Is connected about “plugging in”? What does it mean to you?

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I’ve been struggling for some time now (well, since the summer anyway) to make sense of what being “connected” really means when it comes to educators and courses.  I’ve seen a few general ideas of what connected means to others and I’ve seen some of it in action through my participation in connected courses and observations of others’ courses.

plugged in alone

It seems like sometimes being connected sometimes looks like this…

I’m new at this game, so please, correct me if I’m wrong (and I may be oversimplifying things) but being connected seems to mostly mean being “plugged in.”  On the individual level, this seems to mean that you’re digitally “plugged in” to various social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).  It’s a sort of individual thing… how well are you digitally connected?  Do you blog, tweet, or post?  Is your profile updated on LinkedIn?  Do you connect with digitally with other educators, media sources, or resources? I’m probably missing something, but you get the idea.

2010-11_plugin-power

I think this is what connected SHOULD look like.

Then there is idea of connecting courses or groups together in some way – either an entire course or even just one module; where students across campuses, countries and even across the educational pipeline can engage in a learning experience together.  This is what drew me to the idea of getting “connected.”  When I learned about the idea of connected courses over the summer, I saw connecting my students together with those enrolled in other courses as an opportunity to engage them in experiential learning while they broaden their international perspectives.  I moved ahead with creating two connected modules for my courses; one with my friend Mario who teaches English in Japan and another with an educator in a high school.  I realize now that I made some assumptions about about what a connected experience would look like: it would be planned and intentional where both/all instructors would discuss the desired outcomes for the experience, it would be crafted in such a way to facilitate active learning, instructor feedback/support would be carefully woven in, and would use the optimal digital tools to humanize the learning experience.  I’m excited to report that one of my modules is underway (the one with the students in Japan) and it appears to be going well, based on student participation counts but MORE SO based on student’s demonstration of the learning outcomes and feedback on the reflection.  Both my colleague and I have invested a significant amount of time planning and creating the module, guiding students through the experience and we will assess the experience upon completion.

I have seen other connected courses and I feel like my definition of “connected” is different.   Sometimes it appears that students are just “plugging in” a blog to an aggregator for syndication, reading content, watching videos and commenting on others’ blogs.  But, what is not clear to me are the elements of engagement, active learning, instructor feedback, and well….a humanized experience, all of which I believe are vital to the success of an online learning experience. So, I am still left wondering how do we really define “connected” when we say “connected course?”  I think I’ve found my own definition through my experience (described above), but I’m curious to ask you…. what does being “connected” look like to your students’ learning experience?

Sorry for any typos… sometimes you just have to move from draft to publish and let it go…

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