Report: 'Connected learning' needed to address inequities in education


There is a disconnect between classroom learning and the everyday lives and interests of many young people, alienating them from their schooling, according to a report (.pdf) from the Connected Learning Research Network. The 99-page report, authored by nine researchers and scholars, touts "connected learning" as an approach to addressing inequity in education by leveraging the potential of digital media to expand access to learning.

Although the Internet and digital technology has the potential to even the playing field in education, a growing learning divide in public education disproportionately impacts African American and Latino youth, the report finds. Several socioeconomic trends are serving to further undermine existing problems in public education, including what the report calls an "arms race" in educational attainment among upper income households to gain further advantage.

The resulting inequity, the report says, is aggravated by the accelerating rate of family investments in out-of-school enrichment and learning activities, many of which leverage the learning advances offered by the Internet and digital technology.

"Without a proactive educational reform agenda that begins with questions of equity, leverages both in-school and out-of-school learning, and embraces the opportunities new media offers for learning, we risk a growth in educational alienation among our most vulnerable populations," says Mimi Ito, chair of the research network, in a press release statement.

"We're seeing the tremendous potential of new media for advancing learning. But, right now, it's only the most activated and well-supported learners who are using connected learning to boost their learning and opportunity," she adds.

To address this disparity in learning in the United States and other countries, the report recommends a "connected learning" framework that seeks to address inequity in education, engender 21st century skills and literacies in all youth, attune to the learning possibilities of a networked society. The report offers several examples of the connected learning principles in action, including:

  • A teenager who developed creative writing skills, in large part by interacting with peers on the internet, and eventually, secured college scholarships; 
  • a young man who learned how to become a successful professional web comics artist, again where the internet and peers played a meaningful role; 
  • a public school experimenting with a 2-week period of the year where students become the "bosses" and drive learning activities, defining a challenge and providing each other with ongoing feedback and direction.

For more:
- read the full report (.pdf)
- read the report summary (.pdf)
- read the press release
- see videos of researchers

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