Connected learning and human centered
design are at the heart of our work.


Many of us grew up under a traditional education system largely designed around a simple paradigm:

curriculum (content) + instruction (teacher delivered content) = education

Unfortunately this teacher-directed approach has very little to do with how most of us actually learn, particularly now in a century that has been transformed by global information networks.

In the knowledge and innovation economy, information is mobile and ubiquitous so learning now happens everywhere, all the time. It is enabled by peers, networks, mentors, museums, libraries, and youth centers and through on and off line experiences, as well as by skilled teachers in classroom settings.

Convergence Design Lab’s approach is one that adapts to this new reality. Dedicated first and foremost to the cause of educational equity, we believe that empowering and resilient education is achieved when learning is designed to be interactive, relevant and “connected” to the learner and their world.

We draw on the principles of human-centered design and connected learning to help schools and organizations better achieve their purpose using a future-forward approach to learning experience design that is centered on the authentic needs of the learner.

We apply the design thinking process to many aspects of our work:
  • Internally as a learning organization, we use design thinking to engage each member of our team in problem-scoping, ideation and solution-finding for the projects we take on.
  • When engaging with stakeholders, we often bring different partners together and use design thinking processes to explore multiple perspectives, build empathy and find consensus around innovative solutions.
  • We use the Design Process as an organizing structure for professional development workshops, challenging and supporting teachers to define their own problem statements, generate many possible solutions, build and playtest prototypes, and get feedback from their peers. We also provide resources and materials for teachers to take that process back to their students as a strategy for adding student voice and ownership to their classrooms.

Connected learning emerged from 10 years of research funded by the Digital Media and Learning initiative of the MacArthur Foundation. The theory posits that young people growing up in the digital age are primed for success when they experience learning as “social, participatory, interest-driven and relevant to the opportunities of the time” (Ito et al,2013).

Convergence Design Lab works at the pioneering edge of this approach to support new learning methods that are media and technology-integrated, social, hands-on, experiential, civically networked and interest-powered.

In schools, we bring connected learning theory to life by helping teachers build units, playlists and lesson plans that activate students’ interests through real-world, networked and participatory experiences. We also help schools create production-centered learning environments and makerspaces where students are positioned as owners and protagonists of their own learning.

Outside of schools, we work to make the skills and accomplishments that young people acquire through personal networks, out-of-school programs and digital activities more visible and recognized. We do this by creating competency-based assessments (digital badges), online challenges, learning playlists and other systems that connect youth to mentors, meaningful opportunities and powerful career pathways.