3.2 Building Capacity For Learning

“I’d love to have an ongoing Minecraft club, but I’m getting a little pushback from my team because they don’t see Minecraft as a library service. They don’t see building things in a 3D environment as related to libraries, but who knows what the jobs of five years are gonna be? For all we know, we could rebrand it as job skills development. The jobs of five years from now don’t exist today, so who knows?”

— Programming Coordinator & Technology Coordinator at a Southern Suburban Library

Many of the librarians we spoke to expressed anxiety about their ability to keep up with the rate of technological change. Today’s hot new gadget, app, or programming language may be dated or obsolete in a few years. Fortunately, connected learning treats technology as a means to an end–building a teen’s capacity to learn–rather as an end in itself. In other words, the emphasis is on learning how to learn, rather than learning facts about using a specific technology. Connected learning certainly embraces new technology, often with mentors and teens learning side by side, but its value lies in what it lets them do–making, curating, and remixing their own creative media as part of a new “participatory culture.”

“It’s not domain-specific knowledge that we should be looking at as much as an underlying disposition for learning and capacity for future learning that’s the most important outcome.”
– Mimi Ito1

By emphasizing the hows and whys behind the use of technology, rather than the specific whats, connected learning builds skills that will transfer to whatever new developments are around the corner. A variety of skills, from computational thinking to photo composition, can be learned just as well on simple or even analog technologies as they can be learned with the latest edtech and will be useful for years or even decades to come.

Another way connected learning builds capacity in teens is by affecting their sense of self through both production and shared purpose elements. Through creative experiences and interactions with experts, teens can begin to see themselves as learners, creators, or professionals. This changed perception of themselves inspires and empowers them to continue being learners, creators, and professionals. For teens who believe that certain opportunities—like a STEM career or college—are not available to them, a change in self-concept can be a powerful catalyst for growth and development.’

Changing the way teens see themselves

At one lower-income high school in the northeast United States, a print journalism class requires students to finance, write, and produce several issues of the school newspaper. Students in the class reported that they saw themselves as better writers and as more professional as a result of the class.

“Journalism has allowed me to write better and shaped me into an adult. Think about all the pros within the class: learning to write better, be professional, and how to make connections... Not only have I become a better writer from journalism class but a better person in terms of learning crucial qualities needed for the professional world.”

“I view myself as more a social and confident person now since I have conducted so many interviews with people I don’t know.”

“I feel I can do more now—more is loaded on me and I can get it done on a deadline time.”

For the full study, see: Cybart, A. K. (2017). Resurrecting dinosaurs: How print journalism production using mobile phones impacts marginalized students in a high school classroom. Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

1: Mimi Ito: The Positive Potential of Peer Pressure and Messing Around Online. The Connected Learning Alliance, 2011.