Summary

Today’s digital and online media demand an approach to learning keyed to a networked and interconnected world. The growth of online communities, social and online media, open educational resources, ubiquitous computing, big data, and digital production tools means young people are coming of age with a growing abundance of access to knowledge, information, and social connection. These shifts are tied to a host of new opportunities for interest-driven learning, creative expression, and diverse forms of contribution to civic, political, and economic life. Even learning of traditional academic subjects is increasingly supported in self-directed ways and in settings outside of the teacher-guided context of the classroom. At the same time, these changes raise new concerns such as challenges to the credibility of information, threats to privacy, changing literacy needs, and new demands for managing attention and connection. Most important, the changing media and technology landscape intersects with and threatens to exacerbate broader problems in civic and economic participation and to contribute to growing social inequalities.

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.