Developing & maintaining learning connections online in a networked learning project

Developing & maintaining learning connections online in a networked learning project

We are living, learning, and educating in an information-rich (Shirky), connected (Siemens), creative (Florida), participatory (Jenkins) culture. We make the bold statement that “the Internet is the dominant text for our students.” One of the best ways to really understand how to use the Internet as the sole resource a source for learning something new. 

Part of the challenge that we have in integrating technology into our classroom practice is that we need to break the mindset that the teacher is the lone expert in the classroom…and there is one text/truth for learning. The networked learning project is an inquiry based project that tries to break these old paradigms, while empowering the learner. In this, the networked teacher needs to consider opportunities to guide learners while facilitating their own professional development.

Creative Commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by courosa

In this post I will share the project guidelines and opportunities for assessing learning in the networked learning project. This project is appropriate for use in grades from K up through higher ed. Please modify as needed. You are free to use, share, and modify your use of this in your own life, or classroom. Please leave a comment and share your improvements so I can learn as well.

Networked learning project

In the networked learning project, we will use the Internet, the connected learning community, and your own personal learning networks to teach yourself something new. You will collect, curate, and synthesize this information into a final “presentation” of what you have learned. This presentation will be uploaded to YouTube and shared on your blog. You will be evaluated on the basis of your organization, content, reflections, and thoughtful evaluation of the research literature.  You should reflect on implications that you draw for classroom practice.

I want you to select something that excites you, and you’ve always wanted to learn. Please select something that you’ve wanted to do, but in the past have not had the time or expertise to follow through and complete. I typically ask that my students select a topic outside of education, technology, and literacy. It is very important that you select an inquiry of focus that is of high interest to you.

The trick, will be to use only YouTube, Internet Help Forums, and your Personal Learning Network (PLN) for information about how to do the thing you have decided to learn. You may decide that you would like to learn to knit, to play the trumpet, to change the brakes on your car, decorate cakes with fondant, to acquire basic vocabulary in Mandarin Chinese, to bake bread…really, the options here are endless. The fun will be in seeing how far you can get using only “the network” and people in help-forums as your collaborators.

Documenting learning

In this project, you will need a blog, or website to document your learning over time. You will also need a strategy to keep track of the spaces and places in which you learn online. I recommend Hypothesis for keeping track of what you learn over time. I also use Storify as an assessment tool to synthesize what you’ve learned.

Over the course of the project, you should have a series of blog posts documenting and synthesizing your progress. Consistent with the blogging genre, multimedia is encouraged for each post (e.g., a photo, a sound recording, a screencast, a short video) but is only required for the last post which will include a video in which you demonstrate your newly acquired skill.

You should identify the following in individual posts:

  • What is your topic? This is an Internet inquiry project…you pick the topic. What are you interested in? Why did you select this?
  • Identify your goals and student learning objectives. What do you think you’ll learn?
  • Identify what you learned online…and where you learned it. Where did you find these different informational resources?
  • Identify your assessment (formative and summative) assessment techniques. How will you assess your own success in this activity?
  • Identify your collection and curation process. How will you document your learning? What digital texts and tools did you include in your process? What challenges or limitations did you encounter?
  • Develop an online space to collect and curate all of these resources you used to teach yourself this new skill/talent/competency. Show us what you learned.

Assessing learning

In my classes, I review the blog posts and documentation of learning over time. I focus on the development of writing and publishing skills online, and well as developing facility with digital texts and tools. I’m also providing an opportunity for students to consider and legitimize the use of the Internet for inquiry and learning. Far too often we believe that learning can only come from printed texts, or specific sources. In this project, you are only using the Internet to study. You are also setting your goals and objectives for the learning process. You determine success or failure in the experience.

Assessment of blog posts, reflections, and classroom discussions focuses on a fleet of reflective posts that explain the following: what you want to learn; how you’ll learn it; what your learning goals are; how you’ll assess your learning; how you’re documenting and saving your learning; challenges associated with learning; and finally document what you’ve learned.

Evaluation of these blog posts will be based on the common criteria listed below. The criteria is subject to revision by the students before the project begins. Additional feedback is provided by the instructor and peers to justify the evaluation and offer suggestions for improvement.

Criteria of Evaluation

  • Does the blog post address the prompt?
  • Are ideas clearly and logically expressed?
  • Is the progression of learning over time clear to the reader?
  • Do visual elements (if integrated) support the text?
  • Have word limits been observed?

Get started

The first step…and the first blog post will announce your intentions to connect and learn online.  Create a blog post in which you indicate the topic for your networked learning project. What are you interested in?

Please try and use categories or tags in your blogging platform to keep your upcoming posts linked. Please share this post out openly online at your social network of choice. Please be sure to include the appropriate hashtags to connect with your personal learning network (PLN).

Good luck…and have fun.

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Cover image Creative Commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by tedeytan


Also published on Medium.

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