The Class

Social networking and the changing practices of learning among youth

The place of school in young people's lives and learning is changing. In today's digitally connected world , traditional boundaries between school and home, information and communication, learning and playing seem blurred, even reversed - with learning happening at home or with peers online while school is a key site for social activities and the authority of teachers is challenged.

Recognising that young people's lives are diverse, uneven and complex, this research project examines the emerging mix of on- and offline experiences in teenagers' daily learning lives. We focus on the fluctuating web of peer-to-peer networks that may cut across institutional boundaries, adult values and established practices of learning and leisure. Key research questions include:

  • How do social relationships shape forms of learning in and out of school? And how do forms of learning shape social relationships?
  • How do young people use digital technologies within their daily activities within and beyond the classroom, as part of their 'learning lives', and under what conditions is this constructive, enabling or impeding?
  • How is youthful engagement with digital technologies shaped by the formal or informal practices, opportunities or risks, empowerment or constraints of the institutions and spaces in which learning occurs?
  • Insofar as these technological mediations enable or complement learning, can this be harnessed constructively to develop future recommendations?

Working with an ordinary London school, we will follow the networks within and beyond a single class of 13-14 year olds at home, school and elsewhere over the course of an academic year - observing social interactions in and between lessons; conducting interviews with children, parents, teachers and relevant others; and mapping out-of-school engagements with digital networking technologies to reveal both patterns of use and the quality and meaning of such engagements as they shape the learning opportunities of young people.

This project is part of the Connected Learning Research Network directed by Mimi Ito at the University of California, Irvine and funded by The MacArthur Foundation as part of its Digital Media Learning program. 'The class' runs from 2011-2014, directed by Sonia Livingstone ( s.livingstone@lse.ac.uk |) in collaboration with Julian Sefton-Green ( julian@juliansefton-green.net |), Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE.

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