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Connected Learning – is this the Future of Education?

For some time now, I’ve had an idea in my head of an experience I would love my boys to have but I have been struggling to conceptualise it.

And then I saw this video on Edutopia and it depicted the words I could not find to articulate my thoughts.

Yeah, it looks a little like Amazing Alex come to life…

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that video ever since I saw it. This is exactly the kind of experience we should be offering our children. How can we replicate this experience and introduce it to children here? I started digging around to find out a little more…

In the video above, students in year 6 have been set a task to build a Rube Goldberg machine (a complicated device designed to perform a simple task), working together in groups of 12-15 students to foster collaboration, teambuilding. But this is just one of the many projects that students work on from Quest2Learn.

About Quest2Learn

Quest to Learn is a public school in New York that has re-created their learning environment. They’ve set themselves up to function as a community of individuals working together to create learning approaches that inspire students in holistic contexts in parallel with the networked world around them. This learning model was designed by a team of teachers and game designers, and is firmly grounded in over 30 years of learning research. Quest to Learn re-imagines school as one node in an ecology of learning that extends beyond the four walls of an institution and engages kids in ways that are exciting, empowering and culturally relevant.

Connected Learning

What is Connected Learning?

As much as possible, Quest to Learn embraces the Connected Learning Principles – the basis for a model of learning that re-imagines the experience of education in the information age. The Connected Learning Principles are:

  1. Interest-powered – Interests power the drive to acquire knowledge and expertise. Research shows that learners who are interested in what they are learning, achieve higher order learning outcomes. Connected learning does not just rely on the innate interests of the individual learner, but views interests and passions as something to be actively developed in the context of personalized learning pathways that allow for specialized and diverse identities and interests.
  2. Peer-supported – Learning in the context of peer interaction is engaging and participatory. Research shows that among friends and peers, young people fluidly contribute, share, and give feedback to one another, producing powerful learning. Connected learning research demonstrates that peer learning need not be peer-isolated. In the context of interest-driven activity, adult participation is welcomed by young people. Although expertise and roles in peer learning can differ based on age and experience, everyone gives feedback to one another and can contribute and share their knowledge and views.
  3. Academically oriented – Educational institutions are centered on the principle that intellectual growth thrives when learning is directed towards academic achievement and excellence. Connected learning recognizes the importance of academic success for intellectual growth and as an avenue towards economic and political opportunity. Peer culture and interest-driven activity needs to be connected to academic subjects, institutions, and credentials for diverse young people to realize these opportunities. Connected learning mines and translates popular peer culture and community-based knowledge for academic relevance.

Implementing the Program

So what would it take to implement a program like that here? Unfortunately, the Quest2Learn website is having problems so I couldn’t find out much about their projects from there, but I did find a gold mine of resources from the Institute of Play:

  • Mission Lab – embedded learning design studio
  • SMALLab – mixed reality learning environment
  • Short Circuit – after-school programming
  • MobileQuest – game design summer camp
  • Mission Packs – transforming the curriculum into a game-like experience that engages and excites students:

More project ideas

Check out some of the projects the kids get involved in…

Print and Play Games – Absolute Blast

SMALLab Games – Light and Mirrors

In this game, players work together to bend a beam of light toward a target without hitting obstacles that cause the light to lose power. The game mechanic is built around the estimation of angles, supplementary and complementary angles and the angle of incidence and reflection.

Off the Wall Learning

Off the Wall is a project to present challenge-based activities directly to the learner in a way that creates new and richer opportunities for interaction between informal learning mentors and youth.

Credit: Institute of Play

How cool would it be to be at a school like this?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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