Designing Playlists for Learning with DML 6 Grantees

Designing Playlists for Learning with DML 6 Grantees

How do playlists help guide learners toward mastery? How do we map the learning pathways associated with the development of expertise and learner identities?

Our DML 6 Playlists for Learning grantees are taking on these questions, and others, as they adapt their learning content to work in playlist format on the platform, complete with assessments, evidence of learning, and digital badges.

Balboa Park’s team is taking a human-centered design approach by asking teens what experiences and opportunities matter to them. Designers and educators with Digital Citizenship, led by the Youth and Media team at Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, took a similar approach, and so did the Fleet Farming designers at Playground City, who incorporated “swarm rides” into their user testing and rapid prototyping. My City, My Place, a project led by librarians at the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island, will be bringing in teens to help co-develop tourism-based playlists during their spring break in 2017.

Sandboxes for Learning, a collaborative project that involes the National Writing Project, Youth Voices, and Educator Innovator, walked their teacher-leaders through a persona and skill-tree exercise designed by Lucas Blair. “We could see how these skill trees or mind maps could be instrumental in helping youth to see possible pathways for their self-directed or mentor-directed moves within the LRNG opportunities.”

Figuring out how to introduce or adapt a connected learning model that emphasizes interest-driven learning is one of the goals that SciGirls Code has for their playlists, a design challenge shared by many of the DML 6 grantees. SciGirls Code will be evaluating their experience with playlist design through a separate grant with NSF, and our community will be looking forward to learning from their research. Similarly, Creative Careers is working on playlists with “a collection of connected learning experiences that develop interest-driven, relevant mastery in creative areas and, buttressed by strong partnerships, tap participants into a concrete pipeline to potential employers and postsecondary areas of study.” Sky, Water, Earth is addressing similar challenges, as well as thinking through questions about assessing learning at scale and duplicating content on platforms that include peer communication and peer feedback. 

Over at Chicago Architecture Foundation’s DesignLaunch, the playlist design team distinguishes between playlists and pathways. “Playlists as a prescriptive set of activities designed to build skills. Pathways as a reflective activity that looks back at a diverse set of experiences that contribute to a student’s’ learning and progression. While this grant addresses the activities (playlists or XPs), we are building with pathways in mind and are considering how one might lead into the other.”

Distinguishing the interplay between the technology-driven aspects of learning in playlists, and the learner-driven aspects of pathways is something grantees seek to balance in other ways that reflect their programming. In the Pittsburgh Galleries Project, for example, “Each of the museums has a mentor assigned to the group, giving the students a contact person to work with throughout the project. After the groups are formed, an initial meeting and museum visit can take place.”

Sounds Explorations, led by the Consortium for Innovation and Transformation in Music Education at Arizona State University, is a collaborative project whose goal is to use playlists to, “foster musical inquiry and creativity, deepen musical skills and understandings, and strengthen participants’ sense of selves as musical people who make a difference in their communities and society.” One of their design challenges is to figure out: “What type of structures make the most sense for learners to navigate and engage with learning experiences (XPs) that are organized in varied ways that enable multiple pathways within the same playlist?”

DML 6 grantees will meet for a face-to-face workshop in Chicago in March of 2017, providing everyone an opportunity to get expert feedback and give feedback to peers working in the same design space. Stay tuned to the DML Competition’s Winners Hub on to follow our grantees as they blog about their insights and experiences designing playlists for learning. 

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