Connected Learning — a Framework for Innovation in the Classroom

Author: Jennifer Woollven, Education Specialist, Instructional Technology

There is a lot of talk in the world of education about 21st century skills and preparing our students for a new world — plenty of inspiring (and not so inspiring) 21st century videos can be found on Youtube. Online tools and platforms available to teachers can be transformative to the classroom experience, but they can also be overwhelming. How does a teacher keep up with everything that is available? Which tools will be best for our learning outcomes? I’ve certainly been guilty of being dazzled by the bells and whistles of a tool only to realize that underneath the glitter was the same old traditional approach that centers around the content or the instructor, but not the student. This is the shift we must make. Are students driving their learning experiences in your classrooms? Once this in place, the tools that will be most appropriate for helping students innovate, create, and problem solve will be apparent — in fact your students probably make those decisions on their own. (Let them! There is incredible power in allowing student voice and choice.)

So, as educators how do we get there? Constructivist learning theory centers on the learner and how he or she constructs meaning, but it does not address the connected, digital world that our students must live and thrive in. Connected Learning is the evolution of constructivism and seeks to address how we learn in a connected world. Connected learning theory as defined by the Digital Media and Learning Hub and the Connected Learning Alliance (CLA)…

is a model of learning that holds out the possibility of reimagining the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today’s technology to fuse young people’s interests, friendships, and academic achievement through experiences laced with hands-on production, shared purpose, and open networks.

The six Connected Learning principles are production centered, interest driven, shared purpose, peer culture, openly networked, and academic. To find out more about each of the principles and to see examples of them in action visit

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