Craig Watkins & Juliet Schor - Connected Learning As Pathway to Equity & Opportunity

How does connected learning combat the growing gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in education, and address broken pathways from education to economic opportunities?

About The Speaker(s)

Craig Watkins studies young people's social and digital media behaviors. He teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, in the departments of Radio-Television-Film, Sociology, and the Center for African and African American Studies. Craig is also a Faculty Fellow for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. Craig is a Principal Investigator on the Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN) project, The Digital Edge.

Juliet Schor is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. She is currently working on issues of environmental sustainability and their relation to Americans’ lifestyles and the economy and the emergence of a conscious consumption movement. Julie is a Principal Investigator on the CLRN project, Connected Consumption.

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (04:16) So, Craig and Julie: if you could guys could start us off by explaining why you feel connected learning addresses these two big issues of social equity and economic opportunity?
  • (05:10) Since 2008, the labor market prospects for young people have really collapsed. And they have been most hard-hit by the downturn and the shortage of jobs in the economy. They are facing high double-digit unemployment rates (on average)...a third of African-American young people are officially unemployed [and] about 20 percent of Latina and Latina youth.
  • (07:40) When you look at future forecasts--in terms of where employment opportunities will be, where civic opportunities will be, where personal enrichment opportunities will be--it's very clear that there's this increasing recognition that the attainment of interpersonal/noncognitive/soft skills is increasingly crucial.
  • (10:30) There is this concern that technology and innovation, in general, reproduce inequities unless there is a proactive agenda to not let that happen...If there's no active intervention, do you think that's what will happen? And, if so, what can be done about that?
  • (14:12) Around 2006-07, there was a turning point in terms of how we think about the digital divide, particularly in terms of access to technology. So, I think the real issue now is, 'How do we begin to intervene in a digital world that young people in the margins are inhabiting?"
  • (19:11) Many young people in our schools have their immense capacity for learning systematically attacked...We have to have environments where young people can help the young people relearn their ability to learn, to reconnect with their skills and abilities, and provide that scaffolding.
  • (21:58) How can you really facilitate your children's learning in very different ways than the school may even be anticipating?...What are the opportunities for them to go beyond just completing homework?
  • (24:38) If we think about outcomes (economic or other learning outcomes)...I think that the digital and online environment provides new entry points of access into networks. And we know, from a lot of sociological research, that those networks are really key in access to opportunities.
  • (29:22) From your work either in museums, or libraries, or elsewhere (in informal, 'not-school' learning spaces): what do you see as the value of those spaces in terms of helping kids to develop a repertoire of skills that they need in order to be more socially, economically, and politically mobile in the 21st century?
  • (30:42) That [connected learning infographic] sphere of academic, that sphere of adults, that sphere of being able to look toward the future and what you're doing now could have an impact on your future life--that is so crucial. Because, without that, the young people will just be flitting around wherever their interest goes, but not have a way to connect it all together to build something meaningful to build their future.
  • (31:20) How does connected learning offer alternative pathways to youth for success?
  • (37:30) This whole new sharing economy that's emerging also makes it possible for people to live well with less cash income...and that gets to your question of redefining "success"...Trying to think about meaning, meaningful work, creativity, ability to meet your needs.
  • (38:35) Because [connected learning] starts with [personal interest], it really encourages [youth] to show take some ownership of the learning and experiences that might happen.
  • (40:24) "Connected learning promotes equity because it habituates us to make, not receive the future." - Chad Sansing
  • (42:22) I think, a lot of times, that those [museum/library] programs, as valuable as they are, are really limited by scale...It's hard not to be conscious of who you're leaving out...How do you reach the kids that are unconnected?
  • (47:40) How can we conceptualize the linkage from the initial 'connection' made, to an end-result in terms of economic opportunity at some level?
  • (49:56) We are facing a future in which...we are in conditions of job scarcity (if we just continue with business as usual). If we're going to provide good lives for all of these kids, we're going to have to...put fairness and access to livelihood and employment at the center of those changes.
  • (54:10) Youth are agents of change...there's a long history of young people seeing the problems of the world and feeling empowered to change them...I do feel the technology is really powerful tool that they are harnessing for really creative solutions to a lot of these problems, too.
  • (56:02) I think the most important thing that connected learning environments can offer young people is the opportunity to learn how to learn, and everything can lead from there.

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