Leakiness of Connected Learning

I’ve finished a draft of part one of my chapter two on “What is Connected Learning? ” The second half will be devoted to “How do we Assess Connected Learning?” particularly in US higher education settings.

I’m planning on putting it out there for you to see and comment on soon.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be brave enough today. But recently I’ve shown some of my cards and I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from some of you – enough to start forming some even bigger picture ideas about what Connected Learning is and can be.

A couple of days ago I put out a post and infographic about some of the ways Connected Learning the pedagogical framework/design principles could link to some of the work of some educational research greats – Dewey, Wenger, and Papert.  To me it was a slam dunk, to others, not so much.  And in the ensuring conversation I came to the exciting conclusion that Connected Learning is an exercise in connection, itself.  If we are supposed to be inspiring students to make innovative connections across disciplines, domains, space, and time, should we be doing the same as we seek to describe Connected Learning?  My connections won’t look like your’s and hopefully your’s won’t look like mine.  I think that’s ok as long as they are logically sound.  If we lock people into “one true lineage”…well, that doesn’t even make sense.  And the rhizomatic flexibility of Connected Learning is what makes it different from some of the other things out there.

This links to my idea that Connected Learning as a field should continue to have “leaky boundaries.” I use that term because I use it in my draft in my description of networked learning environments.  To me, networked learning environments can be characterized through their qualities of openness and distribution; openness relates to flexibility within the network and leakiness of the boundaries around it – that’s a broad statement. I go into it for several pages in my draft. Distribution relates to the dispersal across space (like affinity spaces, multiple platforms), time (networked spaces challenge academic conceptualizations of time – they are timeless – ephemeral and permanent at the same time) and domains (spheres of learning, disciplines, informal/formal, etc).

If Connected Learning is to live in networked environments, it (as a field) should embody those characteristics; as a field of educational research, design, and practice, connected learning should have the same sort of leaky boundaries that its networked learning spaces have.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Very interesting. The metaphor of network also implies straight lines between nodes, and at a certain point that metaphor has to yield to something more fluid. I think about the idea of “boundary concepts” that Chuck Dziuban keeps telling me about. I think also about the idea of metaphor itself, and the way Bateson's “ecology of mind” articulates relationship across distinct but related (leaky? semipermeable?) boundaries. Boundaries like those of a cell? Membranes? Thinking aloud. Brian Arthurs “The Nature of Technology” talks about technology as an essentially combinatorial activity. OK, but enough density of combination begins to yield these emergent fluid properties. Fluid properties that cross semipermeable membranes. I also think about relationships that emerge from shared philosophical orientations and assumptions. The Richard Pring book is very, very helpful here (or has been to me). I won't bring Bruner up again–oops–well, only to say I hope you get a chance to look at the National Film Board of Canada's documentary on MACOS (“Man, A Course Of Study”): https://www.nfb.ca/film/through_these_eyes. Enough cogno-dump from me for now….

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  2. Laura Gogia says:

    I think of networks in a broad sense – Martin Hawksey's TAGS explorers often have curved lines, but also networks as in ecological systems (as you have pointed out) – those lines aren't straight; they aren't even tangible. They just are. Flexibility within a network involves transient and shifting roles/identities; Granovetter's bridges in his social network analysis were fleeting, transient. Edges in networks are straight and curved, there and not there through time, sounds, smells, shafts of light, physical connections. Just thinking out loud 🙂

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  3. I think my comment just vanished. Alas. It was a pretty good one. Tl;dr version: see Hofstadter, “Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies.” I think you'll find a strong fellow traveler there. I quote his ideas about “generalization” in our QEP. Strong and exciting thinker, Hofstadter. Also great fun to read. I love his seriocomic mind.

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  4. Laura Gogia says:

    Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies. Noted. 🙂 Thanks.

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  5. Alan says:

    I'll take leaky boundaries and Gardner's membranes up a level; I think you are getting into quantum physics terrain where locations are not identified as fixed in time, but based on some kind of probability could field, and then get into uncertainty principles and cats in boxes… (as if I really understand that stuff)

    We people are complex systems and in the world of ideas not readily fixed in any cartesian mapped space. Assess me at time X and at time X+n (where n is pretty small), my shape has changed. Gardner likes those music of spheres.

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  6. Laura Gogia says:

    I think we speak quantum physics at about the same levels (cats and stuff, etc) because I think about what you are saying all the time. I believe that the magic of x and x+n is also present in folklore and Bibles and Gardner's music and Tom's photographs and most definitely in the operating room or ICU…pretty much anywhere where the most interesting things happen in the hallways and other kinds of spaces. You have inspired me to mix some quantum physics into dissertation. It's important. Thanks Alan.

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