July 22, 2019 | Comment

UC Irvine’s Connected Learning Lab Recognized as an Organized Research Unit

Categories: Connected Learning, Featured, Research

I’m delighted to share the news that the Connected Learning Lab (CLL) was recently recognized as an “Organized Research Unit (ORU)” — a cross-campus research institute — by UC Irvine. Our founding faculty established the CLL as a research center in the School of Information and Computer Science back in 2017. Since then we have been busy recruiting new faculty to the lab, and making our case to campus to recognize the CLL as a research institute that serves the campus more broadly. This new designation will support the expansion of the CLL and make it easier for us to support interdisciplinary and multi-investigator projects across varied schools and departments.

Our Story
The CLL grows out of over a decade of work that I co-led with David Golberg at UCI, which centered on the MacArthur Foundation funded Digital Media and Learning Hub and the Connected Learning Research Network. Many CLL faculty who recently joined UCI came from networks facilitated by the MacArthur initiative, including Richard Arum, Kylie Peppler, Katie Salen, Kurt Squire, and Constance Steinkuehler. We are also joined by faculty across campus from a diverse range of disciplines, schools, and departments including Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Computer Science, Education, English, Informatics, Nursing, Psychological Sciences, and Sociology.

As an ORU, we span the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, Calit2, the School of Education, the School of Social Ecology, and the School of Social Sciences. I am honored to be directing the CLL, working with a stellar and growing team of administrators and researchers, including familiar faces from the Digital Media and Learning Hub. In addition to supporting the research of our affiliated faculty, we co-host the annual Connected Learning Summit with our partners at MIT, and power the Connected Learning Alliance.

Connected Learning Lab faculty

Connected Learning Lab faculty members during a recent faculty retreat at UC Irvine.

New Projects and Additions 
Our growing roster of faculty is expanding from our historic strengths in connected and game-based learning into new areas such as digital equity, digital wellness, and learning analytics. In the fall, we are excited to be welcoming Nia Dowell and Shayan Doroudi to the CLL to anchor our expertise in learning analytics. This brings our number of affiliated faculty to 36. Here’s a sampling of some of our newer projects and additions to our lab.

  • CLL research, led by Constance Steinkueler, is central to the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, which launched last year with support from the Samueli Foundation. NASEF embodies connected learning by building on youth interest in esports to support the development of communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills.
  • I am working with teen and digital mental health experts Candice Odgers and Stephen Schueller on a new project, “How Can Digital Connections Support Mental Wellness for Vulnerable Teens.” The goal is to develop new frameworks and methods of supporting positive online social supports by tapping the power of youth online affinity networks. This work is being supported by Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates which aims to advance progress for women and families in the U.S.
  • Katie Salen Tekinbaş, who was the founding Executive Director of the Institute of Play, joined UCI’s Department of Informatics and the CLL in 2017. She and the Institute of Play have gifted a license to all of its assets to the CLL, and we are in the process of creating an archive so they will be freely available.
  • Kylie Peppler joined our Department of Informatics and School of Education last year, and brought her Creativity Labs to the CLL. Creativity Labs has been a leader in equitable approaches to maker education. These have included developing making and coding programs for girls and diverse children, with the support of varied funders including Google, the National Science Foundation, Boeing, and the Moore Foundation.

Let’s Stay in Touch
It’s exciting to be starting a new phase of the unfolding of the CLL as it stretches its wings and finds a broader set of partners and allies on campus and beyond. We look forward to continuing to connect and share our work through the Connected Learning Alliance, the Connected Learning Summit, and our lab website, which includes a more complete list of projects.