About the project


Online learning environments are rapidly becoming part of the education landscape for K12. As such, educators are inundated with opportunities, decisions, suggestions, and requirements about technology use in their unique learning environments. How can we navigate this complex situation in a way that supports educators to be at the helm?

This site translates findings from our NSF-sponsored research project (2013-2017, #1325004), Developing frameworks, tools and social practices to support effective instructor use of online social learning networks in blended learning models. 

The challenge

The potential benefits of online learning are exciting. Learners in lower-resourced schools can get access to high quality content; Personalized learning allows individuals to seek out their own pathways that are connected to prior experiences and future goals; Teachers have a myriad of tools and data at their fingertips with which to engage learners in dynamic 21st century learning practices. However, the benefits are mediated by serious challenges. There is growing spending at school and district levels without clear accountability; There is unequal access to opportunities for areas with lower SES; Although there is lot of data captured, we are often not entirely sure what it means or how to make it actionable at individual and classroom levels; Decisions about tools are often made at multiple levels, and how to best used them is often not as well resourced as purchasing the tools themselves.

School leaders and pre- and in-service teachers need opportunities for intentional planning and reflection. There is little support to guide thoughtful implementation that aligns with individual educator goals for their unique classroom, and often not enough time to process the myriad of platforms being introduced at different levels, including district and school-wide rollouts. As more and more educators adopt new technologies into daily practice, they need to be prepared to put them to use beyond the technological fluency needed for the most basic functions. This resource was developed as a contribution to the larger conversation of networked technology use in K12 educational environments. The conversation is escalating and is often outpaced by the speed with which new technologies are offered and adopted and often replaced.

The opportunities

Our work with formal and informal educators, administrators, and program designers revealed a need for more conversation. This resource is one of the tools we hope will aid in reflective decision-making grounded in recent research. While there are no answers and we believe that the right tools and practices look different across different learning environments, there are questions that can be asked that can facilitate more conversation to match goals and intentions with platforms and unique features.

Our suite of materials are anchored around a cyclical set of practices that identify specific ways to reflect, plan, and act around the use of online platforms in learning environments. Materials to support this work include: (a) Frameworks for identifying and analyzing online learning platforms, including educator online support roles and relevant features and practices and 21st century learning activity and relevant features and practices. Together, these frameworks, emerging from research in authentic environments, can be used for evaluating systems on their strengths and weaknesses, looking at a platform and feature level of analysis. (b) Cases of educators, K12 learners, and communities in formal and informal learning environments using online platforms, highlighting goals, successes, and challenges in actual use scenarios, mapped onto our framework. Multimedia cases are constructed from a rich collection of qualitative and quantitative data gathered through interviews, surveys, and social network use data. These cases include reflection questions to engage discussion and planning for educators in similar complex environments in the fluctuating landscape of technology-enriched education.