What Do We Mean When We Talk About 21st Century Learning?


The signifier “21st century” has become ubiquitous in educational policy discourse. A glance at most local, state, and national education plans reveals reference after reference to the need for “21st century schools” focusing on “21st century skills” that prepare “21st century students.” For example, the term appears (quite appropriately) 21 times in the U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan. Authors of the Common Core State Standards in Literacy indicated that standards were adopted only when determined “essential for college and career readiness in a 21st century, globally competitive society.” The National Assessment for Education Progress

Watchworthy Wednesday: Listen to Youth to Improve Education


Christopher Emdin, associate professor of science education at Columbia University, Teachers College, opened his keynote address at this year’s SXSWedu (South by Southwest Education) Conference with a little history of the Dinka Tribe of Sudan. Ages ago, he explained, Dinka children suffered from an outbreak of tetanus, which causes “lockjaw,” so they couldn’t open their mouths to eat. As a solution, the tribe decided that tooth extraction would allow the children afflicted by the infectious disease to drink liquids even when their jaw muscles clamped shut. The practice continued, generation after generation, even after the young

Diversity Makes Design Sense


The 2017 NCES report “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering” notes that the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities (WMPD) in science and engineering fields does not match their proportion of the population. For more than two decades, women have earned about half the bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, although they overrepresented in some fields (70% of psychology degrees) and underrepresented in others (women are only 18% of computer science degree-holders). While the report provides many reasons to be optimistic, it also shows that we have some ways to

Introducing UCI’s Connected Learning Lab


Spring is a fitting season to announce the launch of our new Connected Learning Lab (CLL) at UC Irvine, an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to studying and mobilizing learning technologies in equitable, innovative, and learner-centered ways. I am humbled to serve as the founding director, and to be working with our founding faculty, Richard Arum, David Theo Goldberg, Bill Maurer, Kurt Squire, and Constance Steinkuehler. I am looking forward to expanding our ranks with more faculty, postdocs, students, and community members as we get our efforts off the ground. The founding of CLL is motivated by

Avoiding ‘Dark Pits of Yuck’: Connected Learning for Military Spouses


“We moved nine times in 14 years…It wore me down. Anything I started and developed on my own got taken away.” — Joanna McGuffey, founder and CEO of Unconventional Works I met Joanna in 2015 at Nucleus CoShare, a coworking office in Dayton, Ohio that serendipitously opened not long after we both moved there to accompany our service member spouses at their new duty locations. She was a seasoned Air Force spouse, having moved nine times in 14 years and I was brand new. Joanna told me that she joined the coworking office because she was “in

Watchworthy Wednesday: Celebrate Digital Learning Day Feb. 23


Students and educators nationwide will be taking part in Digital Learning Day (DLDay) tomorrow, focusing on innovative ways technology enhances teaching and learning. “In some classrooms and out-of-school programs across the country, educators are doing some pretty amazing things with technology,” according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Yet, these pockets of innovation are confined to a small number of schools and communities. Digital Learning Day was started as a way to actively spread innovative practices and ensure that all youth have access to high-quality digital learning opportunities no matter where they live.” As part of