Connected Learning Research Network

The CLRN was an interdisciplinary research network that investigated the risks and opportunities for learning at a time of rapid mainstreaming of digital and networked technology between 2011 and 2018

The Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN) was an interdisciplinary research network that investigated the risks and opportunities for learning at a time of rapid mainstreaming of digital and networked technology between 2011 and 2018. The network was supported by the MacArthur Foundation as part of its broader $242.5 million Digital Media and Learning initiative. In addition to conducting both mixed methods research studies, the CLRN also engaged in the design of new learning environments, and partnered with a wide range of educational institutions and practitioners who were part of the DML initiative

The collective focus of the network was in developing and refining the connected learning framework for research and design. The definition of connected learning — learning that is socially connected, interest-driven and oriented towards opportunity —was first put forth as a working model in the first 2013 CLRN report, Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. The framework was refined and adapted in the final 2020 report of the CLRN, The Connected Learning Research Network: An Agenda for Research and Design.

The legacy of the CLRN continues through the work of the Connected Learning Alliance (CLA), stewarded by the Connected Learning Lab at UC Irvine. In addition to hosting the annual Connected Learning Summit, the CLA sustains the momentum for the connected learning movement through publications, a blog, newsletter, and other curated resources. Books and other major publications from the CLRN continue to be added and updated on the CLA website.

The Connected Learning Research Network: Reflections on a Decade of Engaged Scholarship

This report presents a vision for understanding and revitalizing the ways in which we support learning during these changing times. Responding to the interests and needs of young people, researchers, educational practitioners, and policy and technology makers, this report synthesizes a varied set of content and perspectives: empirical research on the changing landscape of new media and learning, design principles, evaluation approaches, learner and case studies oriented to identifying and spreading positive innovations. The authors were part of the Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN), an interdisciplinary group of scholars, designers, and educational practitioners, who collaborated between 2011 and 2019 to study and develop new modes of learning with digital media with the support of the MacArthur Foundation. Our guiding framework is the connected learning approach, first described in a report authored by the CLRN in 2013 (Ito et al. 2013). This report expands and revises key elements of this initial framework and report.

Download Japanese version of this report.

Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design

This report is a synthesis of ongoing research, design, and implementation of an approach to education called “connected learning.” It advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement. This model is based on evidence that the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition.

The report investigates how we can use new media to foster the growth and sustenance of environments that support connected learning in a broad-based and equitable way. This report also offers a design and reform agenda, grounded in a rich understanding of child development and learning, to promote and test connected learning theories.

Download the Japanese version of this report.

Download the Portuguese version of this report.

Network Members

Dalton Conley

Princeton University

Kris Gutiérrez

University of California, Berkeley

Mimi Ito

University of California, Irvine

Vera Michalchik

University of California, Irvine

Bill Penuel

University of Colorado at Boulder

Jean Rhodes

University of Massachusetts, Boston

Juliet Schor

Boston College

S. Craig Watkins

University of Texas, Austin

Network Advisors

Richard Arum

University of California, Irvine

James Paul Gee

Arizona State University

Ben Kirshner

University of Colorado, Boulder

Kylie Peppler

University of California, Irvine

Nichole Pinkard

DePaul University

Katie Salen Tekinbaş

University of California, Irvine

Daniel Schwartz

Stanford University

Julian Sefton-Green

London School of Economics and Political Science


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