There is a dire need for researchers who are tasked with studying learning with technology to have deep knowledge of the history, culture and development of people in urban communities. Understanding digital learning in classrooms, for example, requires researchers to not only be well versed in learning theory and pedagogy, but child, adolescent and adult development. A diverse, multidisciplinary research team skilled at inclusive research design and knowledgeable about issues of equity is also a necessity.

-Brendesha Tynes, Ph.D., Director

 
 

Photo credit: steve cohn Photography

Welcome to the Digital Learning and Development Lab (DLx2)! We are a national network of junior and senior scholars who are committed to conducting methodologically rigorous research on the digital media experiences of youth and adults in urban communities. Also central to our mission is the design of digital tools that transform teaching and learning in P-20 classrooms and beyond.

We launch this site on the heels of President Obama’s signing of the STEM Education Act of 2015 which incorporates computer science into federal definitions of STEM education and expands research funding in this area. The signing coincides with an increasing push to make computer science available to more diverse populations in cities across the US, though a recent study underscores a major challenge in doing so is a lack of trained teachers.  In addition, despite the fact that Black students are most likely to use computers “every school day”, they have fewer computer science learning opportunities than Latino and White students. 

Beyond computer science specifically, we see a general shift toward blended and online learning in high schools and universities. Scholars estimate that by 2019, 50% of all high school courses will be online.  Whether this is an accurate prediction remains to be seen. What is clear is that we still don’t know enough about the distinctions between low and high income and majority vs underrepresented groups and the ways that technology is taken up in the classroom and online.

  • Developmental Tasks of Adolescence Being Played Out in the Classroom and Online  

Equally compelling is the fact that the developmental tasks of constructing an identity, emotional independence, peer and romantic relationships among others are increasingly being enacted with digital media. With Black, Latino and Asian youth spending four and a half more hours with media in general outside the school day than their White counterpart, it is important to understand how this increased time coupled with the nature of their experiences impacts academic 

 

and socio-emotional outcomes.  For example, how might online racial discrimination, including witnessing virtual hangings of members of your ethnic group and being targeted because of perceived immigration status, be associated with mental health, behavior and academic motivation? How do youth participating in the Black Lives Matter Movement express a sense of agency or learn 21st Century skills such as critical and computational thinking?  

We see a dire need for researchers who are tasked with studying learning with technology and answering these types of questions to have deep knowledge of the history, culture and development of people in urban communities.  To understand digital learning, for example, requires researchers to not only be well versed in learning theory and pedagogy, but child, adolescent and adult development. It also necessitates a diverse, multidisciplinary research team and inclusive research design.

  •   Our Research Team

The Digital Learning and Development Lab brings together such a team, pairing scholars who have backgrounds in education, engineering, computer science, and digital learning with leaders in the field on African American, Latino and Asian culture and development.   Our research team hails from a range of disciplines including human development, family studies, learning sciences, educational psychology, African American Studies, sociology, and information science. They also use a range of methodological approaches that help us to study urban communities more comprehensively. In this way we are able to understand an individual’s or community’s complexity and their full humanity.

  •  Our Primary Goals

We have five main goals: 1) To conduct methodologically rigorous research on teaching and learning with digital media, 2) Design frameworks and digital tools that transform teaching and learning for underrepresented populations, 3) Examine new models and improve methods for online teacher preparation, 4) Support diverse, interdisciplinary teams of researchers to secure external funding and 5) Train junior and senior scholars to conduct research in urban communities.  To meet these goals we partner with school districts, parents, community organizations, tech companies and, most importantly, children and adults in urban communities.

Our current projects include the design of apps to enhance youth ability to cope with cyberbullying to design principles for maker spaces, with a range of funding sources such as the National Science Foundation, The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Spencer Foundation, and The University of Michigan Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context.

We look forward to connecting with you as a partner, network member or as a concerned citizen with questions about our research and training efforts.

Sincerely,

Brendesha Tynes, Ph.D.