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TEACHING AND LEARNING
learn and connect digitally and online rather than the same
old stuff we've been doing in an institutionalized basis?"
From her research so far, Ito said four principles have
emerged for designing connected learning. Those include:
Tapping the power of peer-to-peer learning;
Meeting learners where they are --- which goes well
beyond Facebook, into specialty communities such as
gaming forums or enthusiast communities;
Building connected maker spaces where students
can form persistent relationships; and
Bringing students' work to the wider world for recog-
nition and feedback.
She added that in order to make this happen, education
practices don't have to change fundamentally. Incremental
changes can make a huge difference in students' lives.
"Even a very incremental change on your part can be life-
changing for a student. It feels like sometimes you have to
overhaul the whole educational system, but you don't. It can
be as simple as starting a blog ... or creating a space where
kids can just hang out and mess around with technology.
These are not huge changes, but for that one young person
who has had that experience of having their interest acknowl-
edged in their school by somebody who opens doors of
opportunity, that is life-changing. And that is not what is hap-
pening for most young people through the everyday course
of their education."
"Everybody in theory has access to those same resourc-
es," she said. "But it's only exceptionally passionate and
motivated kids like Dave who are able to not only engage
in that form of self-directed learning but also to connect
that to opportunity. And that is fairly rare that you find kids
who can self-advocate and self-direct in that way. But we
believe that the online ecosystem is creating a space
where, with a little bit more support, many more young
people could reap the kinds of opportunities that some-
body like Dave is developing."
And that, Ito said, is where academic institutions come
in. She said through a more connected approach to learn-
ing, colleges and universities could help many more stu-
dents take advantage of the opportunities that they don't
know are just at their fingertips.
Connected learning is not a particularly new concept
(nor is the concept of blending formal learning with stu-
dents' personal pursuits, for that matter). But more often
than not, a lot of attempts at connected learning have
turned out to be little more than the same old thing in a
new format. Ito quoted Justin Reich's headline from his
Education Week blog critiquing Khan Academy: "We
Were Promised Jetpacks & Got Lectures."
So how do we get to jetpacks from here? How do we
provide connected learning "tuned to the ways in which kids
not only outspend poorer parents on supports like tutoring,
specialty camps, music lessons and the like, but that they
are increasing their spending on such activities --- with
spending levels tripling since the 1970s --- while spending
by poorer families has remained essentially flat in that time.
Free and open online tools can fill that gap. And, she point-
ed out, for some, they already do. But right now, that's hap-
pening for the minority, particularly for technology-savvy indi-
viduals who have a strong drive and the background skills
needed to find and utilize the resources that are available. Ito
cited the case of a student (Dave) who wanted to produce
Web comics: Lacking formal supports, he went out and,
through self-directed learning, was able to gain skills in
Web development and eventually make a living in his cho-
sen profession --- without the help of his university.
But there's no reason, Ito argued, that only the extreme-
ly self-reliant should be able to take advantage of those
CT SUMMER SPOTLIGHT
How can higher education move from lectures to jetpacks? Find out
next month at Campus Technology 2014 in Boston (July 28--31)
with these inspiring sessions:
Flipped Classroom: Social, Connected and Personalized
Wearable Tech Is Coming to Your Campus This Fall!
Beyond Mobile Applications: Gaming, Simulation,
3D, Multimedia, E-Books
For more information, head to the CT 2014 site.
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