*A brief introduction to the section of my dissertation in which I introduce the history and current state of connected learning. If any of it rings your alarm bells as being off-base, feel free to drop a comment. I welcome all questions and concerns.
Since the mid-1990s, educational researchers have used the term “connected learning” to mean a variety of things. In educational technology fields, connected learning is often used to indicate the technical, logistical, or computing aspects of digital learning spaces; in this respect it is often used synonymously with e-learning, online, or distance learning (Watson, 2007; Lennox, Davis, and Heirdsfield, 2006; Bowen, 2011). However connected learning has also referred to integrated, interdisciplinary, or general education (Boxer, 1998; Creighton, 2006; Smith & Morgain, 2004). Occasionally, it means collaborative, experiential, and situated learning that may or may not include the use of digital tools (Long & Shobe, 2010; McElvaney & Berge, 2009).
For the purposes of the current research, connected learning will be defined as a synthesis of these concepts: a learning philosophy that supports experiential, integrative, interdisciplinary and social learning in the context of networked, digital learning environments. Connected learning in this form privileges the act of making connections – connections between people, resources, and people and resources – in the process of learning and the production of knowledge. This perspective on learning is steeped in a rich epistemological history, beginning in the modern era with the work of progressive educators like John Dewey, social constructivists like Vygotsky, Bruner, and Lave and Wenger, and constructionists like Papert. Connected learning continues to develop through the work of networked learning scholars before emerging in 2013 as a specific pedagogical framework (“Connected Learning”) and an agenda for educational research and instructional design (Ito, et al., 2013). In the following section, I will briefly review the epistemological lineage of connected learning before providing a detailed description of the pedagogical framework called Connected Learning, including representative learning objectives, activities, and examples of Connected Learning courses that have been implemented in higher education settings.