Design, Network, Create, Celebrate

Making a connection is only the start of connections-based learning.  The Collaboration Lens guides educators as they grapple with HOW to make the most of the connection.  Each Collaborate Focus is not a step by step process for connections-based learning but more of a guide to maximize the learning that happens through the connection.  The Collaboration Lens begins with designing the connected experience.  Connections with the community, experts, organizations and other classes lead us to create a response to the connection. Aspects of celebration and networking happen throughout the connection and require guidance and intentionality.


As with all learning activities, the #CBL begins with an idea as to how the experience will go.  These ideas, however, are needs based.  The class spends time reflecting on local or global needs.  The needs are many and, when truly considered, can be overwhelming.  The educator guides the class to focus in an area and through dialogue, goals are are constructed with student and teacher input.  Because the connection needs leeway to play out naturally, a draft of what might happen is made.  This draft might include creating questions to ask an expert, a plan for connecting with an organization or community group, an idea of how to collaborate with another group of students.


The focus in Connections-based Learning is always connections.  Even after students share, learning continues to take place as they receive feedback from multiple sources.  Students can respond thoughtfully to the feedback and reciprocate, offering their own feedback.  As students share this to and fro, they curate a learning network that can be accessed in future endeavours.


Connections lead to responses.  When the students are given a provocation, the most natural thing to ask is: "what are we going to do about this?"  Students instinctively create in response to their exposure.  It is the job of the teacher to guide the students in gaining the requisite skills in order to create what they need to create to respond to the connection.  Critical thinking regarding what has gone before and innovation in regards to what is to come become natural extensions.  The end goal is for the creation to contribute to the need.


Connections are always meaningful.  An effort needs to be made to honour the connection--both the process and the person.  Connections-based Learning respects the learning process.  Sometimes connections don't pan out; sometimes proposals don't go as planned.  Learning, however, can always take place.  In Connections-based Learning, students are encouraged to work out loud: sharing out as they attempt to carry out their plan, leveraging connections to help them accomplish their goals.  As students document and reflect on the process, they are able to take steps forward.  Students collect and collate their documentation and share out their learning in a portfolio.