This volume highlights compelling firsthand counter-narratives from educators engaged in solving an array of challenges in today’s classrooms. It draws together narratives from an inspiring group of educators within the National Writing Project—a collaborative network of instructors dedicated to enhancing student learning and effecting positive change—that contributes to our understanding of what “Digital Is” (DI). DI is a web community for practitioners with high levels of expertise and a deep commitment to engaging today’s youth by fostering connections between their in- and out-of-school digital literacy practices. Furthermore, DI is about sharing experiences that offer visibility into the complexity of the everyday classroom, as well as the intelligence that the teaching profession demands.
The chapters in this volume represent a bold re-envisioning of what education can look like, as well as illustrate what it means to open the doors to youth culture and the promise that this work holds. While there are certainly similarities across these diverse narratives, the key is that they have taken a common set of design principles and applied them to their particular educational context. The examples aren’t your typical approaches to the classroom; these educators are talking about integrating design principles into their living practice derived from cutting-edge research. We know from this research that forging learning opportunities between academic pursuits, youth’s digital interests, and peer culture is not only possible, but positions youth to adapt and thrive under the ever-shifting demands of the twenty-first century. We refer to this approach as the theory and practice of “connected learning,” which offers a set of design principles—further articulated by this group of educators—for how to meet the needs of students seeking coherence across the boundaries of school, out-of-school, and today’s workplace. Taken together, these narratives can be considered “working examples” that serve as models for how educators can leverage connected learning principles in making context-dependent decisions to better support their learners.