Nicole Mirra, a University of California, Los Angeles Writing Project Fellow, is an active connected learning ambassador in the educator community. She has taught 5 years as a high school English teacher in Los Angeles and New York City, and is a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA. She is also the coordinator of the UCLA Council of Youth Research, which she discusses in the book she co-authors, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.
I got the chance to submit a couple questions to her, by which I learned a lot about connected learning, feasible application of it, and how it relates to equitable education. Connected learning, Mirra says, is a framework rather than a curriculum. In this way it is a mindset which teachers can take when educating students and which schools can take in encouraging teachers to engage students’ interests, and thus provide more effective instruction.
On a broad scale, Mirra believes connected learning could easily be implemented, so long as those attempting to use it do not try it through rigid imitation of other connected learning models. The whole point of connected learning is to take a more adaptable approach that is mindful of the unique context in which students are in. She completely opposes district mandated connected learning because it would be absolutely hypocritical and combat the pillars of connected learning including flexibility, shared interest, collaboration, and open networking. Connected learning, Mirra explained, can only be implemented broad scale if the flexibility is maintained, various educational institutions expressed a commitment to the key ideas of connected learning, and if people who adopted the practice made sure to support their students as individuals with diverse interests.
Mira believes that equity of education, an issue that has been seen as a challenge in connected learning, is actually an essential aspect of the method. She expressed that they essentially go hand in hand, since connected learning focuses on individual interests and needs, as opposed to generalized standards. She said that at the core of connected learning is the idea that education should not be one size fits all. Both connected learning and equitable education are based on this same premise, though in application the two might conflict in standardization.
Mira believes that teachers’ roles in advancing connected learning is incredibly important outside of the classroom as well. Teachers need to become ambassadors for connected learning among other teachers and in legislation. They need to engage public discussion in blogs, social media, or anyway they can to get the word out. She emphasized how peer-supported learning is one of the main concepts of connected learning, and that teachers should adopt this practice as well when learning how to implement connected learning.