Greetings from the #OpenLearning17 Connected Learning Coach

This week marks the opening of Open Learning: A Connectivist MOOC for Faculty Collaboratives, a 15-week course that aims to “design and provide a helpful and stimulating learning experience for all participants that results in measurable improvement in the use of digital affordances and sustainable professional development connections across Virginia and other areas.”

For the uninitiated, faculty collaboratives are part of the American Association of Colleges & University (AACU) LEAP initiative.  Since 2005, LEAP (Liberal Education & America’s Promise) has promoted college learning that involves high-impact educational practices and authentic assessments; faculty collaboratives support LEAP success by creating large-scale, sustainable networks of resources meant to support faculty development on LEAP-related principles, practices, & outcomes.  The #OpenLearning17 MOOC represents a partnership between AACU and the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) and is the faculty collaborative experience for Virginia that seeks to enhance digital literacy and leadership among the faculty of institutions of higher education in Virginia and beyond.

Hello, I am Laura Gogia, your Connected Learning Coach for the #OpenLearning17 Course.

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Wait, what?

More explanation may be needed :).  Here are the obvious questions that come to mind.

Question: WHAT IS CONNECTED LEARNING & WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH A CONNECTIVIST MOOC?

If you participate in #openlearning17, you will be working to enhance your ability to make connections in and across digital platforms, building visible networks of ideas, people, and personal/professional resources over time.  It is one example of a connected learning experience.

Connected learning is a progressive educational approach (think Dewey) contextualized for the digital world. The National Writing Project does a great job of providing case studies and examples, Mimi Ito and colleagues’ agenda for connected learning research and instructional design goes into a bit more detail, and I’ve written a white paper on how connected learning was executed at Virginia Commonwealth University.  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. Although connected learning does not have to be executed in open digital environments, to do so opens the door to an entirely different level of access to and opportunity for authentic audiences, creative resources, and personal learning network development.

john-dewey-o

Connected Learning = Dewey in the digital world.

 

Question: AS A LEARNER, HOW DO I ENGAGE IN CONNECTED LEARNING?

As I mentioned above, connected learning is really a form of experiential learning, so we can think about it in terms of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle.  I’ve  written about it in more detail elsewhere. However, to cut to the chase, connected learners deepen their understanding by making connections:

  • with other people (social learning)
  • across their own thought trajectory, over time (reflective learning)
  • across disciplines and contexts (interdisciplinary and cross-contextual)
  • through different types of expression (multimodal; visual/audio/kinesthetic/etc)

Digital platforms allow us to makes those connections explicit via hyperlinks, embedded images, audio, and video which brings us to the final question…

Question: WHAT IS A CONNECTED LEARNING COACH?

Short answer: I am and this is not the first time I have done this; in fact, for more details, you can check out this WCET blog post. During this course – usually in the form of blog comments or tweets or infographics– I will be asking you to consider how you can use the affordances of the web to enhance your communication and learning.

For example, I might ask you to think about how a hyperlink – one form of a digital affordance – might make your thinking more explicit, increase your communicative impact, and enhance your own learning.  If you click through the hyperlinks in this blog post, you will see that I made connections between my current thinking and:

  • the course website & AACU website
  • my past work
  • other references, and
  • other forms of expression (hint: the gifs)

In doing so, I not only demonstrated a understanding of audience (e.g. I provided context and additional resources for them), but also connected this current activity with my other scholarly work.  I reconfirmed my purpose and position.  I also put a lot of thought into what gifs would express what was going on in my head…which made me think about what was actually going on in my head more than I would have otherwise. For more thoughts on hyperlinking, see my visual article on the topic.

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Connections

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 #OpenLearning2017 with curiosity as a truly unusual learning space.

Thanks – you’ll see me around 🙂

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