Networked Learning Ecology Design

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Participatory Design for Learning

Networked learning ecology(1).png

Core Design

This Core design exists within a framework of socially driven integrated curriculum, and at a nexus between place based and international learning.

A Vision:

Building a Networked Civic Culture for an interdependent world.

A Strategy:

An integrative and integrated curriculum enabled through eLearning in a series of new spaces for learning . The NLE is a powerful answer to the myriad of questions that face the failing infrastructure of the traditional school in the twenty-first century.


A Nexus of Curriculum Integration and Networked Learning (nLearning)

Curriculum Integration

Building on work and scholarship since 1904, NLE will seat its core design in the frameworks of curriculum integration. Most recently, the clearest voice for this visionary approach to learning is Dr. James Beane (retired Professor of Integrated Studies, National Lewis University). The following sections on curriculum integration weave the work of Beane (1997) and specifically his salient discourse in Curriculum Integration: Designing the Core of Democratic Education into the overall discussion. This approach to learning will be inherently learner centric.

Integrated Curriculum: Young people involved and engaged in an enormous range of knowledge, from information to values clarification, and including content and skills from several disciplines of knowledge integrated in the context of themes and activities within them. Organizing centers are are significant problems or issues that connect the curriculum to the larger world. These centers serve as a context for unifying knowledge. Knowledge in turn is developed as it is instrumentally applied to exploring the organizing centers (Beane,1997).

Integrative learning: Collaboratively planning a curriculum with young people (Beane, 1997).

An integrative integrated core curriculum with problem[/passion] based central themes, and meaningful concepts to drive authentic activities where ideas are explored and acted on (Beane,1997).

  • Personal Knowledge:

Addressing self concerns and ways of knowing about self (Beane, 1997).

  • Social Knowledge:

Addressing social and world issues, from peer to global relationships, and ways of critically examining these (Beane, 1997).

  • Explanatory Knowledge:

Content that names, describes, explains, and interprets, including that involved in the disciplines of knowledge as well as commonsense or popular knowledge, (Beane, 1997)

  • Technical/Twenty First Century Knowledge:

Ways of investigating, communicating, analyzing, and expressing. Finding,Validating, Leveraging, and Synthesizing Information; Communicating, collaboration and problem solving in a technologically rich environment (Beane, 1997).

nLearning: From Curriculum Integration to Learning Ecology

The approach to learning embodied in an integrated and integrative curricular core will be intensified through nLearning. This nexus between highly student based curriculum and nLearning will provide the learning community with a new learning ecology. This ecology will embody the NLE vision as it allows young people and their communities both local and around the world to connect in authentic, effective and exciting ways.

nLearning systems

Project based and collaboration rich software will enable our learning spaces to have a flexible web 2.0 enabled system to work within the NLE's many project based learning endeavors. Throughout our first year of operations and then on a continual basis, the whole community at NLE will find and validate new nLearning tools for the proliferation of our learning spaces. This integrative process will allow for young people to use and develop the technologies they see as integral to their learning.

Mobile Learning (mLearning)

NLE learning ecologies will provide the frameworks necessary to utilize mLearning in expansive ways. Mobile Learning using, iPhones, netbooks, and other portable tools will offer the learning community a chance to take learning in highly dynamic situations to a new level.


Networked ePortfolio (nPortfolio) assessment will be a way to weave assessment into the learning ecology as a learning tool. The design and flexible structures offered through the use of nPortfolios will enhance the learning spaces of NLE by allowing the whole community access to research and learning outcomes while at the same time providing a personal and learner centric environment for growth. NLE nPortfolio's will provide the community with an in-depth look at student passion, interests, intelligences, growth, and accomplishment.

NLE Learning Ecology

Learners working via nLearning in project pods locally and internationally in blended learning settings.

A learning Mesh that inspires and houses the NLE learning community

Organizing Centers Core Curricular Design: Whole Learning Ecology Programs

The core design of NLE organizing centers will emerge out of learner outcomes in Whole Learning Ecology (WLE) programs. WLE programs will be both integrative and integrated and serve as methods investigations in learning how to learn.

Twenty First Century Literacies (TCL)

Learning how to find, validate, synthesize, leverage, communicate, collaborate and problem solve. What is essential about the TCL's is that the investigations will engage learners through a practice of relationship building. How to approach an interdependent world will be the focus of these sessions. Learners may be involved in active listening workshops, architectures of empathy workshops, or design and research methods courses. The goal of these investigations will be to ready participants for the innovative and world changing work they will do in their learning spaces and toward their organizing centers.

Integrated Learning Center (ILC)

ILC programming will emerge out of the special needs or interests of learners. This program is currently being created as a space for intensive individual study, travel, or invention/business creation outside of the organizing centers that will drive most of the learning spaces in the core.

