The Power and Limits of Interest: Connected Learning in Adolescents' Civic Literacy Practices

Submitted by: Eunsun Kwon
Abstract: In South Korea’s L1 education, an interest has been emphasized as a motivation variable to promote youths’ engagement in reading and writing activities. In the connected learning framework (Ito at al., 2013), interest is considered more than a psychological state of engagement and rather as a crucial, enduring context for young people’s learning and a gateway to connect students’ daily learning within digital media environment to academic achievement, career development, or civic engagement. By adopting the connected learning framework, we examined what interest is actualized in adolescents’ civic literacy practices and how the study participants’ individual interests drive learning in and from practice in different ways.

In a year-long qualitative study, we collected data from a high school online journal club that exemplified the principles of connected learning by linking members' individual interest, peer relations, and civic engagement together. We also recruited three students with distinctive interests in terms of contents, digital tools, and activity goal among the club members. The data included interviews from the students, field notes, researchers’ reflections, and student-created digital productions. By tracking the students’ strategies for five participatory practices - investigation, circulation, production, dialogue and feedback, and mobilization (Rundle et al., 2015), we were able to capture different approaches in the practices from the three students and especially how interacted with their peers as participants of a sustained community (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

The research findings were as follows: (1) The students’ interests actualized in literacy practices were not only an expression of their individual pursuits but were also integrated with their literate identities, which were constructed from their past experiences. (2) While high school students’ clear interests encouraged them to be willing to struggle with difficulties, they could limit their strategic approaches to specific participatory practices not associated to their interests. (3) While peer support was a significant resource for students to exchange and extend their interests to enhance their academic/civic literacy, some students had little perception of it. Furthermore, the study suggested effective ways for L1 teachers to meet the individual needs of diverse students with various interests and organize peer support in L1 classrooms.

Kew word: interest, civic literacy practice, connected learning

Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., ... & Watkins, S. C. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design. BookBaby.
Lave, J., Wenger, E., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (Vol. 521423740). Cambridge: Cambridge university press.
Rundle, M., Weinstein, E., James, C., & Gardner, H. (2015). Doing civics in the digital age: Casual, purposeful, and strategic approaches to participatory politics. (No. 2, pp. 93-100). Working Paper. Youth and Participatory Politics Research Network. Oakland, CA.