Tuesday, 28 June 2016

5 reasons not to embrace Connections-based Learning

I'm not joking.

Here is a candid conversation about why not to embrace Connections-based Learning. At the risk of setting back a movement I started only a couple of years ago, employ in my classroom, share about at workshops, and blog about frequently, I really want to take a hard look at some reasons why Connections-based Learning might not be for you or your colleagues. 

As I sit here up on the top bunk in my hostel room (enduring the snoring and. . .) joining the 14,000 educators in Denver at the ISTE conference, I think about the amazing possibilities that a #CBL lens would have on teaching and learning.  But still, I will carve out my top 5 (but I am sure there are others) reasons not to embrace Connections-based Learning. 

#1 you'll have to be open to increasing your network

Connections-based Learning is actually what the name says: it is an approach to teaching and learning that is based on connections. In fact, as I have been delving deeper into what is and is not Connections-based Learning and spending time re-imagining the infographic (and in turn deepening the whole approach) with Leigh Cassell, I have become even more adamant that if it doesn't have to do with connection, relationship, partnering, and interaction, it has no part in the approach. 

That being said, educators involved in #CBL will not be able to avoid the networking aspect. Time will need to be taken to pursue connections. Effort will need to be expended to contact partners (through avenues such as Connected Learning Partnerships). These connections will have to be managed and cared for as any relationship would.  These connections would be two-way, not a flash in the pan, but more the slow cooking turkey basting variety.  And Connections-based Learning will require emotional energy to deal with the exposure to the many views and possibilities that a deeply connected educator will come across.

#2 you'll spend more time creating educational experiences

You'll have to take a look at your curriculum and ask yourself, "how can these learning outcomes be achieved in relationship? What are meaningful activities that provide the experience that will allow my students to come away with this kind of understanding.


When you collaborate on something, it requires planning ahead. You have to interact before you interact.  And when other parties are involved in the planning process, there's give and take about the what's, where's, and when's of the process. You are going to have to navigate that. 

Moreover, some of your learning outcomes might just not seem to fit with a connected experience. You'll have to figure out what to do with that. Connections-based learning will challenge you in ways you may not want to be challenged.

#3 you'll have to take risks

First there's the tech. Collaborating can include some kind of video conferencing if global connections are pursued or experts are brought in from far away. The technology has to be learned and then executed in real time. And when the tech seems to be failing, you're still on.  It's like you are hosting a dinner party and there's not enough food, uncle Larry's going off the deep end, and Sarah threw sand in her cousin's face. Can you smile, dig out some poppers from the deep freeze, put Larry in front of the TV, get Sarah to apologize while setting up a temporary eye wash station, and go without food yourself all without losing your smile?


Then there is opening the door to students interacting with organizations, experts, and partner classes. When my student Mo asked Karishma Bhagani, an NYU student hoping to bring her invention of a $10 water purifier back to needy villages in her home country of Kenya, about her thoughts on the aid western countries offer to the developing ones, I had no idea what to expect.  Would she be caught off guard, offended, made to feel uncomfortable?  Connections-based Learning will lead you into a pattern of risk taking.  How will you deal with that?

#4 you'll have to give up more control

The most effective #CBL's I have participated in have been the ones where students create their own goals around an interaction. Can you give up control to your students and have them own the learning.  They might not head in the direction you were hoping.  And do you really want your class to have the feel of some kind of campaign headquarters?  Are you okay with students heading off in different directions all at once?  Can you facilitate over orate, listen over speaking, and give up the idea of covering off your curriculum? #CBL will ask you to do all these things.


#5 you'll risk getting involved

The year is done and summer has come.  And still Hailey and her partners are working on Karishma's web page.  In fact, I remember the call home letting the parents know that their daughter was interacting with an NYU student on her own.  I had to make sure it was okay.  But I also remember our shared delight, talking about a young person who has found a passion, who has made a resolve to no longer stand aside and watch things happen. 

Would you be willing to do the same?

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