Connected Learning Research Network

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= a group of researchers supported by the MacArthur Foundation



By S. Craig Watkins:

" What is 'Connected Learning'? It is a concept that the Connected Learning Research Network, a group of researchers supported by the MacArthur Foundation, will be working to develop and refine. Broadly speaking, connected learning refers to the increasingly complex ways in which young people’s learning ecologies are evolving. It is the notion that, in addition to happening anytime and anywhere, learning happens across the many different networks that teens’ navigate. School is an obvious node in a young learner’s network. But school represents only one node among many others, which includes after school sites, extracurricular activities, online communities, libraries, family, and peer communities just to name a few. When the lines that distinguish each of these is blurred and learning happens fluidly across the different nodes we believe that connected learning -- learning that is social, mobile, engaged, efficacious, student-driven, adult-supported, and civic-oriented -- is happening.

One obvious example of connected learning involves students who are able to connect their out of school or informal learning with learning activities situated in formal learning spaces, namely schools.

A number of questions frame our examination of these learning practices: What are the factors that lead to connected learning? Are some youth more likely than others to experience connected learning? How do various social indicators like race, ethnicity, class, gender, and academic orientation influence the likelihood of connected learning occurring? How can schools encourage connected learning? What is the value of creating opportunities for a greater diversity of young people to experience connected learning?" (

Research Agenda

"The work centers on three core research areas:

1. One of the first goals of this network will be conceptual synthesis on what constitutes the key principles of connected learning, and developing measures of collective and individual outcomes that can be used to document and track connected learning in a wide range of settings. We will produce collaboratively written documents and shared protocols and instruments that will be widely disseminated.

2. Our effort will be to understand the role of social media in the learning ecologies of diverse young people, examining contexts of school, home, after-school, and peer culture. We will conduct a national survey as well as surveys and interviews in local populations recruited through schools to gain a picture as to the contextual, technological, and individual factors that support or detract from connected learning.

3. The research network will also conduct in-depth case studies to identify the concrete mechanisms that make connected learning environments effective and sustainable, as well as the individual characteristics and trajectories of those who experience connected learning." (