The campaign, focused on a learner-centered approach to education, comes at a time of widespread agreement that education needs a dramatic upgrade. The campaign features podcast interviews with thought leaders, leading practitioners, and college-bound youth who have experienced the benefits of connected learning firsthand.
The Connected Learning Alliance involves more than three dozen organizations and programs, including Educator Innovator partners like the Mozilla Foundation, the National Writing Project, Project Zero, and P2PU. It is expected to grow to include many other organizations in the weeks and months ahead.
“So much about how young people today access knowledge, gain expertise, and learn has shifted, but for the most part, our approach to education and schooling hasn’t,” said researcher and cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito, professor of anthropology, informatics, and education at UC Irvine, who is helping to lead the startup of the new Connected Learning Alliance.
“We need stronger connections between in-school and out-of-school learning,” said Ito, chair of the Connected Learning Research Network, also supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
“It is urgent and important that we do a much better job preparing our youth for the problems and opportunities they—we—are facing today,” said Connie Yowell, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation. “This new alliance will work toward exactly that—its vision is the spread of learning experiences that are connected to the real world, that are powerful, and that are engaging because they are connected to peers and to the issues and subjects youth are most interested in.”
The “make learning relevant” campaign features original artwork, created by Los Angeles-based artists, bringing attention to important themes and issues in education and technology. One key theme of the campaign is relevance, which the connected learning model sees as a fourth “R” of learning, along with reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Grounded in research, connected learning leverages the capacities of technology to connect three spheres critical to a young person’s learning—interests, peer culture, and academics. The research that led to the development of the Connected Learning framework included a study—the largest of its kind—looking at how hundreds of youth use digital media, social networks, and the internet for learning.
The Connected Learning Alliance’s initial activities include the expansion of ConnectedLearning.tv, a platform for thousands of leading practitioners to share ideas and practices, and new online enrichment programs set to launch this summer as part of a nationwide, multi-city initiative called, “Cities of Learning.” This initiative, spearheaded by the Digital Youth Network, involves a growing number of cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington DC, that seek to leverage the power of connected learning during the summer months. Organizations in participating cities give out digital badges to document and celebrate the achievements of young people who spend the summer learning and developing expertise. At the end of the summer, participants will have an online “backpack” of badges they can show to schools or employers if they choose.
The Connected Learning Alliance will also work to support the efforts of organizations such as the Voto Latino innovators challenge, a $500,000 technology competition aimed at generating projects that improve the lives of and expand opportunities for Latinos in America; and the Aspen Task Force on Learning and the Internet which intends to understand how we can optimize the web to improve learning.
A strong focus of the new alliance will be to work towards enabling all young people, not just those from privileged backgrounds, to leverage today’s technology to connect their aspirations to learning and real-world opportunity.
“I was great at academics but I got bored and I didn’t feel like it was relevant,” said Jaleesa Trapp, a mentor of kids aged 8 to 18 at Computer Clubhouse and a participant in the Connected Learning Alliance’s month-long “make learning relevant” campaign. “The interest-powered and shared purpose principles (of connected learning) are most exciting to me, because when students work on interest-powered projects…there’s a lot of passion and it shows.”
“I love working with youth,” said Trapp, 26, “and helping them to discover their potential through the use of technology.”
Photo / The Connected Learning Alliance