Category: Events

Several weeks ago, I paused to reflect on what Chicago City of Learning has become over the span of just 2 short years (it’s still hard to believe). And just two weeks ago, in the company of over 100 friends – #StateofCCOL! – we had the privilege of celebrating the collective gains that we have made in this movement to build an infrastructure for connected learning among those who touch the lives of Chicago’s youth.

Jeff McCarter CCOL Photo

Partners at the annual State of Chicago City of Learning meeting

One thing made clear in the lovely room at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, in and of itself, was how critically central a network of youth-serving organizations is to the development and sustainability of a living, breathing connected learning ecosystem. Because of the commitment and partnership of the 150+ organizations who have joined us and joined together to make their program opportunities visible on our site and articulate their program outcomes using digital badges, our learning ecosystem thrives in our great city.

Program Locations Map_Oct 2015

A map of where programs in Chicago City of Learning are located

But this ecosystem work is not about each organization “representing” itself and its youth’s achievements. Rather, it is about the potential energy generated by the inter-connectedness across organizations.  By definition, an ecosystem is a community of living organisms interacting as a system. And while the first step in building a connected learning ecosystem is to establish the community – to identify and convene the “organisms”, as it were – a connected learning ecosystem’s life-sustaining power and vibrancy is the result of the dynamic ways in which its organizations continuously organize, connect, and exchange.

State of CCOL Connections Cropped

Chicago City of Learning partners’ connections to the work

This is what was so exciting about our 2nd annual State of Chicago City Of Learning meeting last week. Our community conversations were replete with “eco-speak”, as these thoughts shared out by tables indicate:

“access to the entire city”

bringing organizations together in an open sharing environment”

“collaborative, not competitive”

“sharing other organizations’ opportunities with students”

“connecting private and public organizations”

“creating pathways to other opportunities (jobs, scholarships)” 

These connections to the work harken back to the moniker we gave ourselves two years ago, when we envisioned what it would look like to turn Chicago into a “campus of learning” for our youth. “Chi-Y.O.U.” – Chicago’s Youth Owned University – represented our hopes and dreams for what we, working together, might provide the city’s young people – a system designed for their pursuit of interests within and across all of our program offerings.

ChiYOU Badge Level 1_2014

The digital badge that Chicago City of Learning partners earn after completing our first professional development series

Our treasured, inspired, and inspiring community of youth-serving organizations is the heartbeat of the connected learning ecosystem that we have built here in Chicago. And the data that we are beginning to examine together are enabling us to better organize, more intentionally connect, and deliberately partner in ways that facilitate youth in accessing and, ultimately, crafting pathways to opportunity.

*Also posted at


The Destination Chicago pop-up shop traveled around the city to provide youth more opportunities.


For nearly 10 years, the Digital Youth Network has provided Chicago’s under-resourced youth access to the ever-evolving array of tools and technology needed to be successful in today’s educational and professional world. Founded by DePaul’s Nichole Pinkard, associate professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media, the organization has gained traction over the last few years through successful outcomes, growing programs and funding from the MacArthur Foundation. Read on to learn just some of the ways the organization is making a difference.

Read the full story on Depaul’s Newline


If you weren’t able to attend this year’s DML conference in Los Angeles, you can watch Nichole Pinkard’s plenary session, “An Ecological View of Equity,” online! This is a great opportunity to learn some of the history of the Digital Youth Network along with details of our current projects. A powerful tribute to Brother Mike Hawkins follows the talk. You can view the entire video archive from the conference here.


Looking for an incredible opportunity for your 11-13 year old girls this summer? We’re currently recruiting for the 2015 Digital Divas summer camp. Register here!

The camp will take place at DePaul University’s Loop Campus.

Session 1: E-Fashion
July 6-17

Session 2: E-Design
July 20-31

$40 per session (includes daily lunch, supplies, and field trips)
Please contact Asia Roberson at with any questions.


See some of the action from last year on our Tumblr.


The Digital Youth Network team will take part in four sessions at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association here in Chicago. We are very proud to participate in discussions focusing on this year’s theme, Toward Justice: Culture, Language, and Heritage in Education Research and Praxis.

Friday April 17, 12:25-1:55 (Sheraton, Fourth Level, Chicago VI & VII) SIG-Learning Sciences Poster Session: Using a Networked Community to Support Equitable Access to Computational Learning: The Digital Divas (Caitlin K. Martin, Denise Nacu, Nichole Pinkard, Ugochi Acholonu).

Saturday April 18, 2:45-4:15pm (Hyatt, West Tower – Green Level, Crystal B) The Digital Exchange Society: The Stories We Tell (Nichole Pinkard, Janeen Lee) Connecting the Threads and Spreading the Innovation: An Invitation to Allied Researchers and Practitioners (Carol Lee, Nichole Pinkard, et al.) In symposium organized by Carol Lee: High School Students as Social Justice Researchers, Connecting Praxis and Theory: A New Generation Emerging.

Saturday April 18, 2:45-4:15pm (Sheraton, Ballroom Level, Sheraton V) Youth Voice in Mentoring (Tené Gray) Designing a Pathway to Support Teen Engagement in Writing (Sybil Madison-Boyd, Jennifer Steele) In HIVE interactive poster session chaired by Kylie Peppler and Chris Hoadley: New Tools, New Voices: Innovations in Understanding and Analyzing Life-Wide Ecologies for Youth Interest-Driven Learning.

Monday April 20, 12:25-1:55 (Sheraton, fourth Level.) Online mobile learning tools, strategies, and mentorship poster session Mentorship in blended spaces: What is the value of f2f mentorship for participation and learning? (Ugochi Acholonu, Caitlin K. Martin, Denise Nacu, Nichole Pinkard).



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