(Irvine, CA – July 18, 2019) – The Connected Learning Lab (CLL) was recently recognized as an “Organized Research Unit (ORU)” — a cross-campus research institute — by UC Irvine, with UCI formally supporting its expansion and making it easier for the lab to facilitate multi-investigator research across multiple schools.

Led by Mimi Ito, a professor in the Department of Informatics, the CLL takes a “people-first” approach to digital learning by prioritizing student interests, cultural relevance and daily community life. Initially established as a research center in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences in 2017, CLL faculty have actively sought cross-campus and community collaborations.

Representing a diverse range of disciplines, schools, and departments, the CLL now has 34 faculty from Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Computer Science, Education, English, Informatics, Nursing, Psychological Sciences, and Sociology, and their work is greatly increasing the number — and profile — of interdisciplinary CLL projects.

“Technology has become central to the everyday learning, play, and social life of young people. The interdisciplinary researchers in our lab all believe it’s critically important that new platforms and educational reforms are backed by research and serve all young people, not just the tech-privileged,” said Ito.

New Collaborations 

“How Can Digital Connections Support Mental Wellness for Vulnerable Teens” is a project spanning two schools: Information and Computer Sciences and Social Ecology, led by Candice Odgers, Stephen Schueller, and Ito. Combining their prior work on teen digital learning, mental health and device use, the project will tap the online affinity networks of vulnerable teens to support mental wellness. 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.

Guidance and ongoing research from the CLL is critical to the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, which launched last year with support from the Samueli Foundation. NASEF capitalizes on student interest in esports to teach communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills (not just competitive video gameplay). Research led by CLL’s Constance Steinkuehler evaluates existing and potential alignments to educational standards, ensuring the program has a solid academic framework rooted in STEM education.

Gerald Solomon, NASEF founder and Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation, said, “The CLL is ostensibly the top lab in the world for research and development of learning experiences that connect kids’ interests to social networks (of mentors and peers) and to opportunities — academic, career, and otherwise.”

Other New Faculty and Projects 

  • Katie Salen Tekinbaş, a founding member of the CLL, was also the founding Executive Director of the Institute of Play, which was behind the design of the Quest to Learn school and many significant innovations in bringing game-like learning into the educational context. Salen Tekinbaş joined UCI’s Department of Informatics in 2017. She and the Institute of Play have gifted a license to all of its assets to the CLL, where they will remain freely available.
  • Kylie Peppler, who joined UCI’s Department of Informatics and School of Education last year, directs Creativity Labs, which develops creative computational tools for design-based learning. Creativity Labs has spearheaded innovative approaches to maker and coding education for girls and diverse children with support from funders such as Google, the National Science Foundation, Boeing, and the Moore Foundation.
  • The CLL also co-hosts the annual Connected Learning Summit in partnership with MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program.

About the Connected Learning Lab

The Connected Learning Lab is an Organized Research Unit led by Mimi Ito and spanning Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, Calit2, the School of Education, the School of Social Ecology, and the School of Social Sciences, at the University of California, Irvine. Learn more at https://connectedlearning.uci.edu/ and on Twitter @TheCLAlliance.