Learning Continues with ‘Summer of Making and Connecting’

Summer of competition, rethinking curriculum, massive online courses, maker events and more aim to redefine learning in the digital age.

America’s education reform movement gets out of school this summer with a four-month campaign to help redefine learning in the digital age through dozens of activities for youth, parents, and educators, dubbed the “Summer of Making and Connecting.”

Engaging thousands of people across the country, the summer campaign will feature a growing roster of events and activities designed to make learning more relevant to young people, to real work and real life, and to the opportunities of the 21st Century. Most activities do not take place in schools – highlighting how learning occurs everywhere, all the time – but can easily be connected to school curriculums in the fall.

The campaign was announced today as leaders in business and education met at the Re-Imagining Education Summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the MacArthur Foundation.

Supported by MacArthur and driven by the National Writing Project’s Educator Innovator Initiative and Mozilla’s Maker Party, the summer campaign is an open invitation to develop a range of activities that will allow educators, young people and others to sample Connected Learning. Current partners include the Alliance for Excellence in Education, Born This Way Foundation, HASTAC, and MIT’s Media Lab.

Connected Learning is an approach to learning that has emerged from MacArthur’s grantmaking in digital media and learning. It focuses on developing lifelong learners who can thrive in today’s ever-changing word. It builds on the basics to develop the higher-order skills the new economy rewards and it customizes the learning experience, partly through digital media, to harness a student’s interests and connect him or her to inspiring peers and mentors.

“The ability to keep learning relevant in an ever-changing world matters more every day,” said Connie Yowell, Education Director at the MacArthur Foundation. “Connected Learning calls for learning experiences that allow young people to experiment and to create, produce, and design things. We know from our research that it is a powerful way to learn, and to create the makers and innovators our times demand.”

The Summer of Making and Connecting is expected to engage thousands of people in exploring Connected Learning concepts and creating things – on paper, in the lab, and on the web – working in schools, community spaces, and at kitchen tables, allowing almost anyone to be a mentor or learner at some point in the campaign. The campaign brings together organizations from the worlds of DIY (Do-It-Yourself), making, writing and learning to become part of an emerging Connected Learning movement.

Major aspects of the summer campaign include:

  • National Writing Project’s Educator Innovator Initiative to provide tailored opportunities for educators to explore Connected Learning and develop new projects and teaching approaches for use in the classroom. Partners in the initiative will provide a wide range of activities including institutes, webinars, and co-designed programs with youth for youth
  • Mozilla’s Maker Party 2013, from June to September, will be a global party celebrating all the amazing things we can make thanks to the Web. Mozilla will hold thousands of events across the world, and partner with more than 40 organizations including the MacArthur Foundation, Intel, Sesame Workshop, DIY.org, Black Girls Code and more. Go to www.webmaker.org/party for more information
  • Project:Connect 5th Annual Digital Media & Learning Competition, an open international competition that will encourage the development of apps, badges, curricula, summer youth programs, and tools to enhance learning and make the online experience for young people more civil, safe, and empowering. It includes a $150,000 summer youth program competition for museums, libraries, and other youth-serving nonprofits announced earlier this month in partnership with the Born This Way Foundation
  • MIT Media Lab’s effort to connect online communities of educators committed to integrating Connected Learning into their programming for youth
  • MIT’s Creative Learning Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will bring together more than 24,000 people interested in creative learning, including teachers, parents, librarians, and students. Participants join a weekly Google Hangout seminar, work on activities, and share ideas with each other
  • The Alliance for Excellence in Education will host a series of webinars to build awareness among policymakers about the potential of the connected learning approach.

Support for the summer campaign brings MacArthur’s total funding for digital media and learning to over $155 million since 2004. MacArthur’s investments have supported research and design experiments to better understand how to prepare young people for a world that is highly networked, technology-enabled, and producing new knowledge at a pace not known to previous generations. The connected learning approach emerged from this work to become an important framework for rethinking and supporting learning for the 21st century. MacArthur’s grantmaking in digital media and learning is now focused on strategies to apply, test, and refine Connected Learning in practice.

Learn more about Summer of Making and Connecting and contact organizers to add events and projects. Learn more about Connected Learning. To read or share ideas about the Summer of Making and Connecting, use the hashtag #MakeSummer. For more information about MacArthur’s digital media and learning grantmaking visit www.macfound.org/reimagine.