We are very proud and excited to announce our Remake Learning Fellows for the 2013-14 school year, Junlei Li and Leanne Bowler! Now in its second year, the Remake Learning Fellowships provide opportunities for emerging scholars, technologists, writers, educators and practitioners to apply their knowledge to pressing learning challenges. This year’s fellowships are focused on the concept of “Connected Learning”, an approach to education that advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interested-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic or political opportunity.
“Connected Learning theorizes that when you’re better able to engage students with their passions and interests learning can happen anywhere and anytime,” says Sprout Program Officer, Dustin Stiver. “Connected learning is about leveraging digital tools, new media, and creative learning experiences in order to meet students where they are, across environments. The learning landscape is changing faster than ever and Connected Learning offers a framework within which we can consider the future of education, which is why we felt it was important to focus this round of fellowships on understanding Connected Learning in Action.”
Junlei and Leanne both have a wealth of experience and share a passion for studying Connected Learning. Junlei currently serves as an associate professor of psychology at Saint Vincent College, concentrating on early learning and children’s media. Formerly a principal research scientist at The Fred Rogers Company and director of applied research and evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, Junlei’s work integrates developmental science with media and communications to improve children’s lives in schools, orphanages, and community programs.
“I think Connected Learning ultimately consists of balanced learning experiences,” says Junlei about the importance of Connected Learning. “In Connected Learning, we recognize the importance of both children’s and adults’ active roles in learning and growing. We recognize the essential need for both the ‘basic’ and the ‘creative’. Unlike fads that sweep in on the promises of replacing traditional with the new, the best Connected Learning initiatives can inspire the traditional to innovate and ground the innovative in what is enduring and true in helping children learn and grow.”
A former children’s librarian in Montreal, Leanne is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences where she studies the ways children interact with technology and digital literature. Her course, “Technology in the Lives of Children and Youth” has won a national award for the manner in which it explores ways to use technology to encourage learning in non-formal environments. In Montreal, one of her responsibilities was to run an afterschool computer club where she taught children the LOGO programming language, a precursor to SCRATCH.
“It was new to me and I really could have used a youth-centered model like Connected Learning to help guide me in my practice,” says Leanne of the experience. “The fact that I can see how Connected Learning might have been applied to a situation over 20 years ago speaks to its transferability to different contexts, a critical concern given the rapidly changing world of technology.” Her fellowship project focuses on develop relevant learning experiences for students in the context of the making world, where essential skills are taught through hands-on lessons about creation and innovation. “DIY/Maker Spaces are new to libraries and other community groups,” she explains, “and so there are many questions about how such spaces fit into the learning ecology of young people.”
In the coming year, Junlei and Leanne will have an opportunity to go further in their research, focusing on how Connected Learning can change the landscape of education in the years ahead. With their outstanding backgrounds and their promising proposals for research, it is with great pleasure that we welcome them as our 2013-14 Remake Learning Fellows!