2017 Digital Learning Challenge

SCE’s Digital Learning Challenge brought together a community of afterschool programs, along with an evaluation team, human resource professionals, and digital product developers and distributors to explore what it means to be a prepared and skilled 21st century citizen. The initiative unpacks the practices and programs of top afterschool organizations that support teens as they build, produce, and remix media, and how these activities connect to opportunities and obstacles faced beyond the program. We are studying how the work is done, in differing contexts, with different sets of challenges, and how success was achieved navigating all of these factors.

Each program partner has similar qualities: exemplar programs using digital tools for learning, and serving youth ages 13-18 in afterschool settings. Each focuses on skill growth by working with youth to create and connect hands-on learning experiences to life, work and play beyond the program. Each program partner serves an urban population (a challenge we hope to address in future grantmaking). However, each program partner differs in how it defines 21st century skills, the tools used, and program model, all of which are based on the unique community context.

Uniquely positioned, each partner has identified a set of skills – digital, social and emotional, and civic that are most valuable for the youth based on the demands of each community. Prescient in the program design, organizational leadership also understands that in a world where technology is changing how we work, digital media skills are a critical vehicle for teens to develop in-demand workforce skills. Many, if not all, have partnered with local employers and other organizations to create economic pathways through project-based training, networking opportunities, and paid apprenticeships. Due to this, the Challenge is also exploring the changing nature of work and the role of digital media and informal learning environments in equipping youth with skills needed to thrive as professionals in the workforce.

And that, we believe is our sweet spot. Our goal is to honor the important contextual differences while identifying and understanding common processes. And then together, we will analyze and articulate best practices and share what we’ve learned with educators, informal learning practitioners, and others with a vested interest in ensuring more youth have access to more meaningful learning experiences using digital tools, while preparing them for success in work, life, and play.

Program Partners
Research Partner

The Innovatory Learning Group, based in New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, is an interdisciplinary research group that designs and studies novel ways to interact with technology and information in the service of improving educational opportunities for all learners. The team – Dr. June Ahn, Dr. Dixie Ching and Dr. Rafi Santo – brings expertise in out-of-school and community-based programs, digital media and learning, design of learning technologies, digital initiatives in informal learning organizations, and the role of networks in informal organizational development that will inform the research and learning community aspects of the Digital Learning Challenge. http://www.innovatory.group/

Funding Partner

Susan Crown Exchange (SCE) is a Chicago-based foundation invested in shaping an ecosystem of anytime, anywhere learning to prepare youth to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing and highly-connected world. Through three primary programs—digital learning, social and emotional learning, and catalyst grants—SCE connects talent and innovation with forces for positive change. SCE’s exchange model leverages up-to-date research, best practices, grantmaking, and innovative programming to design, evaluate, and promote high-quality learning experiences for young people beyond the classroom, particularly youth from underserved communities. www.scefdn.org