The MacArthur Foundation

In 2005, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation established a new grantmaking area in Digital Media & Learning. Representing an investment of more than $80 million, the effort is focused on research, design and implementation efforts to understand how digital media is changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life, as well as how institutions are adapting to these changes.

As part of this effort and to implement its research and design initiatives, the Foundation invested in the creation of two Hive Learning Networks, one in New York City and the other in Chicago.

The rationale behind Hive is two-fold. First, every day, young people move among learning experiences in a variety of environments—formal or informal, physical or virtual. These often fragmented experiences are increasingly defined by learners’ personal interests and social networks and less by geographic proximity. Second is the capacity of new technologies and media to provide the necessary integration and coordination between civic, cultural, and educational organizations within a given community. When designed to link together, these environments create Connected Learning experiences where youth can more readily participate in relevant and equitable “anytime, anywhere” learning activities linked by the meaningful exploration of their interests alongside adult mentors and their peers.

The core values, learning and design principles of Connected Learning guide the work of Hive Learning Networks and provide a fertile ground for re-imagining how and where learning happens in a digital age. Connected Learning provides a research and design framework to build transformative experiences by linking individual mentors and educators from diverse fields and interests to organizations, systems and networks. The educational approach is designed for an ever-changing world, and makes learning relevant to real life and real work, where the demand for learning never stops.

  • Learners are the focus: Specifically, developing lifelong learners with higher-order skills.
  • We build on the basics: The basics are important, but not enough for youth to thrive in our rapidly-changing world.
  • We connect three critical spheres of learning: academics, a learner’s interests, and inspiring mentors & peers.
  • We harness the advances and innovations of our connected age to serve learning: Just as earlier generations tapped the tools of their time to improve learning, we must do the same in the digital age.
  • Making, creating and producing are powerful paths to deeper learning and understanding: Connected learning asks learners to experiment, to be hands-on, and to be active and entrepreneurial in their learning, recognizing that this is what is now needed to be successful in work and in life.

Read this case study of Connected Learning in action through Hive Fashion, a Hive Chicago funded program. Read more about the Connected Learning research and design agenda.