LRNG Cities Movement Expands to Ignite Everywhere, All-the-Time Learning

Voices from the Field   11 February 2016

IMAGINE THE CITY AS A CAMPUS where every young person can find and access engaging learning opportunities in spaces and places throughout the community, from schools to libraries and museums to workplace internships and online.

That’s the vision of LRNG Cities, now in Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC—and soon to grow by up to six additional communities. Cities have until February 19 to apply to the 2016 LRNG City Challenge to win up to $50,000 in funding from the Fossil Foundation to become an LRNG City.

LRNG is an innovative, youth-centric movement that turns learning into a lifestyle, enabling young people to co-design their own learning experiences, pursue their passions, connect with peers and mentors, and find new paths to 21st-century opportunity and jobs.

Using a technology platform to connect partnerships and learning opportunities both locally and globally, LRNG is working to close the nation’s opportunity gap by delivering immediate, transformative change to teens and young adults who are locked out of traditional paths to success.

The Power of Playlists

Playlists are a key component of LRNG. These curated collections of learning experiences are organized around a theme or interest, while embedding 21st-century competencies and skills. Playlists encourage interest-driven exploration as well as “leveling up” to increasingly more complex learning and workforce skills.

Through the LRNG platform, young people can access two types of Playlists: global and local. Global playlists are co-designed by LRNG with corporate and nonprofit partners—such as EA, Gap, and WeDay—and offered nationwide to youth in LRNG Cities. These global playlists combine partners’ real-world expertise and LRNG’s learning science.   

LRNG also provides an online Playlist and Badge Builders to help LRNG Cities create local Playlists that incorporate learning experiences throughout the community.

Youth who complete LRNG Playlists earn digital badges, which they can use to create a permanent, shareable portfolio of their work—so they can take their learning wherever they go. Playlist badges can also be used to unlock opportunities such as job shadowing or internships.

Connected Learning

LRNG is grounded in Connected Learning, a new pedagogy that emerged from a decade of research and demonstration projects supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media & Learning (DML) program. Connected Learning is realized when young people are engaged across three key areas of their lives: their passions, people, and purpose.

When youth can pursue a personal interest with the support of friends and caring adults, then link their learning to real-world applications of their talents and skills, learning becomes relevant and engaging. In an era where 60 percent of high school students are disengaged, only 9 percent of 24-year-olds from low-income families hold college degrees, and nearly 1 in 4 young people ages 18-29 are civically alienated, Connected Learning creates interest-driven paths to higher education, career opportunities, and civic engagement.

A Growing Movement

Launched in Chicago in 2013 as a demonstration project under the MacArthur DML program, LRNG Cities (then called Cities of Learning) expanded nationwide to Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC and inspired a Summer of Learning in Los Angeles in 2014. The pilot LRNG Cities have served about 100,000 young people nationwide per year.

Now, LRNG Cities is poised to expand this summer and beyond, with a goal of serving 1 million youth in 2017. Winners of the 2016 City Challenge will be announced in March, but LRNG will continue to add cities through rolling admissions as it scales up nationwide.

Today, there are millions of young people who can’t see a path forward to the American dream. LRNG recognizes that closing the opportunity gap is a challenge that is too large and complex for any one organization or institution to tackle alone. LRNG provides the technology and the inspiration to propel and sustain the movement, but it will take will take employers, educators, and communities working together to reimagine education and create a new future where all young people have the opportunity to develop their full potential.

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