. I think about blogging as a learning tool and I’d like to share my idea that how the new social media such as Facebook and Instagram cause a deterioration of knowledge and learning on web. I want to write about my own experience when I was in college in Iran. Back to early of 2000, people started using the internet in Iran gradually and when I entered to college in 2003 young people are the main users of the internet in Iran. At that time writing a blog was very popular among youth and Persian was one of the active languages in blogging space. There was not any other social network and media platform at that time in Iran and people try to connect with each other through blogging. This is a very amazing phenomenon in a society like Iran. Bloggers learned from each other, they became friends virtually and then went out to a coffee shop or park to be familiar better in real world. This phenomenon had a great effect on Iran among youth. Writing a blog helped people to learn more: people had to read more to write better and have more audiences. Even those people who wrote some emotional stuff also need to be up-to-date. In contrast to other media such as Facebook, blogging needs deep thinking, writing effectively and properly with correct dictation and grammar. However, Facebook has much more informal platform: people are connected to each other informally and in a shallow way. On Facebook, you share your feeling or photos and sometimes your idea but the platform is not suited for dialogue. However, on a blog, a blogger thinks about an idea and shares it with his/her audiences and the audiences share their ideas and opinions through comments. This platform is much more suited for dialogue and learning. When I compare the atmosphere of Farsi blogs and Farsi Facebook, it is completely obvious for me how shallow is Facebook and how deeply learning happens in blogs. I think we need to come back to a social network such as blogs as a useful tool for connected learning: It gives us a structure to think deeply, write correctly and reply to our friend in a mutual respectful situation and thus we will have a society which individuals are connected to each other through a learning platform.

Connected Learning: A Preliminary Understanding

Though I did not know what it was called before last week, from the videos we watched last class and the discussion that followed, I realized that my childhood was full of connected learning.

I was lucky enough to have parents and grandparents that really inspired in me a hunger for education through experiential learning. As I showed interest in various subjects, my parents would do their best to give me hands-on experience in that field. Whether they fostered my interest by books, at-home science experiments, or a trip to the local zoo or museum, they sought to show me that learning was about so much more than memorizing facts or studying for a test. Rather my parents encouraged in me a true desire to learn more about the world at a deeper level, and taught me to never stop asking questions. I truly believe that it is this curiosity, that which developed out of my extracurricular activities and hands-on learning experiences as a child, that has inspired and allowed me to pursue a career in higher education.

This is my personal understanding of connected learning, at least at the grade school level, as it stands now. In honor of my parents and grandparents, and all the connected learning opportunities with which they provided me as a child, I have included the following sites that list hands-on learning activities for children of all ages:

These experiences may not be what everyone thinks of as “connected” since, in these examples, there is no connection to the network of people and information available on the World Wide Web. But insomuch as these learning experiences inspired in me a desire to dig deeper into the world around me by connecting me deeper with a subject, I think that they truly can be considered connected learning experiences. I believe that the Internet, and all it has to offer in this digital age, is just another tool parents can offer their children so they may dig deeper into their academic interests, another way for children to gain that hunger for learning.

I’m looking forward to learning more and broadening my understanding to connected learning in higher education! And if anyone had a “hands-on” connected learning experience in a university course, I would love to hear about it!

Do we need technology to be connected? A critique of the so called “digital age”

John Taylor Gatto, in his famous polemic “Against School” (, articulated his experience of over 25 years teaching in New York City’s public school system and the failures the system has for fostering genuine curiosity for students. Yet no where in his essay does he claim that a need for more technology is needed for children to obtain this curiosity. One fundamental problem that we can flesh out of obtaining information from digital sources is not only authenticity, but the over-abundance of information. Ibn Khaldun, the famous historian of the rise-and-fall narrative of societies, once said to the effect that in his times, the proliferation of books was causing people to learn less. The well known axiom “less is more” can and should be applied to the concept of connected learning. Indeed one could claim that the narrative of the “digital age” leads to more information does not necessarily lead to the same conclusion that more learning occurs. This known experiential reality by most people was probably best articulated in Nicholas Carr’s piece “Is Google Making Us Stupid” ( where Carr argues how Internet jumping from one site to another has altered the brains capacity for depth. While we may have accumulated more information, it is a very shallow information at best. I would finally like to push-back somewhat against this assumed “digital age” that we all seemed to have ushered into; as a historian, the naming of “epochs” “eras” and “moments” is problematic because they imply a universal narrative that is actually contextual. Often the contextual masquerades as a universal. The videos presented here on connected learning assume to much weight as to what technology can afford us without observing the negativity that can come around with new technologies. But more problematically, it assumes that connected learning can happen the world over. Access to running water is a far reality let alone the internet in the world, and the wealth gap is only widening in the very societies that promise universal (actually national) education for all. Are we really living in a digital age? Or are the privileged living in it? I in no way am a luddite (someone who hates all new forms of technology), but I would echo Gatto, Carr and Khaldun that too much of anything is a bad thing; and that with new forms of technology, there are always people who lose out.

