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Connected Learning: What have they done with Alec, Will, Vicki?

If I was Alec Couros, Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Steve Hargadon, or any of the thousands of K-12 educators that have been pushing for networked/connected learning for years (in Will’s case, more than a decade), I’d be fairly irritated to have been written out of the vision of connected learning that is now emerging from DML.

I don’t see any mention of the folks that have been pushing for open, social, networked, and collaborative pedagogical models on the site’s connected learning principles.

This might be a simple oversight on the part of the organizers – i.e. get the message of a new initiative out quickly. However, the site indicates that a new research group has been formed to explore connected learning. The starting point of almost all research is consideration of what has come before. Alec Couros, as an example, did his dissertation on the topic. (OT: If I was you Alec, I would totally go with Valentino as my first name. just sayin’). Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis have just published a book on the topic.

Basically, a new initiative seems to arise out of nowhere with this brilliant vision of connected learning. Those popularizing this vision get labelled as innovators while those doing the actual work are not given credit. I’ve seen this happen numerous times (and have been on the receiving end of a similar “writing out of existence”). It’s wrong.


  1. Jackie Gerstein wrote:

    I am at the DML 2012 conference where they announced the Connected Learning initiative. I like what they are doing but proposed in a blog I wrote about the topic questions similar to what you proposed – especially regarding the involvement of the K12 “experts”.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Chris Lehmann wrote:

    And some of us started a school based on a lot of those principles… :)

    At EduCon this year, Chris Emdin said, “The problem isn’t the institutionalization of good ideas, it is the co-opting of them.”

    That phrase is haunting me more and more these days.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  3. Jim Lermanj wrote:

    This is really a shame…a clear and unfortunate manifestation of the chasm that all too often separates K-12 from higher education. One would have hoped that the people at MacArthur would be both more sensitive and better informed. Perhaps it’s not too late to right this wrong?

    Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 2:08 am | Permalink
  4. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about advancing the conversation. But it does seem like there is a conspicuous lack of K-12 voices in that mix. How many of the folks on that group have actually taught in a K-12 classroom in the last 10 years???

    Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 6:07 am | Permalink
  5. While I had the same initial reaction, as I looked deeper I think what this effort is about is research. They are calling themselves an interdisciplinary research network dedicated to understanding the opportunities and risks for learning afforded by today’s changing media ecology, as well as building new learning environments that support effective learning and educational equity.

    That suggests to me we will get more empirical studies and qualitative data around a topic that is important to many of us. And they will try out some new learning environments geared toward reaching John Seely Brown’s collectives and Wenger’s CoP.

    In terms of reaching out to those of us living it and writing about it everyday, I think that will come. I know in terms of the USDOE and their work around online communities of practice they reached out once they were established. For example, Etienne, Steve H. and I are serving on their TWG.

    However, I do hope they will consider deeply the ideas coming out of your and Stephen’s work George, and Terry Anderson and others who are also doing quite a bit of research around connected learning.

    BTW, I mentioned your work quite a bit in my new book, The Connected Educator: Leading and learning in a Digital Age. Have you read it? Would you like a review copy?

    Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink
  6. BalancEdTech wrote:

    Yeah for what they have done and hopefully for many years to come! (Maybe in conjunction with this new work, maybe separately or both.) But, you make it sound as if what Alec, Will, Vicki, Steve,and countless others came first. What about those that came before them that they built on (knowingly and unknowingly), and so on back several generations to Vygotsky and others. Who else should be credited, studied, conversed with? I vote we don’t leave out Scardamalia, Bereiter, Papert, Wenger, Siemens, Downes, and oh so many more.

    Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  7. Manoj Sinha wrote:

    First, my sincere thanks to all of you (and to the ‘DML tribe’, as Chad puts it) for shining the light on this important topic!

    The benefits of a ‘connected learning ecosystem’ can go further than many of us had ever anticipated. While the educational systems (K-12, higher etc.) will be the key beneficiaries, it’s reach/impact outside the system can be significant too. It can bring about transformational changes to traditional learning systems, the impact of which can be felt in local, regional, and national economies. JSB alluded to this in his DML keynote when he briefly mentioned about its role in the resurgence of manufacturing in US.
    Borrowing the phrase from Sir Ken Robinson – this could truly bring about a ‘learning revolution’

    Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  8. Mimi Ito wrote:

    I appreciate the thoughtful comments and critique in relation to our new research network and community site. It was not our intention to render invisible prior relevant work or to claim that the research network is somehow the owner of the connected learning concept. It’s just one project in decades of ongoing related research and practice. We will clarify this on the site based on feedback like we see here, but the research network is not the same as the community site, and the principles document was drafted by a range of folks in different fields and practices, not by the research network. Personally, I’m delighted to hear of many strands of work that lay claim to prior art and more folks we can feature in our ongoing community building and curation. I don’t know that there is one community or strand of research that is the origin story for connected learning, whether it is educational research, the K-12 sector, media studies, youth serving programs, etc. etc. I’m hoping you’ll see the new community site as an invitation to engage with a diverse range of stakeholders in these ideas and efforts, rather than one that is exclusionary. I’d be very sad if it ended up being the latter.

    Monday, March 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink
  9. It would be a shame if this miscommunication were not corrected (through the kind of conversation that is happening in this thread right away), because I see the site as a community resource for all of the networks of researchers and educators who are approaching connected learning. I know people on both sides of this perceived divide — I interviewed Will, Sheryl, and Steve for the blog that is produced by the same people (Mimi, Jeff, Jon).

    I emphasize what Sheryl and Mimi pointed out — the research network and the community resource at are separate, connected enterprises. I’ve been hired by to help them grow a community that will benefit all researchers and practitioners, and I’m excited by the opportunity to connect the different networks I’ve encountered as I’ve explored what is now called connected learning. As I perceive it, “connected learning” is not an attempt to proclaim a category de novo, but an attempt to name and support some things that have been emerging and which Mimi and her colleagues at UCHRI want to encourage.I know that my own work with the social media classroom, online courses, and peeragogy has been encouraged and supported by DML and HASTAC.

    I’m being paid by DML to help them with the community effort, but I think most people in the connected learning world trust my judgement — and know that I’m willing to be corrected when I’m wrong.

    In my experience, if you want to foster a community, you start by providing rich nourishment for the people you want to attract, and give them ways to communicate with each other. To that end, and at my suggestion, will start a regular weekly webinar series. These will be in part guest lectures by people who have been working on some aspect of connected learning; as I see it, they will also be opportunities for the participants to communicate with each other through multiple channels. I learned a lot from Steve Hargadon’s Elluminate interviews and George Siemens’ MOOCs in regard to the value of active participants in webinars. If there are issues like this one to discuss, I hope to provide a venue.

    We should be connecting networks, and that means perceived divisions between them ought to be dealt with frankly when they come up. Otherwise, no connection. And we do all share an interest, I think.

    When I started working on peeragogy, I realized that I had learned about paragogy from Corneli and Danoff and that I certainly wasn’t the first in a line of thought that does go back to Freire, Vygotsky, Dewey, and others. So I recruited a grad student to help create a literature review, then invited the community of peeragogy volunteers to grow and edit it. It’s turned out pretty well, so far. Maybe that would be a project for people interested in connected learning — a literature review that makes the connections between the people and ideas that are adding up to connected learning. The peeragogy lit review:

    Monday, March 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink