Theoretical foundations of the Connected Learning Project
Connected Learning is an educational framework that leverages the opportunities of digital technology and networked environments to create rich and engaging learning experiences for students. The methodology on which the project Connected Learning - implementing international and intercultural online student collaboration, focused on 21st century skills (https://connectedlearning22.weebly.com/ ) functions is built upon several scientific and theoretical foundations, drawing from various fields such as education, sociology, psychology, and technology.
Some of the key theoretical foundations that underpin the connected learning methodology are:
Social Learning Theory: Connected Learning is rooted in the social learning theory, which emphasizes the importance of social interaction and collaboration in the learning process. This theory suggests that learning is not just an individual activity but is heavily influenced by interactions with peers, mentors, and the broader community. In the connected learning context, students from different schools or countries can come together online to collaborate, share ideas, and learn from each other, and a “democratic culture can be created in classrooms by using a Connected Learning” (Baker, Kassimer, 2021)
Constructionist Learning: The connected learning methodology also aligns with constructionist learning theories, which propose that learners actively construct knowledge through hands-on, experiential activities. By engaging in collaborative projects and activities across borders, students can build a deeper understanding of the subject matter and develop critical thinking skills, so essential in today’s digital world. “We live at a time of growing connectivity and resource availability” (Kynigos, 2015) and the last five years have shown that collaborative online learning, fanned into “work from home” policies across the globe, must be introduced in schools worldwide to ensure student success in their future workplaces.
In a digitally connected world, Digital Literacy is crucial and Connected Learning emphasizes the development of digital literacies, including skills such as information literacy, media literacy, and digital communication skills. Through the Connected Learning Units collaboratively crafted by the expert teachers from Iceland and Poland, students learn how to navigate and evaluate digital content, as well as how to effectively communicate and collaborate in online environments.
Connected Learning aligns with the idea of Participatory Culture, where learners actively contribute, create, and engage within a learning community, as well as Networking. Completing the engaging assignments proposed in the Connected Learning Units, students produce content, collaborate on projects, and can share their work with a global audience, fostering a sense of agency and ownership over their learning. This interconnectedness provides students with access to a wider range of perspectives and expertise, albeit this must be conducted with proper support and mentoring of both teachers and students, given that “many complex and parallel developments (economically, technologically, politically and culturally) [...] in different ways influence how agency and participatory practices are formed, challenged and changed.” (Ihlebæk, 2017).
The Cultural-Historical Activity Theory emphasizes the importance of cultural and social contexts in shaping learning experiences. In the context of connected learning across schools or countries, students have the opportunity to learn from different cultural perspectives, enhancing their understanding of global issues and diversity. As the Californian study “Digital Media and Learning Research Hub“ (2013) reveals, “Connected learning addresses the gap between in-school and out-of-school learning, intergenerational disconnects, and new equity gaps arising from the privatization of learning.” In addition to broadening student cultural-historical knowledge, students participating in Connected Learning projects benefit from the decrease of the learning equity gaps through experiential learning and combing communicative competence with intercultural competence, following the newly added guidelines to CEFR and EU Guide For The Development And Implementation Of Curricula For Plurilingual And Intercultural Education. (2016)
Connected Learning is not tied to a single theory or framework; rather, it integrates various concepts (apart from the outlined above, Technology-Mediated Learning or Interest-Driven Learning could also be mentioned), to create a holistic approach to education that capitalizes on the affordances of technology while fostering meaningful, socially embedded, and interest-driven learning experiences.
CURRENT RESEARCH RESULTS
Research conducted over the last decade (listed below) indicates that students need to understand the aims and purposes of collaborative learning, and need to be supported with development of positive learning attitudes and beliefs. The importance of teacher’s guidance during the learning process is also mentioned. Connected Learning - implementing international and intercultural online student collaboration, focused on 21st century skills project includes such guidance and support, building it into the structure of the lessons and provided to teachers free of charge as professional development.
“Research shows that collaborative projects increase student success and engagement when groups are supported and adjustments are made to improve student attitudes and beliefs toward collaborative learning.”
Collaborative learning in online courses: Exploring students’ perceptions (2013) EDSIG (Education Special Interest Group of the AITP) Page 51 www.aitp-edsig.org / www.isedj.org
“Results showed that perceived structure of the collaborating activity and peer interaction that takes place during the activity are positively related to perceived learning. Peer interaction and perceived learning were also related to satisfaction with the course.”
Ihlebæk, Karoline. (2017). Participatory Culture in a Networked Era. Information, Communication & Society. 21. 1-2. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1417462 (based on Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, by Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito and danah boyd, Cambridge, Malden, Polity Press, 2016, pp. 1–214, $15.62 (paperback), ISBN 978- 0745660714 )
Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. 2013. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. (A full-text PDF of this report is available as a free download from www.dmlhub.net/publications )