Our Approach

The project drew on Research-Practice Partnership methods, where researchers and practitioners work together to identify problems of practice and advance knowledge about how to tackle them.

In January of 2017 the Susan Crown Exchange (SCE) launched a Digital Learning Challenge (DLC), with a goal to bring together a learning community of youth-serving organizations to explore important questions about what it means to be a 21st century citizen. This effort aspired to gain and share knowledge about how digital tools and practices can promote the development of skills for the workforce and positive community participation.

SCE partnered with a research team of experts in digital media and learning, informal learning design, and research-practice-partnerships from the University of California-Irvine and New York University along with leaders of eight youth-serving organizations with exceptional digital learning programs. Read more about the research team and the partner organizations. Focused on the work of each of these eight organizations, our collaborative group embarked on an intensive process of exploration to discover and share knowledge and tools among each other and the broader teaching and learning community.

We drew on Research-Practice Partnership methods, where researchers and practitioners work together to identify problems of practice and advance knowledge about how to tackle them. Specifically, we engaged in a participatory knowledge-building process. The research team gathered data, held discussions and designed activities; in collaboration with the DLC partners, we synthesized new understandings of what it means to effectively develop digital learning programs in informal education organizations.

Our group convened in Chicago three times between June 2017 and October 2018; we shared experiences, networked and built resources for the field. We held 10 community meetings via online video conferencing, where we continued the conversation, workshopped new ideas, and supported each others’ work. The research team visited each partner on-site, collecting interviews, video footage of digital pedagogy in action, and developing deeper relationships and understandings of how these organizations approached their work.

We interviewed the educators and staff members at each organization in three separate waves throughout the year, gathering deeper information about pedagogy, organizational practices, professional development, and how our organizations brokered new opportunities for youth in their communities. We analyzed and synthesized all of this data. We made sense of it together. We designed ways to communicate our own learning for the field. Reclaiming Digital Futures is the output of that collective work.

The distinctive vision of digital learning shared by these organizations focuses on youth power, creativity and agency instead of sole attention on technology or media. This kind of digital learning involves making and creating, amplifying youth voice on issues that matter, balancing technical and social and emotional skills, enhancing connections to culture and community, and directly linking youth to future opportunity—not only as professionals, but also as citizens.

We hope this toolkit inspires and enables more of this type of preparation, equipping youth with both the supporting knowledge and practical experience to reclaim their digital futures as leaders in the workforce and in civic engagement.

We ask that users take in these collective resources and do one or more of the following:

Visit scefdn.org/DLC for a comprehensive look at our process for bringing together the collaborative learning community that produced this Toolkit.