Embracing Principles of Connected Learning

Liz Morris /

The power of teen leadership is at the center of a new report from The Institute of Museum and Library Services on Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums: Transformative Spaces for Teens. Teens empowered to participate, experiment, and collaborate are essential creators of dynamic new learning environments that advance meaningful lifelong learning skills for young people. The report itself highlights many of the elements of success that libraries and museums nationwide have embraced to engage teens in their own learning. At the heart of this engagement are six principles of Connected Learning, which are comprehensively defined by the Connected Learning Alliance. They include:

  • Interest-Powered
  • Production-Centered
  • Peer-Supported
  • Shared-Purpose
  • Academically Oriented
  • Openly Networked

We know that teens are adopting these principles to great success, which begs the question: what can we as information professionals glean from these principles to advance our own library service and lifelong learning goals? The following briefly explores one of these key principles, building from the definition provided by the Connected Learning Alliance, and its potential application to library services.

Interest-Powered: Interests foster the drive to gain knowledge and expertise. Research has repeatedly shown that when the topic is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes. Connected learning views interests and passions that are developed in a social context as essential elements.

Ideally, the work that you do for your community through your library service is inherently interesting to you and provides ongoing opportunities for learning, though there is always room to pump up the passion! Individuals who are passionate about their work can often be spotted from a mile away – their commitment, enthusiasm, and curiosity are admirable. Some simple ways to incorporate or develop interest-power in your work include:

  • Share your passions with your co-workers. Do you like to bake? Bring some treats to the office and share the recipe! Are you an avid volunteer? Share pictures of your latest community event with colleagues. The interests you pursue outside of work are at least as equally important to the goals you advance at work. Building connections with colleagues across these pursuits can foster trust and creativity in your daily work, as well as surface intersections for your personal interests to add value to professional objectives.

  • Get curious. Whether the work you do is fairly consistent day-to-day, or ever-changing, take time to explore how other individuals or organizations may be tackling similar tasks, and what they’re learning. Professional learning communities, blogs, TED talks, etc. are all great ways to find new angles or avenues of interest for ongoing activities. We at WebJunction are huge fans of the Self-Directed Achievement learning model, which fosters individualized approaches to organization-wide learning.

We invite you to spend some time with the full IMLS report, and explore the many resources available through the Connected Learning Alliance, then let us know your thoughts at the poll below.

Please use the comments below to tell us more about how these principles can advance your library service.