Organizing Centers Core Curricular Design: NLE Organizing Centers

NLE will offer learners a chance to create their own authentic experiences through fully integrated organizational centers (OC's). These OC's will blend all of the NLE learning ecology together for projects that have lasting impact on the world. All of the OC's designed will have real world application and deal with the issues of living in an interdependent world. The outcomes of these projects will meet not only the curricular needs of knowledge acquisition but apply all learning to the real world. The goal of all organizing centers is focused on integration of self into interdependent world systems for a sustainable future.

A Networked Learning Ecology Vision

A day in the learning ecology of Piper Hahn

Piper is a 15 year old who lives in Midcoast Maine, US. A year ago, Piper heard about a new way to learn, and decided to take part in a new learning experience called the Maine Networked Learning Project (MNLP). Known as “the Mesh” to participants, this learning ecology offered Piper the chance to apply her passion for learning in highly experiential and collaborative ways with groups of young people of varied ages, adult and youth mentors with knowledge territory specialties and organizations focused on ensuring sustainable and resilient societies, economies, and the environment. This is a snapshot of her day. Networked|Self Organized|Experiential|Applied

Piper gets ready for her week by sitting outside sipping tea and looking at her smart phone. She is checking project updates sent from the team she has been working with for the last two months on her Reader and Twitter feed. The project Piper is checking in on deals with food justice in the rural communities of her bioregion.

Seeing many updates, and much activity she decides to look at the overall “mesh” schedule for the day. She notices that the MNLP van will be moving across the local region starting in an hour. To get a ride on this local transportation system she has to ride her bike to a station stop or have her parents drop her off at the regional mesh meet-up location. But before deciding this she reviews her weekly schedule on her mobile.

Piper notices that she and three others will be presenting at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars organization to a large group on the history of local food cultivation in the region. She and her Food Justice project group have spent a good deal of time completing ethnographic studies of the areas “locals”. These participant interviews are seminal to their presentation as they show that local sustainability and resilience projects are not “outside” or “rich Peoples” pursuits, but can save local economies and the historical heritage this stakeholder group cherishes. The group has also been working in restoration crews on local farms as a service learning tie in to their studies. The project has been extensive. Piper and her group have covered mathematics, experimental sciences, writing, social sciences and much more in an integrated project framework. They have relied on their mesh mentors, local experts, and the internet for research, recording (writing, video) and exhibiting their knowledge and understanding to multiple community stakeholder groups.

As the project presentation pre-work is done, Piper contacts her group via twitter hashtag to remind all that they will need an hour to meet-up before the presentation and to ride their bikes to the VAW hall from the meet-up. Immediately she gets a response from three of the four other group members that they will meet prior to the VAW event. They remind each other that a collaborative learning session will be going on for applied algebra and trigonometry concepts at Noon. This session will be special, as an innovative regional planner from rural Scotland will be mentoring at the Self Organizing Learning Environment today along with their local quantitative reasoning/systems thinking mentors. She video chats with one participant letting her know that she will be at the SOLE, and is hoping to get a ride to her house after today’s VAW presentation. That done, Piper checks with her parents and decides to ride her bike to a mesh station stop. She then rides the mesh van into town and catches up on posts and replies in her Reader on the way.

At the Meet-up location (a wide open space that reminds Piper of a open market of some kind), she settles in with the other young people in study, discussion and deliberation. Today she takes out her tablet and reads a work in global literature that was suggested by a mentor she has in South Asia. She will take notes on the work over the next hour and send those notes via blog post to the mentor. The mentor, other participants and Piper are involved in a global project combining cultural understandings of place into a wiki resource for future learners to use. She sees connections everywhere in her learning and after being inspired by an experience in India she’s just read about, Piper adds content for today’s VFW presentation to the shared presentation document for group review.

Piper takes a run with others from the meet-up, and then decides to review the quantitative reasoning skills that figure into the edible re-vegetation project from Scotland being discussed at the SOLE today. Piper will get another chance to apply her growing knowledge and understanding with today’s SOLE because the re-vegetation work they are doing locally is based on the Scottish project being discussed.

After the SOLE, and successful VAW presentation the group meets at a Mesh group members house. The group has grown from five to seven now as the crew who filmed the presentation and ethnographies over the last months are with them to discuss editing and working on the script for the groups public exhibition of findings. Piper and her group know that the scientists, mentors, politicians, local, global participants, and their peers will attend the exhibition. This step in their project leads to funding and further action on their multi-year food security project. After Dinner with the host family, rides home for most, and ePortfolio updates the rest of the week will be full of networked, experiential, and mobile learning directly applied to creating solutions in an interdependent world.


CC SA NC By Thomas Steele-Maley

If this vision is at confluence with yours, we would love to talk. Contact Thomas Steele-Maley </div>

Presentation Resources

The Big Picture (Why)

This page provides a concrete entry point into the much larger field of Networked Learning.

The Story (What)

Through telling you what we did, We hope to attract more educators to the potential of Networked Learning for research through bracketing an area of inquiry and allowing for investigations into specific contexts, barriers, and opportunities in the field.

Resources for Replication (How)

Our Resources offer a starting place for educators small enough to begin almost immediately, yet big enough to build momentum in the field.

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