Week 12 [ Mon March 27 Blended] Connected Learning: Critical Participatory Cultures & Informal Learning

This week’s reading titled, “Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design” explores student learning when that learning is “socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity” (Ito, 2013). The article states that if students are able to pursue a “personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults” they are able to link that learning and interest to academic achievement, career success and/or civic engagement. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement as growing up, I was always encouraged by my parents to pursue what interested me school.  I shared similar interests with my friends and had teachers who believed in providing students with the opportunity to explore what interested them, which I think led to my academic success growing up, as well as being highly-driven and engaged in civic and political issues. I am not afraid to voice my thoughts in and outside of the classroom as I feel passionately about my interests. Because my learning was connected to my personal interests in and outside of the classroom, I was much more inclined to engage in critical production to expand my learning beyond just what my teachers taught me. As a child, I was always athletic and interested in how the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues worked together to make the body move. Because of the opportunities I was given to explore my athleticism and theoretical knowledge both in and outside of the classroom with peers and teachers who encouraged connections between concepts and experimental learning (i.e. acting out a live model of the filament processes through which the muscles move with my peers), I found myself carrying this passion into other subjects and aspects of my schooling.

The article states that for learning to be resilient, adaptive and effective, it must “involve students’ individual interest, as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition”.  While reading this, I couldn’t help but think about individuals who are focused primarily on the traditional modes of academic studying (sitting down with a textbook or lecture material for hours each day), rather than engaging with related or unrelated extracurricular activities in addition to their school work . Growing up and even throughout university, I noticed that some students would primarily be focused on academics and had no other activity than to go from home to school and back. Whereas throughout university, I was captain of the varsity wrestling team, was an exec on multiple sport leadership councils, was a Residence Advisor, a student health ambassador and participated in multiple other side extracurriculars. I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the quality of my university experience and that of my friends and peers. I found that more often than not, I exceeded in the same classes that we were in, while maintaining an extensive experience profile relating to what I was learning in class. The experience applying what I learned in class (i.e. Kinesiology, anatomy or exercise physiology class) to my matches during wrestling or when training, or applying a theoretical background to the conversation with speaking with people as a student health ambassador helped feed my passion for life long learning in health and vice versa. I knew there was value in learning what was meaningful to me — and with the supportive relationships I had with friends, professors and teammates, I was able to form “diverse pathways and forms of knowledge and expertise”.  I am now able to contribute, share and provide feedback both within formal, academic circles and informal, impromptu social groups.

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