Connected Learning Certificate Program Launching

By Kira Baker-Doyle, Assistant Professor of Education, Arcadia University

In the summer of 2013, 15 teachers in Philadelphia gathered around a classroom table at Arcadia University to hack some toys. Discarded Barbie doll heads, wheels from plastic dump trucks, and board game pieces lay strewn across the table as teachers chatted with each other and used glue guns to create new creatures from the toy wreckage, and then went on to tweet and blog stories about their creations.

“I loved hacking toys,” one participant blogged. “I think the hands-on experience, the permission to play, and the removed barriers helped to unleash creativity. I can see how the experience could help students connect on many different levels—through interests, shared purpose, etc. I wonder about the academic element to toy hacking—but after reading others’ posts—have a better sense of a connection to creative writing.”

Christina Cantrill, senior program associate who directs the Digital Is project at the National Writing Project, facilitated this connected learning workshop for teachers through Arcadia University’s School of Education as part of last summer’s Making Learning Connected MOOC (#clmooc). It was an opportunity for participants to learn more about Connected Learning Principles, and it was also an experiment by Arcadia University—testing the waters for interest in a new certificate program in connected learning.

The experiment was a success and Arcadia will officially kick off its new Connected Learning Certificate program this May with the first course in the program, “ED676: Teacher Practice in a Connected World,” to be taught by Meenoo Rami, author of Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching (Heinneman 2014), Co-founder of #engchat, and teacher at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

The Connected Learning Certificate, a 12-credit program being offered by the Arcadia University School of Education, is the first of its kind being offered at a College or University. Its aim is to break the mold of traditional teacher education practices by encouraging program participants to become co-creators of curriculum for the program, and to participate in an openly networked platform to make their work public.

Connected learning, a pedagogical approach and philosophy developed by researchers and educators at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, is based on the idea that learning should be: student centered, production-oriented, equitable and participatory, openly networked, and relevant to learners.

A team of scholars, teachers, and non-profit leaders, including Rami and Cantrill, designed the program at Arcadia. Participants can complete all courses online or can choose to enroll in hybrid or traditional courses. In addition to three-credit courses, the program offers participants the chance to enroll in a “Connected Learning Camp,” a one-week intensive one-credit course on a hot topic in connected learning offered during a Spring or Summer break.

Participants that complete the Connected Learning Certificate will not only learn to leverage connected technologies in teaching and learning, they will also become connected, public practitioners in the Arcadia Connected Learning Network, a university-based node in a broader community of connected learning organizations.

Also, Connected Learning Certificate graduates will be able to nominate, design, and facilitate Connected Learning camps.

“The Connected Learning Certificate at Arcadia University is an exciting opportunity to work through the tensions of the aspirations of the connected learning framework within an institutional setting with its own requirements, traditions, and context,” said Cantrill, who will also teach one of the certificate courses.

Some of the institutional constraints of working within a higher educational setting may also lead to innovations and shifts that have the potential to re-shape teacher education on the whole, Cantrill contends. “Facilitated through the use of open networks, practices, badges, and portfolios, this certificate program will provide access and opportunities for learners to become leaders and teachers themselves, strengthening both the shared knowledge based around teaching and learning, as well as the connected learning community at the University and beyond.”

Learn more about the Arcadia Connected Learning Certificate.