Academic, Civic, Community and Career Connections

“Learners flourish and realize their potential when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunity” (Ito et al. 2013:8)

Unpacking this definition, it is important to consider the context of academic learning being framed: educators must push to integrate the socially and culturally meaningful contexts of youths’ lives with the academic expectations of today’s classrooms (Garcia, 2014)

The week ahead …

Readings/Watchings: This will be our final week with Garcia, et al. in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Please start on page 39 this time to think with Antero, Janelle, Larissa, and Nick about academically-oriented teaching within connected learning.

In thinking about equity, what ways can we make to integrate the social and cultural contexts of youths’ lives with academic expectations in our classrooms and learning communities?

Notice that in the quote above, Ito, et al. describe the power of academic connections at the same time they describe civic and career connections. In helping us also think about the implications of civic connections — read this blog post in the Washington Post Why getting kids ‘college and career ready’ isn’t enough and this post from Educator Innovator  with a focus on being college, career, and community ready.

In a recent webinar, teachers from Los Angeles, Oakland, and Chicago shared their experiences implementing curriculum exploring the expanded possibilities and risks associated with youth civic and political engagement in the digital age: Educators’ Experiences Educating for Participatory Politics. (Note: find more resources from the Educating for Participatory Politics project here.)

What are the implications of these shifts in focus for equity in connected learning and teaching?

Finally, in thinking also about career connections and their implications for learning, members of the Connected Learning Research Network studied a set of fashion design programs.

We selected fashion design programs as a case study for connected learning for two overlapping reasons: the demographic reach of the interest area … and its potential as a link connecting youth interests with academics and career.

Browse the case studies here in their report — Fashion Learning: Connected Learning through Fashion Design Programs — and then focus on the research findings and analysis which brings up both equity issues as well as the role of mentoring.

Here, btw, is a quick view-in: a fun video from the fashion program at the DreamyardArt Center in the Bronx, NY, part of the Hive Fashion Network mentioned in this report.

In thinking further about the link between youth interest, academics and career, I am also reminded of Asha Richardson’s story and her connections to Youth Radio and how this work helped her to weave together her interests and ambitions in interesting and successful ways.

What are all the different elements you can see coming together here that supported Asha in making these kinds of connections?

Blogging/Making:  Connecting youth learning in successful ways to academic, civic, community and career is a huge but essential topic of connected learning and equity, and no doubt requiring, ultimately, a larger ecosystem connecting both in and out of school learning. The Connected Learning Research and Design Agenda provides these guiding reflections when thinking about the “Academic” piece of Connected Learning:

  • Do adults celebrate youth participation as academically meaningful and relevant?
  • Do formal/academic settings provide space/opportunity for engagement with interest?
  • Are outputs made visible within academic/institutional contexts that have relevance to the adult world?
  • Are mentors present who can help young people to connect their interest/activity to academic/institutional domains?

Here’s a fun experiment: What if we could use our (smart) phones and design a (pretend) mobile App that allowed you to create more of these kinds of connections for the youth we work with? … What would it do?  … How is it awesome?

Youth Radio provides this DIY Toolkit: How to Come Up with Your Own Mobile App. The example here is about making public art more visible. What if our apps here at ED677 were instead about how to make youth participation more visible? Or to create space for youth interest? And/or create more connections from our academic contexts to the adult world … and/or provide supportive mentors?

In other words: With our shared ED677 goal to create equitable connected learning opportunities for youth that supports academic, civic and community connections … what would kind of App would you design and why?

Do some imagining and playing this week with this idea and share on your blog — you can be as practical or fantastical as you like! (Just so you know, the time I did this I ended up with drone delivery and sci-fi effects 🙂 Share your App ideas and tell us about it while also reflecting on the implications for equity in connected learning and teaching.

Interview Three: This PDF is provided by Youth Radio to support the process of making an App — and it suggests that designers put together three questions and then interview three other users as part of a user research process on the way to creating the App:

User Research allows you to understand your users’ wants and needs. Figure out the users’ problem, and how they might like it to be addressed. Or figure out the opportunity your users have, and how the app can help them achieve it. This is also the best time to get ideas.

Instead of finding 5 this week, interview 3 people to support your own “user research” for your App. You can pick 3 people to ask in this class or outside of it .. youth, colleagues, neighbors, friends, mentors, etc.

For example, if you want to create an App that supports interest-driven learning tied to academic pursuits, you might ask these kinds of questions (I modeled this off the questions in the PDF that Youth Voices provided):

  • What do you notice about the interests students bring to their classrooms?
  • In what ways do you (or can you imagine) connecting these interests to academics pursuits and curricular goals?
  • How do you mostly use your phone? To connect with people? To create something new? To play?

This might be challenging, I realize, but try to have fun with this — the stakes are low here … only the potential for learning is high! Please also note: You can always create documents and share any data you collect in our shared-with-us ED677 Google folder. And to reach each other, our class list is here where you can leave your email and also find the email of others.

And just because: Check out this youth-created Sushi Platformer if you like this kind of game play … pretty cool, huh? I find this kind of game relaxing.

In connected learning solidarity,


Image captured at Science Leadership Academy during EduCon, January 2016.

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