See also (

Connected Learning Principles

A report on connected learning introduces focus on learners, individual interest, continuity in learning, and the future of the learners as principles of connected learning. By Focusing on the learners we will allow them to develop life-long skills which would allow them to succeed in today’s economy. As this report states that learning is powered by individual interests and supported by peers, connected learning can also be achieved through digital media by connecting academics to the learner’s interest and therefore inspiring both mentors and mentees.  Moreover due to the fact that learning is continuous, digital tools facilitate this process in various settings in home, school, and the community. Last but not least this process will transform the learners to future producers which can be successful in today’s global environment.

The core properties for a connected learning experience can be defined as production centered, shared purpose, and open networked environments . It is also worth mentioning that as higher education is moving towards globalization, connected learning has the ability to cross the boundaries which have separated cultures, universities, and the community.



Connected learning: Reconciling the old with the new?

Up until the first class, I had never heard of connected learning. Though I wouldn’t consider myself “old” per se, I would consider myself old-fashioned.  I use a computer when I have to, I really don’t care for blogging, and I do not have a Twitter account.  For me, a technologically inept person, the learning curve is just too steep for me to see a lot of reward in it.  However, the introduction of the connected learning concept really reminded me of how important the internet is and how much I take it for granted; especially the accessibility of information.  In the not so distant past, the best way to access academic knowledge was to go to a library.  Now, especially with open access, we can sit at our computers and have almost anything at our fingertips.  And the students of today (and yesterday too) have benefitted greatly from this technology.  But this has also made their learning experiences a little different.  Sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher (or professor) provide knowledge on a subject in which they were experienced used to be the best way to gain skills and knowledge in a particular topic.  Now, students have access to knowledge in just as many (arguably more) subject areas at the touch of a button.  So how do we reconcile this in a classroom?  It seems this is where the connected learning comes into play.  As I understand it, the idea is to get students interested and excited to go out and experience knowledge the way in which they would like as opposed to sitting in a classroom being lectured.  I think this is a really interesting concept and could really change the way people learn and get excited about learning.

Is connected learning the efficient way to go?

The emerging impact of the Internet are changing the way we live, work and entertain continuously. And education is no exception. In the past, our learning environment consists only one teacher, one classroom and one textbook. But now the Internet offers much more. We can learn whenever we want, wherever we are, and whatever we want. Connected learning, as I learn from our reading materials this week, is based on this. The idea is to use the Internet to stay connected and keep sharing information by blogging, tweeting and commenting, which is believed by a lot of people to be smart and informative.

However, is this really the efficient way to go? With so many blogs and so many posts that probably contain a large number of repetitive information, are we able to go through most of them within a limited time and get the best out of it? Wouldn’t this cause information explosion in our minds that gets us to lose the focus through the way? Take myself as an example, I always prefer to learn from real books and conduct equation derivations with a pencil and a piece of paper rather than getting on the Internet and get the answer out of it, if possible, since the former will make me focused and help me remember, while the latter can easily gets me extracted. Am I the only one?

After asking myself about these questions, further thoughts come into my mind. Maybe this specific problem is what I need to solve through connected learning, and what can be solved by connected learning. With years of research going on, I should understand by now how important the ability to search and learn is. If I stay too traditional and don’t improve this capability, I can’t take a qualitative leap in improving my efficiency at work. I need to learn more about connected learning to determine what I can get from it.

1 2 3 4