Educators across the country are coming up with ways to engage students outside of the classroom utilizing 21st century technology. In an interview with Education Week, Michael H. Levine, the executive director of a research lab that studies digital learning stated, “Kids spend only a fifth of their time in school. The rest of their day is out of school, where they are often connected [virtually] in some way.” It appears the trick is finding the best way to use this “connectedness” in a meaningful way that helps students learn.
In Chicago, the downtown library has created YOUmedia, a program that connects high school age teens to technology, workshops, and mentors. Students enrolled in the program have access to computers, cameras, editing software, and even a recording studio. The program is so successful, that Education Week reports that 30 cities across the country plan to emulate it.
In Seattle, there’s the YMCA and University of Washington’s Center for Communication and Civic Engagement collaborative program, Ytech. Ytech, which targets high school students, uses technology to not only help participants gain 21st century skills, but it also encourages civil engagement. For example, Latino Ytech students utilized digital media to share stories about their cultural heritage and then used the videos to teach other Ytech students about mobile technology.
Researchers David Theo Goldberg, the executive director of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine refer to this new field as “Connected Learning.” In an interview with Education Week, Goldberg had this to say about the potential of connected learning: “We’ve lost kids in school who no longer have a great deal of interest in learning, because not all kids learn in the same way. Connected learning is about catching kids in their passions and making their learning passion- and interest-driven. This means connecting them through their intersecting interests with other learners to expand their own learning.”