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What Are Connected Learning "Centers" and Why Do We Need Places Without Spaces?

These are examples of posts discussing the merits of tools used to manage and organize evidence of learning. A few months ago, I discussed the value of every learner having their own domain on the Internet. Autonomy, creation, and self-organization of information were key aspects of my position. However, a few readers asked, "where's the scaffolding and structure?" With divergent opinions being shared I want to clarify my thinking on web tools, and their purpose. I want to create a focus, or a center, for the fragments of information made available through my network. According to George Siemens, an expert on socially networked learning and connectivism, information fragmentation contributes to a lack of coherence and understanding. 

"Fragmentation of information requires that we weave together elements into some type of coherent framework." - George Siemens

Siemens identification of elements includes web resources such as; YouTube, Twitter, TEDtalks, Facebook, blogs, and social readers, Flipboard and Feedly. The networked information from these elements is fragmented. So, we need tools like digital portfolios, blogs, and hashtags to create centers of learning. Learner interdependence is created when we share our centers socially. The open, or the readily available sources of knowledge are dynamic. This complexity of information necessitates the interdependence of learning networks. Reed's Law states the utility of a network grows exponentially with the size of the network. Crowdsourcing information will become a requisite practice as education becomes increasingly "open" and connected.

Siemens identifies the following principles that influence education in socially networked settings (places without spaces).

  • Learner Autonomy
  • Self-organization 
  • Transparent Learning = Teaching
  • Participatory Pedagogy
  • Sense-making Artifacts
  • Shareable Learning Paths

So, do learners need tools like learning management systems, digital portfolios, wikis, and blogs? Do these tools help create coherence from fragmentation and complexity? Do these tools provide opportunities for learners to create and contribute transparently to social learning centers? Because of social-technical capabilities knowledge can now exist outside of our heads, but reside within the centers of our network. The line between teacher and learner is becoming blurred. Technology provides the opportunity for interdependence, and informational coherence, for the modern learner. To dismiss the relevancy of a digital tool is to ignore the purpose it serves learners and their networks.

I am curious. What are the tools, or processes, that you use to weave, or center, fragmented pieces of web information into coherent framework that supports your learning? Are your centers shareable? Do your learning processes contribute to the learning of others? Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

References and Related Resources

photo credit: IMG_4196 via photopin (license)


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