Greetings from the #CuriousCoLab Connected Learning Coach

A quick shout out to all the participants – enrolled students, open participants, and curious observers – who are starting Collaborative Curiosity: Designing Community Engaged Research this week! Collaborative Curiosity (or #curiouscolab on Twitter) is a open online course (I hesitate to call it a MOOC because it is NEITHER massive NOR what most people think of when you say ‘mooc’) sponsored by the Division of Community Engagement at VCU and taught by Valerie Holton and Tessa McKenzie.

If you check out the course website closely enough, you’ll see that I’m on there too, designated as a “Connected Learning Coach” (goofy and self-aggrandizing name, I know and apologize – it’s entirely my fault and not that of Valerie or Tessa).  Since MOST courses don’t have a connected learning coach, I thought a little clarification might be helpful.

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From the course website.  That’s me being goofy. Really.

I am a resource  – not an instructor (i.e. I have no input over things like assessment) – and my goal is to help you forefront the nature of digital thinking and practice for learning and forming community.

Connected learning is a progressive educational approach (think Dewey) contextualized for the digital world. does a great job of describing it through examples, short videos, and infographics; Mimi Ito and colleagues’ agenda for connected learning research and instructional design goes into a bit more detail.  If you read through all of these things, you’ll see that the purpose of connected learning is to create inclusive, creative, social, authentic learning environments meant to help students recognize, strategically reflect on, and forge new connections between people, contexts, ideas, and personal experiences.

I’m not a huge .gif fan, but…Dewey.

That definition I just dropped on you – learning through connections across people, space, things, and time – comes shockingly close to the description that CuriousCoLab participant Kedaly gave for community in her first blog post. I got really excited when I saw that, because it opens the door to the question…what is the relationship between learning and community?  

Emerging digital pedagogies (by which I include open education, connected learning, and networked learning) tend to look at learning through the lens of digital participatory culture, defined rather iconically by Henry Jenkins as one with:

 1. relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, 2. strong support for creating and sharing creations with others, 3. some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices, 4. members who believe that their contributions matter, and 5. members who feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, they care what other people think about what they have created). (p. 5-6)

And digital pedagogists tend to examine how the digitally networked structure of the web supports the formation of connection.  At Virginia Commonwealth University, we have been supporting something I’ve called openly networked connected learning:

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Slide from my keynote that I gave at University of Edinburgh’s eLearning@Ed conference earlier this month; it was on connected learning at VCU & Collaborative Curiosity was a featured course.

So…During this class – usually in the form of blog comments or tweets – I will be asking you to consider how you can use the affordances of the web to enhance your communication and learning.  Two examples:

  1. What is a hyperlink and what does it allow you to do?  Click through the hyperlinks in this blog post and you will see that I made connections between my current thinking and the course website, other participants’ ideas, my past work, references, and other descriptive materials.  How does that sort of thing align with this?
  2. What is the role of embedded images and videos and what are our responsibilities when we use others’ images? How do we make our own? On the image above I captioned it to give it context and went out of the way to credit the photographer…and on top of that, it was a CC-licensed image.  Why? What does it all MEAN? Why use the image in the first place?  (Note – I can help you with image crediting and digital making if you need the stuff but I’m no expert and we can learn together.)

There are many more things to consider, but two examples do for now.  Digital spaces – particularly public digital spaces – allow you to do certain things that you cannot do on paper or in a closed classroom space. Of course, the reverse can be true as well…and we can reflect on that too. It is my HOPE, my genuine hope, that you will join me in exploring the digital nature of Collaborative Curiosity with curiosity as a truly unusual learning space that has captured the imagination of several international scholarly communities already (check out this story map – not only for the content, but as an example of telling a story…digitally).

Thanks – you’ll see me around 🙂




6 Comments Add yours

  1. I love, love, love your ideas and proposed work in this area, Laura. If anybody can make this happen, you can!!


    1. Laura Gogia says:

      Thanks Jeffrey :). We’ll see how it all plays out. Really all I’m trying to do is make the affordances of the digital learning spaces explicit so that we can all explore them together. There are things in this environment that are different than in physical spaces…we need to play with them to figure out what they are all about.


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