June 24, 2021

Announcing the Plenary and Keynote Speakers for the 2021 Connected Learning Summit

Category: Connected Learning
CLS2021 Plenary Speakers

We’re delighted to announce the plenary and keynote speakers for this year’s Connected Learning Summit, happening virtually July 7 – 30. We kick off the event with a Plenary panel featuring Tiera Tanksley, Justin Reich, and Elizabeth Losh discussing lessons learned during the pandemic from the point of view of racial justice movements, K-12 education, and higher education. The following weeks will feature keynote talks by Wiradjuri educator, artist, and researcher Jessa Rogers; games and Black cyberfeminist scholar Kishonna Gray; and anthropologist of internet culture Crystal Abidin.

In addition to these plenary and keynote sessions, the event will feature presentations on innovative projects and change-making; interactive workshops on technology research and design, games, and other media; a lively “hall of failure” featuring honest post mortems on projects, programs, and products; smart, fast, performative “ignite talk” sessions; and community showcase events for tech demos.

Don’t forget to register for the event if you haven’t done so already!

Opening Plenary

Speakers: Tiera Tanskley; Liz Losh; Justin Reich

Topic: Connecting Learning During Pandemic Schooling–Three Views from the Field

When: July 7, 9AM – 10AM PDT

Over the past 18 months, schools, colleges, libraries, and afterschool programs across the world have dramatically transformed their operations to serve young people in new ways. In the United States, the tumult of COVID was matched with unrest and resistance connected to anti-Black police violence and other expressions of systemic racism. Economics, psychometricians, and other quantitative researchers have lept to the fore to use test scores and log data from online learning platforms to paint a portrait of “learning loss” that schools are expected to remediate in the year ahead. But the reality of youth and teacher experience is much more complex and varied than can be captured by the numerical summaries. In this panel, we bring together three researchers who have been studying the lived experience of learners and instructors under COVID. Tiera Tanskley has been studying youth movements for racial justice, Liz Losh has been studying learning in higher education, and Justin Reich has been researching the experience of youth and teachers in K-12 public schools. In this discussion, we’ll try to understand more deeply youth experience during the pandemic year, and what we learned about activism and connected learning that we can use to build back better.


Jessa RogersSpeaker: Jessa Rogers

Topic: Indigenous Reflections on Connected Education

When: July 14, 4PM – 5PM PDT

Indigenous people in Australia continue to expand the power of emerging technologies in the sharing of their voices and experiences. Jessa’s keynote will discuss the connected concepts of Indigenous relatedness, connectedness, and sovereignty, with educational access, engagement, and equity in both teaching and educational research. As educators continue to work toward greater inclusion and connection with the incredible diversity of students we serve, this keynote will share Jessa’s journey working across a variety of settings to amplify the voices of students who are experts in their own lives and experiences, using digital media and Indigenous knowledges.


Kishonna GraySpeaker: Kishonna Gray

Topic: Intersectional Design: Are We Ok With Learning By Failing?

When: July 21, 9AM – 10AM PDT

In this talk, Dr. Gray will engage what intersectional design and intersectional technology looks like and how this imagining often ignores intersectional concerns. By exploring gaming technologies that have failed and succeeded at intersectionality, Dr. Gray imagines the possibilities and potentials of incorporating intersectional design thinking into the core of what we make and how we think.


Crystal Abidin

Speaker: Crystal Abidin

Topic: TikTok, Youth Cultures and the East Asian Influencer Industry

When: July 29, 5PM – 6PM PDT

Considering the rich cultural diversity, creativity necessary to circumvent state interventions, digital innovation support by regional business and trade collaborations, and relatively high social economic status and material comforts, digital youth cultures in the East Asian region present a flurry of activity and insights for study. Embedded in these developments is the flourishing app industry, many of which originated in East Asian start-ups and companies, but continue to take root among diaspora and international users around the world. One such example is the short video app, TikTok. Contrary to the (now-outdated) popular understanding, TikTok is no longer an app only for young people, especially considering its uptake across the age spectrum during the extended period of self-isolation during COVID-19 in 2020. However, TikTok’s vernacular cultures and norms are still ‘youthful’ in their ethos, logics, and interests, thus massaging older users, traditional entertainment industry celebrities, and even corporations to adopt its ‘youth cultures’ to register among core audiences. Among prominent young people on this app are influencers – icons on the internet who are experts in holding attention and amplifying content, and who have expanded from being mere commercial enterprises to being conduits of public service information by reaching wide, diverse, and sometimes marginalized youth audiences with important socio-cultural messages. Drawing on over a decade of research on internet celebrity and social media pop cultures in cultural East Asia, alongside A/Prof Crystal’s forthcoming book TikTok and Youth Cultures (2022, Emerald Publishing) and her work with international collaborators in the TikTok Cultures Research Network, founded in October 2020, this talk considers the evolution of TikTok and Youth Cultures in the East Asian Influencer Industry.

About the Connected Learning Summit

Organizers of the Digital Media and Learning (DML) Conference, the Games+Learning+Society (GLS) Conference, and Sandbox Summit joined forces to create the annual Connected Learning Summit, first held in 2018 at the MIT Media Lab. “The convergence of these three communities — DML, GLS and Sandbox — promises to catalyze the field of learning technologies in a whole new way,” said Constance Steinkuehler, former chair of the GLS Conference.

The 2021 summit will be hosted by the Connected Learning Lab (CLL), the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program, and Learning Games Network.

The summit’s purpose is “to fuel a growing movement of innovators harnessing the power of emerging technology to expand access to participatory, playful, and creative learning.” It will feature experts discussing creative and playful learning practices with a focus on access, engagement, and equity for children and adults alike. Its aim is to be a place where those excited to take learning to the next level gather cutting-edge strategies in connected learning.

“The summit always has a progressive and inclusive focus, which is more relevant than ever as we recover from the pandemic,” said Mimi Ito, director of the CLL. “It will bring together people truly committed to progressive, catalytic, innovative and transformative approaches to learning.”

The summit’s steering and advisory committee include: Aimee Hourigan, Amanda Levido, Amon Millner, Bondy Kaye, Corey Sparks, Debbie Fields, Drew Davidson, Eric Klopfer, Gina Grant, Hyeon-Seon Jeong, Ira Fay, Jaleesa Trapp, Justin Reich, Kim Jaxon, Kylie Peppler, Leigh Peake, Luci Pangrazio, Matthew Berland, Michael Dezuanni, Mimi Ito, Vera Michalchik, Remy Cross, Amanda Wortman, Sangita Shrestrova, Scot Osterweil, Shin Mizukoshi, Wendy Roldan, and Kurt Squire.


This year’s virtual event includes $15, $50, $100, and a $250 registration option. The $15 registration will just cover the cost of each attendee on the Clowdr event platform. Any additional contributions will be used to offer volunteer stipends for students, practitioners, and emerging scholars, and administrative and platform costs associated with dispersing these stipends. Registration fees will not be used to cover event staffing, which will be offered as in-kind contributions by UC Irvine’s Connected Learning Lab, MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program and Education Arcade, and the Learning Games Network.

Registration is open.