Designing Connected Learning Spaces

Digital Atelier

How might we design a replicable model for a safe, creative and learner-centered environment that shifts the traditional concepts of “schooling”?

That was the challenge posed to Convergence by a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Education grant. Convergence joined forces with Tilden High School in the Back of the Yards, Chicago to create the Digital Atelier (DA), a new kind of learning environment where students could explore interests on their own without the structure of a top down “adult-driven” curriculum.

We partnered with Archeworks, a non-profit design lab, to undertake an eight-month participatory design process to visualize the space. A comprehensive toolkit was developed so that other schools can replicate the process.

The students’ vision for a youth-centered culture and digital learning space sparked such excitement that nearly a dozen other organizations came on board. Convergence then brought in digital media mentors, media artists with expertise in youth development, who could guide students during informal learning time, eg: lunch hours and after-school.  We then adapted Digital Youth Network’s connected mentorship model, a pedagogical framework based on interest-powered and peer-supported learning.