Welcome to the Boundaries and Limits of Networked and Connected Learning Hot Seat discussion!


Hi @SoniaLivingstone

I devised a small tutorial for teachers on how to make custom worksheets so that they could be tailored to the interests and abilities of each pupil:

As the ICT Link Governor of a school I was a governor at I tried to convince the teachers to introduce this form of differentiation, but it was not forthcoming.

Maybe many teachers are too busy teaching to be doing the learning (of how to use ICTs) that they should be doing?


Thanks @jonathanbishop

The worksheets are nice - my focus, though, was less on the personalisation (which I agree is a good way to link home and school) and more on the task children were being set. Specifically, I vividly recall observing one very bright girl being told to look on the internet for the answers to questions set, but they were all questions with correct answers and she was told to go to just one site to get the answers. She and the teacher called this ‘independent’ learning but to my mind it was highly teacher-led and involved minimal investigation, exploration or evaluation from the student. The idea of connected learning as Mizuko Ito and others developed it here (http://dmlhub.net/publications/connected-learning-agenda-for-research-and-design/) is not just that tech can link home and school but thereby school can develop the student-led interest-driven learning, knowledge and expertise that students have developed out of school. Otherwise, what they know out of school doesn’t easily find recognition or development in school. That’s the real waste, I suggest.


By the way, I liked @catherinecronin’s distinction between who we share with and who we share as - the latter signals the importance of identity, and it is identity that is really at issue in relation to digital context collapse risks (see the parallel thread to this discussion).


I have a number of publications in press or being reviewed on immediate learning, informal learning and the “flipped classroom” which are all concepts you could draw upon in this regard.

With the flipped classroom, the hand-out gets taken home, investigations are done on the web, like browsing YouTube and even dare I say it, Wikipedia.

The “homework” based on the worksheet is then done in class, making use of the findings at home, meaning the pupils from more advantaged backgrounds can’t rely on their parents to do the homework for them, and the teacher actually gets to see if real progress is being made.


Thanks Sonia and others participating here. This is a thoughtful discussion. I don’t think we should underestimate the value of interest led, selfdirected learning out of school. Or other activities which might be considered learning, such as playing video games. One of the studies I was part of when t Futurelab was an evaluation of the Consolarium games initiative in Scotland.


It’s a few years ago now but one of the findings that I thought was particularly useful was of the levelling quality of allowing children to bring home activities – such as games playing – into school and valuing them in themselves and as a resource to build on. The research found that some less academic children had their self confidence boosted as a result of this. And that confidence than enhanced their other activities in school.


Thanks Sonia and all those who have contributed to the discussion. I just browsed through the discussions and I’m wondering if part of the resistance by learners to connect their personal and school lives is the lack of connectedness between formal and informal learning. I live in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada (45min. east of Toronto) and have spent most of the past 30+ years working in formal institutional education contexts (a mix of private and public K-12 schools for about 18 years and then the last 12 years or so in university settings). In most of those experiences, particularly in K-12, students and teachers were focussed on the explicit things that they were supposed to be learning, i.e., the curriculum objectives and expectations that were set out. I observed that many students went through the motions of being diligent about learning but as soon as they had finished their exams they would essentially flush the content from their systems. It was as if there was no relevance for what they had been learning to their experiences and life outside of the classroom, i.e., what is learned in school is learned for school and is not good for much else.

As a practicing constructivist, I believe that we need to provide learners with opportunities to make connections between all that they have experienced and assist them in making sense of those experiences. I’m increasingly convinced that the leaders in these activities should be the learner and not the curriculum expectations. I’m moving further towards a ‘just-in-time’ type of learning so that relevance would be built into the system. ‘Just-in-time’ learning can use the approved curriculum as a jumping off point for the determination of which topics should be addressed. A series of contexts or situations based on the topics can be presented to the learners and their pre-conceived or initial notions are elicited. These initial notions would be challenged by presenting alternate conceptions of how the events/experiences can be explained or understood. The learners then are provided opportunities to test which of the conceptions was better for the learner. These procedures are built on the work initiated by my colleague, J.L. Bencze in his Ph.D. thesis and later works. (See Bencze, J. L. (1995). Towards a more authentic and feasible science curriculum for secondary schools. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Toronto: The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, The University of Toronto).

I have used these procedures in physically co-located and fully online courses and when employed with collaborative group work, they allow for high levels of learner engagement due to explicit relevance since the learner provides the connections between what they already know and where they are going.


I think your first para above - about how students learn the curriculum objectives and then flush out what they’ve learned at the end of the year - probably still describes lots of students’ experience. Your second para - about prioritising ‘just in time’ learning sounds intriguing. Is it more work for teachers to manage, I wonder? and how does it work when (I assume) it means that students all learn at a different pace?

It seems, however, that the learning goals are still set by the teachers. Is it possible for school to let students set their own learning goals, do you think? Perhaps to pursue more personalised pathways that might even begin with out-of-school interests?


