Connected Learning

Personalizing Learning by Connecting Interests, Peer Culture, and Academics

Re-imagining learning for the digital age

We are living in a historical moment of transformation and realignment in the creation and sharing of knowledge, in social, political and economic life, and in global connectedness.

There is wide agreement that we need new models of education suited to this historic moment, and not simply new models of schooling, but entirely new visions of learning better suited to the increasing complexity, connectivity, and velocity of our new knowledge society. Fortunately, we are also able to harness the same technologies and social processes that have powered these transformations in order to provide the next generation with learning experiences that open doors to academic achievement, economic opportunity, and civic engagement.

  • It focuses on developing learners, not simply conveying content, because we now live in an era where learning can never stop and content quickly becomes outdated.
  • It engages students by connecting academics to a learner’s interests and the learner to inspiring peers and mentors, an approach that was nearly impossible to bring to scale before the Internet and social media.
  • It connects learning in and out of school so lessons are reinforced and supported in multiple settings, improving the return on a variety of public and private investments.
  • It encourages learners to experiment and to create, produce and design things, so they are positioned not simply as consumers but as the makers and producers our age demands.
  • Too many students lose interest in school and drop out.
  • Too many high school graduates are unprepared for college or the workforce.
  • Too many low income students are getting left behind.
  • More testing or funding alone are not sufficient to change all this.

Connected Learning addresses these issues by:

  • Connecting lessons to the interests and passions of young people.
  • Connecting learning to today’s opportunities and realities.
  • Connecting programs in school to learning outside of school
  • Leveraging the tools of the digital age just as generations before us used the advances of their times.

Connected Learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success, or civic engagement. This model is based on evidence that the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition.

Learn more about Connected Learning at or download Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design (PDF), a research synthesis report of the Connected Learning Research Network and the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Values and Principles

Connected learning is a work in progress, building on existing models, ongoing experimentation, and dialog with diverse stakeholders. It draws from social, ubiquitous, blended and personalized learning, delivered by new media, to help us remodel our educational system in tune with today’s economic and political realities. Connected learning is not, however, distinguished by a particular technology or platform, but is inspired by an initial set of three educational values, three learning principles, and three design principles.

  • Equity: When educational opportunity is available and accessible to all young people, it elevates the world we all live in.
  • Full Participation: Learning environments, communities, and civic life thrive when all members actively engage and contribute.
  • Social Connection: Learning is meaningful when it is part of valued social relationships and shared practice, culture, and identity.
  • Interest-powered: Connected Learning actively develops interests and passions to drive youth to acquire knowledge and expertise.
  • Peer-supported: Connected Learning happens in the context of peer interaction to make learning more engaging and participatory.
  • Academically oriented: Connected Learning mines and translates popular peer culture and community-based knowledge for academic relevance.
  • Shared purpose: Connected Learning environments are populated with adults and peers who share interests and are contributing to a common purpose.
  • Production-centered: Connected Learning environments are designed around production, providing tools and opportunities for learners to produce, circulate, curate, and comment on media.
  • Openly networked: Connected Learning environments are designed around networks that link together institutions and groups across various sectors, including popular culture, educational institutions, home, and interest communities.


It is widely appreciated that youth are generally engaged and enjoy learning in informal settings, but their work is not always recognized as being equal to classroom learning. Hive will support the systems that create recognition for the skills and achievements developed in out-of-school program to demonstrate that student work produced in informal spaces is acceptable documentation of performance against core academic standards.

A badge is a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest. Badges can be used to represent achievements, communicate successes, set goals, and motivate behaviors. They can support learning that happens in new ways and new spaces beyond the traditional classroom.

Mozilla’s Open Badges project is working to make these skills and achievements visible through an open infrastructure, where any organization or community can issue badges backed by their own seal of approval, and learners and badge earners can then collect badges from different sources and display them across the web—on their resume, websites or job sites.

Read more about Mozilla Open Badges.