October 31, 2014

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Guidelines for Research on Connected Courses

Among the many welcome surprises of being part of Connected Courses has been the emergence of a research community interested in studying and learning from the course. As part of the “why” unit 1 I had considered that we might want to try to capture some of the student outcomes of all the connected courses that are informed by this connected course on connected courses. So I worked with my colleagues in the Connected Learning Research Network to design a student survey that faculty could use as a tool to gauge student engagement and experiences in their connected course. What I hadn’t anticipated was that there might be folks who want to study how the current connected course has unfolded.

Laura Gogia was the first to contact me about this possibility, and soon there was a lively group of researchers on the forum discussing possible research projects. The discussion has ranged widely between broad sharing of theory and insights on research on connected learning writ large, as well as discussion of research on Connected Courses specifically. In order to capture some of the projects that are being incubated on Connected Courses specifically, Laura has set up a Connected Courses Research Working Group site to catalog these research interests and efforts. We also agreed that I’d take a first pass at some general guidelines for research, and ask the community for comment. So here I am.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 3:49 PM

October 7, 2014

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Trust Falls and My Whys for Connected Courses

As someone who has spent most my career as research faculty and not in the classroom, I don’t have the depth of formal instructional experience that most of my colleagues in the academy do. My formal “teaching” has largely been in the form of advising graduate students and mentoring graduate students and postdocs in interdisciplinary research projects. So although I am one of the hosts/facilitators I am doubly a n00b in the connected courses sense - new to cMOOCs as well as new to course design. Which means I am thoroughly enjoying taking the plunge as a learner in all of this and muddling through the why of my teaching as I go.


I feel very much buoyed by generous ways in which the connected courses participants have responded to the inevitable glitches in facilitating this course, and my thinking aloud in public as we go. This has encouraged me to keep thinking in public, and it feels like the best kind of trust fall exercise for someone who is used to pausing and polishing before sharing. It feels like that productive discomfort before you make a trust fall, or what my kids and I do every summer - jump off a tall ledge in a watering hole. I don’t really want to do it but it’s hella fun when you get enveloped by the cool water after you make that jump. I appreciated Maha describing how she both stays true to her interests and nature but also pushes herself to engage in different ways. Even with different dispositions that pull in different directions, I like that connected courses is pushing us both into productive discomfort and growth.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 9:16 PM

September 25, 2014

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Connected Learning = Abundant Opportunity + Terror + Hard Attentional Choices + Productive Tension

This post brought to you by Mimi’s meandering reflections + Jamieson’s data wizardry

Warning: Post is both LONG and META

This summer, I was part of program that invited teens in some of our local LA libraries to take part in fun networked learning opportunities, including digital storytelling activities designed by Connected Courses’ very own @Jonathan_Worth. Most were reluctant to share on the open Internet unless they thought their photos were really good. Many were reluctant to share at all. They enjoyed seeing the stream of photos flowing through the aggregated Instagram and Flickr feeds on the Phonar Nation site, posted by enthusiastic net savvy participants in the phonar world at large. Despite the encouragement of local mentors, they didn’t see themselves are part of that world and ready to contribute, at least not yet. These same kids were happy to share with their local community, and by the end of the summer were being coaxed to post some of their work online.

I’ve been reminded of these quietly cautious kids in my first weeks of ccourses, when I also happen to be listening to Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts as my walking-the-dog book. I’ve thrilled in watching the growing blog count and the lively #ccourses tweet stream, and unexpected wonders being generated by generous contributors.Comics!Visual Note-taking!A Folding Story! A G+ community! Diigo! Ridiculously thoughtful seemingly instantaneous blogging synthesis of live events! My excitement quickly turned to terror as I watched the social media stream turn from a trickle to a whole web of lively tributaries, and I went running to help to @cogdog. Help! How do I know what to pay attention to?? Thank goodness for my more experienced co-facilitators and the power of co-learning.

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Posted by Mizuko Ito at 3:00 PM

September 2, 2014

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Connected Learning in Higher Ed = Connected Courses!

I love it when my different social and professional worlds start to collide in productive ways. These past few weeks I've been delighted to see more and more bridges being built across the world of higher education where I sit as a faculty member, and the world of teens and connected learning, that has been the focus of my research for many years with the DML Hub. This has been brewing for a while with the Reclaim Open Learning initiative that we supported at the Hub among other things, but has really leveled up this fall with Connected Courses, which just launched this week with a webinar led by Jim Groom, Howard Rheingold, and Alan Levine.