Hi Sonia,
I agree that most students are probably still not in charge of their own learning. However, in the learning environment that I described leaves much of the learning up to the learner. In fact, they choose the problem/question that they will be addressing, where to go to find the information chosen, how to proceed, etc. The ‘teacher’ acts to produce the initial setting and context which is described in a Problem Based Learning Object (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256476854_IMPLEMENTING_PBL_ONLINE_AS_A_COLLABORATIVE_LEARNING_STRATEGY_FOR_TEACHERS_THE_COLE) as a ‘sandbox’ in which to learn, a la Papert. The other role that is assumed by the ‘teacher’ is as facilitator, supporting learning and offering criticism to the learner in order to provide the learner with suggestions for action modification. This is done, not be telling the learner what to do and how to do it, but by asking questions such as 'here is an alternate way of understanding this concept, how does this relate to your prior conception?" The learning goals or aims cannot be pre-set in this type of situation so, by definition, they come under control, to a great extent, of the learner, rather than being pre-dictated by the curriculum or by the teacher. They certainly cannot be tested using an exam or test so assessment must be performed using authentic performance based practices.

I’m not sure that formal education institutions will be able to be modified sufficiently for personalized learning to occur. In fact I’m working to help instigate changes to or disrupt formal learning. In the mean time, informal online learning, through the use of YouTube, Khan Academy, Twitter, FaceBook, etc. will continue to play increasingly important roles in giving learners access to information and consequently to new understandings that were not previously known by particular users.

The workload of teachers is probably not more but less in this type of scenario. However it is significantly from traditional teaching in that dissemination of information is not the primary function that teachers must perform. Instead teachers must have flexibility of thought and an ability to relate to the learner, alternately challenging and supporting as needed.


That’s helpful and fair, in terms of the task teachers face. So let’s think a little more about what students learn out of school - via YouTube, Khan Academy, or a host of other online and offline resources. Should that be recognised and developed in school? Are we missing a trick if we don’t?

In The Class, our sense was that one problem here is related to social class (sorry, a lot of ‘class’ in this sentence!). So if a middle class child learns music or sport or digital media production or whatever it is, they (or their parents) are likely to find a way for this to be known by the school, and then the school can recognise and develop that knowledge. But if a poorer or more marginalised child learns something out of school, first it might not fit the school learning environment so well (e.g. the child learns Turkish instead of French, saz instead of piano, boxing instead of football) and second, the parents or child may not be able to connect that knowledge to the school. So in effect, connections across home and school can become classed, a source of social reproduction. Thoughts?


I agree that this is an enduring problem Sonia. And it has been happening for a long time, way before the Internet. The question for me is can digital technologies help close the gap? I mentioned earlier how video games playing can be valued in classrooms which sometimes can benefit less academic children. And there is a much bigger issue here about the commensurability/gap between home and school for some children and their parents. An interesting example I came across some years ago in my PhD was mothers who had undertaken access courses to then go on and do a degree. This was a complete game changer in these homes as mothers then became less intimidated by teachers and sometimes able to support their children better. It was not an easy transition for them though… But it suggested how important educational levels/relationship with the school could be for parents and that these could be changed positively!


Nice example, Sue. I like the way you refer to the parents too, as in my project on Parenting For a Digital Future, I am struck by how, although students often wish to limit their connection/availability to the school, parents are often hungry for more connections but don’t quite know how to go about it (and schools are often concerned that parents bring problematical levels and kinds of demand). But as Annette Lareau wrote in Unequal Childhoods, if parental connections are more successful from the middle classes, that’s another source of inequality. Hence your example is especially welcome.


Thanks very much Sonia, and also for the reference to Unequal Childhoods which I will follow up on as it looks as if it could be relevant to my current work on disabled children and digital technologies though from a different perspective.


Dear Sonia,

I’m chiming in really late, but since I found the ‘digest’ in my mailbox today, my curiosity was sparked and I came to have a look.

Your research sounds very interesting and I’m curious to know more about it. It seems there is some overlap with research I did about three years ago on migrant youth networks (see e.g. Prinsen, F., de Haan, M., & Leander, K. M. (2015). Networked Identity How Immigrant Youth Employ Online Identity Resources. Young, 23(1), 19-38.).

In this research I also found some of these youths creating new social spaces that were strategically blocked off from the more traditional communities they are allied with, thereby separating themselves from particular, culturally informed, social practices. This provided them with new possibilities for identity development.

Also the work identified some limits to their connectivity (ranging from in-conducive attitudes towards connecting to ‘strangers’, limited views of it’s value, and some skill limits, but also clear preferences for offline connectivity).

Together with the other studies we did with our research group we found that there really is no standard ‘constellation’ of people, roles, rules, tools and artefacts - no ideals of connected learning; not all successful networks will have the same characteristics (de Haan, Leander, Ünlüsoy & Prinsen, 2014).

As for your question about linking home and school, I do get a sense that it might not do service to those youth that are trying to carve out alternate identities for themselves through the opportunities that the ‘away from home’ contexts offer them. Still, some youth thrive with more support from the home environment (as I saw in my work where they actively seek out more active roles in their family environment and rely on this environment for support and inspiration). So in my view it depends on how it aligns with the (active or passive) strategy of the youth in question…

Still, general encouragement to bring into school the many talents and skills that youth may develop outside of school (in informal contexts) might be very powerful. I think many youth have hidden talents that teachers need to become more aware of :smile:

Looking forward to read all the other threads here!

Thank you for the hotseat.



Glad you are able to join in, @Fleur_Prinsen. Part of #connectedlearning itself involves engaging in conversation threads as we need them!