“My hypothesis is that learning is the opposite of content. Content is a closed circuit, a mechanism. Learning is an open circuit, a field. And the best courses overflow their containers” – Jesse Stommel
Jesse Stommel, the Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at University of Mary Washington, is another advocate for Connected Learning. Jesse Stommel teaches out of the foundational belief that educators should not work to confine learning into preset boxes, but to give students the tools and opportunities they need to expand learning outside of these boxes.
Stommel’s belief that learning is an “open circuit,” and that it courses should “overflow their containers,” represents the beliefs of connected learning. Connected Learning should not aid a system that limits the academic and educational growth of students, but gives students the tools and resources they need to expand their learning outside of the classroom.
Stommel demonstrates this belief through incorporating technology into his classroom. He does not limit the use of technology to teaching students how to talk with each other through this medium, but teaches his students the opportunity technology gives them to engage with the public. Through this, Strommel gives students the opportunity to engage with their community and develop personal agency through creating a public voice. One activity Strommel uses that I would love to implement in my own classroom is the twitter essay. This activity is described below:
“They started with an activity called ‘the Twitter Essay’ in which students were challenged to condense an essay into 140 characters. They would talk in class about what an essay is and how it works, what it does in the world, then try to achieve that in 140 characters online. ‘It was an exercise in thinking about writing as fractal – in which every utterance has an impact on the world. I don’t think I was using Twitter to its full extent until I started asking my students to work in networks and work with people on the web outside our classroom. At that point, it wasn’t just about loosing a Twitter essay on the world, but was also about engaging and finding like minds and unlike minds to dialogue with.’”
Activities like these are tangible ways to enact connected learning in the classroom, and give students the opportunity to converse with other learners online. Being proactive about helping students develop agency within the classroom through activities like these is essential to creating an environment that champions students to pursue their personal academic interests, and teaches students how the learning they are doing within the classroom is relevant to the world around them.