I am so stoked to be part of this fabulous group of faculty who are co-teaching this course, but most importantly to be a co-learner in this new experiment. I'll be working with my team at the Hub to develop our own connected course for DML and connected learning, so this is going to be my professional development community. As a noob connected course facilitator I am looking forward to learning from the folks who have been doing this for years through courses like FemTechNet, phonar, and ds106. I'm already having a blast thinking and innovating with this community. It's even made me revive my blog!

I'm also cooking up some ideas with my colleagues in the Connected Learning Research Network on how we might design a lightweight survey so that we capture some of the learning and connection building that our students will be gaining through participation in connected courses. So stay tuned for that in the unit that I'm co-facilitating with Mike Wesch and Helen Keegan in a few weeks!

And along the way I've been noodling myself on how all this relates to broader shifts in the higher ed landscape, mostly recently in a talk I gave for Google Brazil.

Posted by Mizuko Ito at 10:15 AM

January 17, 2014

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A new year and a new book

Cross posted from the Connected Learning Research Network Leveling Up project blog

It’s the start of a new year and time to take stock. It’s been three years since the launch of the Connected Learning Research Network and the Leveling Up project, and a year and a half since the launch of this blog. Along the way, we’ve delved into stories of knitters, boy band and wrestling fans, fashionistas, eSports enthusiasts, and game makers, as well as how the online world is supporting their learning, sharing, and civic engagement. The cases we’ve developed over these years have both confirmed many of the core values and principles of the connected learning model, as well as challenged them in some unexpected ways.

Following from the digital youth project, we’ve found that the online world, even as it has expanded into more diverse areas of interests, platforms, and mobile devices, continues to be a rich source of not only social connection, but of peer learning. We’ve also confirmed that while interest-specific learning flourishes online, it takes a unique and uncommon confluence of factors for that learning to connect to academic, career, or civic realms. We continue to puzzle over a core problematic of the connected learning research: what are ways in which we can more actively support these connections for diverse youth and their interests?

The cases have given us glimpses into how to answer that question in ways that deserve further investigation, and are the focus of a new round of research that we will be kicking off this year. In addition to continuing to observe the salience of peer sharing, reputation, and self-directed learning in online communities, some of the fashion and Starcraft work has shown us the kinds of roles that parents can play in supporting connected learning. When educators engage with youth interests, we also see them mediating between fan activity, gaming interest, and school. We were also delighted that we were around to observe interest groups activate around shared purpose and problems that can be mathematical or political in nature when the opportunity presents itself. Some members of the team have dived into an online experiment to support our own connected learning moments through a new web platform.

The diversity of cases that we’ve delved into have given us a new opportunity to interrogate what the barriers and challenges are to getting youth interests connected to adult-facing opportunities. We’ve seen that the winding pathways through which interests are cultivated, abandoned, altered, and revisited create challenges for researchers who are working to document that outcome of interest-driven learning and educators who seek to support it. Further, the specific nature of the interest, and the culture and identity associated with it have a strongly determinist effect on whether that interest can be productively connected to schools, careers, and civic engagement. For example, gamers and boy band fans may be learning a tremendous amount through their interest-driven engagements, but both the youth participants and the parents and teachers in their lives may be resistant to seeing these activities as academically relevant. The cases also demonstrate how the devil is in the details of how particular communities and programs are organized, and creating a high-functioning connected learning environment requires constant tending and adaptation.

These are examples of the kinds of topics and themes that have emerged as salient in our analysis. As we continue to mine our cases and data, we will transition the focus of this blog from reports from the field to analysis that sets the stage for the collectively authored book that we are writing over the next few months. The book will provide an overview of the cases and how they map a divergent field of youth interests, and focus on cross-cutting themes and dynamics that are illuminated by these different examples. We will look at the specific characteristics of interest-centered learning environments that support practices of help and feedback, reputation building, and shared purpose. Stories of individual learners and pathways will describe the varied trajectories we have observed of young people’s developing and changing interests and learning. We will also take a look at outcomes that are academic, career, and civic in nature. We are excited to be able to share the next phase of our work in this fresh new year!

Posted by Mizuko Ito at 4:17 PM