Connected learning is currently a popular phrase in education. It's the theme of my keynote speech to the EADL conference
, Estonia in May 2019. Learning in the digital age involves a lot of technology, but fundamentally the role of the learner is still to explore, discover and acquire knowledge. Through technology, we can connect not only with content but also context - people, resources and ideas, and we can also share our own ideas for discussion and further learning. There are many theories and constructs that can inform us of the nature and potential impact of connected learning. The following some thoughts from a post I originally published in 2015:
From a cognitive constructivist perspective, learning is achieved through the twin processes of assimilation and accommodation
. The latter implies that new learning is 'bolted onto', or constructed within, existing cognitive structures known as schemas
. Learning relies on the individual construction of reality, according to Jean Piaget
. Such construction of meaning is unique to each individual, and therefore centres on each learner's efforts to make sense of the subject.
In a sense, an algorithm
has much in common with a schema, particularly because both have rules and sequences of instruction that can be followed to achieve a specific goal. Both are self contained but have the potential to be connected to larger sets of instructions. The computer algorithm is therefore a means of giving instructions to a machine that replicates the way we believe our minds function. Personal schema on the other hand, are often peculiar to the individuals that created them usually through solo exploration and discovery.
Alternatively, social constructivism - in Vygotsky's terms - is the construction of personal meaning within a framework of social experience. Lev Vygotsky
stresses the importance of language and culture, and argues that learning is socially mediated. His notion of the Zone of Proximal Development
(ZPD) is a model to describe the efforts and interaction between a learner and a more knowledgeable other person (MKO) to negotiate meaning within a realistic range of learning. The learner constructs his own meaning with the MKO as a guide in the process. The boundaries of the ZPD can be variable, but in most contexts, it is generally more extensive than learners can achieve on their own.Jerome Bruner
developed ZPD theory to include the concept of scaffolded learning. Scaffolding
was a metaphorical representation of the many active ways in which teachers (or MKOs) focus their efforts and expertise to support of learners at the start of their learning, but gradually fade this support as learners become more independent and competent.
The idea of discovery learning
also originates with Piaget, and has provided some powerful, but at times contentious pedagogical practices in primary education. It maintains a focus on personal construction of meaning through exploration and experimentation, and relies less on social contexts than ZPD theory.
Hypertext is non-linear and potentially chaotic in nature, drawing the user (learner) down through layers of meaning, to the endless possibilities of learning by discovering. It is ill-defined, driven by the learner, and has no boundaries or limits other than those the learner imposes upon herself. It is exploratory, rule-less and rhizomatic
, where the learner discovers for herself any number of divergent nodes of knowledge, and random corridors of travel.
Learners with digital technology can discover for themselves, and drive their own learning, but it will be less structured than formal educational processes. They are able to explore avenues that may or may not be intended by the creators of the content, but in their nomadic exploration of hypermedia
, learners discover for themselves the benefits and risks of autonomous learning. The initial digital space acts as a scaffold, but the farther away the learner wanders from this base - and the more mouse clicks he executes - the more vulnerable he may become to misdirection, misunderstanding, and a sense of isolation from his original aims and purposes. And yet this glorious freedom of knowledge excavation and the potential to synthesise disparate and previously dislocated concepts can be compelling.
Connected learning by Steve Wheeler
was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's