Connections-based learning starts with a shift in thinking. It's about beginning to look at teaching differently, keeping our eyes and ears open as educators to the connected world around us. In order to create an atmosphere of learning around a certain learning outcome, the first question to ask is WHO. With whom are we going to interact in order to uncover learning in a particular area? Is there something going on in the community that we can participate in? Is there an expert that we can bring into the class that would help us learn? Is there an organization that we can support as we learn? Could we work together with another classroom nearby or far away as we learn? These questions are the starting point for Connections-based Learning.
The place to start when beginning a #CBL is right at home. Can an interaction with the local community facilitate learning in the desired area? Are there needs in the community that need to be addressed? These are the questions with which to start. Then begin to make the connection: write out an email, send out a tweet, make a phone call. And with student safety and age-appropriateness in mind, keep in mind that students can be making these connections as well. Here are a few ideas about possible community connections:
Would connection with an expert lead to great learning experiences? Some great platforms for making expert connections are these:
Can we work with another classroom as we learn? One developing platform for this is our own Connected Learning Partnerships. The goal was to have at least one educator from every country in the world that is interested in partnering with other classes around the world. Visit the digital Human Library to find out more.
Is there an organization that can be supported during the learning experience? Are the students passionate about a cause? Is there a way to reciprocate help?
This platform is focused on Science, Adventure, and Conservation. Each experience is stored as a Youtube video in the Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants Youtube channel. Check out some of the videos as they really give you a perspective on how engrossing this platform is. Give your students the opportunity to go to the bottom of the ocean, a turtle hospital, a bug zoo, Iceland's glaciers or many other locations with this far reaching platform.
Belouga.org is relatively new to the connections platform scene but don't let its youth fool you. This is one amazing opportunity for your students. Not only can they connect to students all across the world but as they dive deeper into the platform, students are making a global difference. They accumulate credits that can be "spent" to deliver textbooks to a class in Malawi or internet access to a school in Afghanistan.
The digital Human Library has hundreds of experts in nearly any subject area available to be signed out by teachers and classrooms to share their expertise with students. It also has links to hundreds of free multi-media tours. It is a one stop shop for getting connected and leveraging those connections for learning.
Virtual Researchers on Call is a platform that connects STEM professors and professionals (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) with Canadian students for interactive learning.
Empatico introduces your students to the world, no passport needed. In this platform focused on building empathy with your students, you are matched with another classroom to facilitate connection and collaboration in real time.