Connected learning is when someone is pursuing a personal interest with the support of peers, mentors and caring adults, and in ways that open up opportunities for them. It is a fundamentally different mode of learning than education centered on fixed subjects, one-to-many instruction, and standardized testing.

The research is clear. Young people learn best when actively engaged, creating, and solving problems they care about, and supported by peers who appreciate and recognize their accomplishments. Connected learning applies the best of the learning sciences to cutting-edge technologies in a networked world. While connected learning is not new, and does not require technology, new digital and networked technologies expand opportunities to make connected learning accessible to all young people.

The “connected” in connected learning is about human connection as well as tapping the power of connected technologies. Rather than see technology as a means toward more efficient and automated forms of education, connected learning puts progressive, experiential, and learner-centered approaches at the center of technology-enhanced learning.

Connected Learners

Connected learners have a web of relationships and organizations that support their learning, beyond the formal educational pipeline.

Why Connected Learning? Why Now?

Traditional education is failing to engage many students as they enter their middle school, high school, and college years. The culture clash between formal education and interest-driven, out-of-school learning is escalating in today’s world where social communication and interactive content is always at our fingertips. We need to harness these new technologies for learning rather than distraction.

While wealthy families are embracing the potential of new technologies for learning, and investing more and more in out-of-school and connected learning, less privileged kids are being left behind. Access to specialized, interest-driven and personalized learning used to be difficult and scarce. But in today’s networked world, there’s no reason why all children should not have the opportunity to pursue connected learning.

Connected Learning in Practice

Connected learning isn’t a burden that one organization shoulders on its own, and is about building connections across different sites of learning.

Graphic by Nat Soti.

Some examples of connected learning in action:

  • YouMedia learning labs are youth makerspaces across the country, centered on technology and digital media production. Located in libraries and museums, these spaces are staffed by mentors who embody young people’s interests, and design shared projects that engage youth in the learning labs and beyond. http://community.youmedia.org/home
  • Quest to Learn is a unique middle and high school in New York City that was founded by game designers and educators and embodies a game-based approach to teaching and learning. Quest to Learn connects young people’s interests in gaming to academic achievement through collaborative challenges and problem solving. http://www.q2l.org/
  • Connected Camps is a benefit corporation that offers virtual summer camps and afterschool programs in the game of Minecraft. High school and college Minecraft experts are trained to teach younger kids coding, engineering, game design, and digital citizenship. The programs mine the enthusiasm that kids have for the most popular game of all time, by building connections with mentors who share their interest and help them level up in high-tech skills. http://connectedcamps.com/
  • For more examples of educators who have embraced connected learning, visit educatorinnovator.org.

Principles of Connected Learning