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Researchers recommend core changes in education

Troubling trends involving work, college and social inequity cited

Close the gap between the no frills learning that too often happens in school and the interactive, hands on learning that usually takes place out of school. Take advantage of the internet's ability to help youth develop knowledge, expertise, skills and important new literacies. Use digital technology to combat the increasing reality of the haves and have-nots in education. 

Those are among a series of recommendations outlines in a new report released today (Tuesday 15 January) by the Connected Learning Research Network, an interdisciplinary research network dedicated to reimagining learning for the 21st century. Professor Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology at LSE, and Dr Julian Sefton-Green, principal research fellow at LSE's Department of Media and Communications are co-authors of the report. 

Cultural anthropologist and chair of the research network, Mimi Ito, said: "Without a proactive educational reform agenda that begins with questions of equity, leverages both in school and out of school learning, and embraces the opportunities new media offers for learning, we risk a growth in educational alienation among our most vulnerable populations. 

"We're seeing the tremendous potential of new media for advancing learning," said Ito, a professor of anthropology, informatics and education at UC Irvine, 'but right now it's only the most activated and well-supported learners who are using connected learning to boost their learning and opportunity. 

"We believe many more young people can experience this kind of learning," Ito said. "But there's no question we're at risk of seeing yet another way privileged individuals can gain advantage - even though the internet and digital technology has the potential to even the playing field and multiply the opportunities for all youth to find their place and achieve."

Disturbing trends

The report, Connected Learning, identifies several socioeconomic trends that promise to further undermine existing problems in public education. 

  • Broken pathways from education to opportunity: Youth are entering a labor market strikingly different from earlier generations. Education, even a college degree, no longer offers a sure pathway to opportunity. Young people find themselves competing for a scarcer number of good jobs. An “arms race” in educational attainment has broken out, especially among upper income households to gain further advantage.
  • A growing learning divide: The achievement gap in public education disproportionately impacts African American and Latino youth. Inequity is aggravated by the accelerating rate of family investments in out-of-school enrichment and learning activities, many of which leverage the learning advances offered by the Internet and digital technology.
  • A commercialized and fragmented media ecology: We are living through a dramatic shift in media and technology and this shift is most pronounced among children and youth. Increasingly, there is a disconnect between classroom learning and the everyday lives and interests of many young people -- further alienating many youth from their schooling.

The Response: A New Framework for Learning

As a response to these trends and others reshaping the landscape of learning in the US and other countries, the report recommends a framework for learning called “connected learning.” Connected learning seeks to:

• Address inequity in education;
• Engender 21st century skills and literacies in all youth;
• Attune to the learning possibilities of a networked society.

The connected learning report is authored by nine researchers and scholars who belong to a research network carrying the same name and who work at the intersection of learning, technology and youth, including: Kris Gutiérrez (University of Colorado), Sonia Livingstone (London School of Economics and Political Science), Bill Penuel (University of Colorado), Jean Rhodes (University of Massachusetts), Katie Salen (DePaul University, Institute of Play), Juliet Schor (Boston College), Julian Sefton-Green (London School of Economics and Political Science), S. Craig Watkins (University of Texas), and Mimi Ito (University of California, Irvine). 

Read the full press release here

Download the full report here

View a video of Professor Sonia Livingston, LSE Department of Media and Communications, talking about the project here 

To view a video of Dr Julian Stefton-Green on learning in out of school contexts, click here



Professor Sonia Livingstone, LSE, s.livingstone@lse.ac.uk

Jess Winterstein, LSE Press Office, 020 7107 5025, pressoffice@lse.ac.uk

15 January 2013