Even though I have been slow to catch on to the whole idea of connected learning, having not been really sure of what it was, I now am getting it. I am having a profound shift in how I think about learning, and the making of meaning. In our hyper-mediated environment, more and more people are being brought together in discourse about topics they are interested in. This process is a social experience and so all the digital literacies that people must have to be able to participate in this way involve social literacy.
An area that I am passionate about is in bringing STEM education to people who have traditionally been excluded from it. I am working as a consultant to bring an exciting project called Ramps and Pathways to five second grade classrooms. In order to help in planning I called the Director of the Regent’s Center for Early Childhood Education at the University of Northern Iowa because she had founded this initiative. Our conversation was very helpful and she also connected me with another teacher who does after school programs with this project.. They have just written a book on the topic but told me they still need to write a teacher’s manual. One of my ideas about how to implement it, she had not thought about trying before and was very interested in my feedback after doing the project using my new idea. Perhaps this will be one example they incorporate into their new manual. I believe this is a good example of connected learning in a participatory culture.
Through the ability for anyone to publish their ideas, the world has opened up for many more people to contribute to the collective knowledge. Diverse people who would not normally have interacted are doing so, which creates opportunities for innovation never experienced before. This great network of connections between people and ideas is sparking a revolution in who is permitted to participate in deciding what is worth knowing. This explosion of information and ideas includes new ideas from people who have not been heard before but have equally important things to contribute.
Meanwhile the dominant populations in society who are the institutionalized gate keepers are still plodding along in the formal peer reviewing system at the universities. And so I wonder how we will reconcile these two parallel processes of analysis. What is the next step?