Connected Learning Webinar Series Wrap Up

August 12, 2014

For the month of July HASTAC partnered up with the Connected Learning Alliance to produce a webinar series focused on building trust in connected learning environments. An archive page with all the webinars can be viewed at

About this Series

We met in July to explore the concept that “students should have safe and trusted environments for learning,” which is one of five principles for creating safe, optimized and rewarding learning experiences shared in the Aspen Task Force ‘Learner In The Center Of A Networked World” report. We know that trust, privacy, and safety are critical to learning in an open online world, so we framed the series around the following questons: What tools do learners need to navigate, collaborate, and learn online with confidence? What solutions will foster greater civility and respect in online learning environments? How can open technical standards create more opportunities to share and collaborate online in a spirit of trust? What role do badges play in conversations about trust in connected learning environments?

Our goal was to inspire people to think about both challenges and solutions to building trust in connected learning environments, which is the theme of our upcoming HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition, the Trust Challenge, which opens on September 3.

The topics of the webinars covered:

  • Why Trust Matters in Connect Learning Environments
  • Trust Challenges Across Connected Learning Environments
  • Social-Emotional Literacies and Digital Citizenship Best Practices
  • Higher Education as a Trusted Environment for Learning


With all of these conversations around trust taking place, especially the complex social considerations of trust, it is the infrastructures that underly the social learning environments that we hope people are inspired to think through. The underlying theme and goal of this series is to think of solutions to challenges to trust in connected learning environments, or “ways to think through the creation of digital systems and tools that enable trust in connected learning.” For example, how do we:


  • design systems and digital environments that engender trust for networks of youth, parents of youth (where appropriate), and learning institutions?
  • arm learners with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to become savvy web citizens and to know when a system is safe and designed to protect their information?
  • share data across platforms and organizations in productive ways that allow learners to pursue their interests and easily share and control their data across different learning networks?
  • promote a culture of civility and respect online, enabling deeper and more supportive trusted engagement among learners, and encouraging the development of learners as responsible creators and stewards of an open, inviting, and egalitarian web?


In the webinars, we spent time reflecting on the complex relationship between trust, teacher/instructor, and learners. This conversation is part the backdrop for us to start thinking through the complex task of building digital tools that are designed to put learners at the center. A big part of this, and something that came through with all of the webinar sessions, is rethinking the hierarchy of learning spaces to allow for more dialogic and transparent interactions and learning paths. To paraphrase what Audrey Watters said during the 4th webinar on Higher Education as a Trusted Learning Environment, how do we account for students being interpolated into technology, and how do we make sure that the technological tools and solutions we are creating empower everyone involved in learning?

Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments Webinar Series completed

August 1, 2014

Jade E. Davis, Program Coordinator at HASTAC, participated in the Social-Emotional Literacies and Digital Citizenship webinar produced in collaboration with, and shares her thoughts about the conversation in this blog post.

The final webinar in the Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments series was on “Higher Education as a Trusted Environment for Learning”. In addition to myself, the participants included:

  • Jonathan Worth – Creator of the massive, open Photography & Narrative (#Phonar) course, and a renowned British portrait photographer
  • Audrey Watters – Technology and education journalist, and self-described “rabble-rouser & recovering academic”
  • Howard Rheingold – Author, virtual community expert, and self-described “online instigator & expert learner”
  • Anne Balsamo – Dean of the School of Media Studies and Professor of Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement; co-founder of FemTechNet
  • Martha Burtis – Special Projects Coordinator for Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington

The Conversation

This was a very dynamic conversation with many takeaways for people who plan to enter the Challenge. Here is a partial list of questions that came up during the conversation to consider when we imagine new trust based tools for connected learning.

How do we:

1. build trust in the processes of learning, from the tools to the shared spaces?

2. use tools to empower instead of reinforcing existing power relationships for both the learner and the instructor?

3. allow for many voices to be heard while removing noise?

4. make it easier for learners to understand what they can and can’t control?

5. build in the ability to delete or hide in open tools?

6. ensure that we’ve minimized the barriers to entry

7. take advantage of the wealth of information and connections made possible by digital media?

8. find ways to encourage creativity and co-exploration?

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the wonderful questions, concerns, and challenges that were brought up during the webinar.  As we think through the purpose of tools for learning, it is important to not forget that on either side of the tool we are hoping to make connected learning better, safer, and transparent for all those involved, from the designers and developers to the user. Trust is essential to all of this.

Now that the webinar series is completed we hope you will watch, comment, and join the conversation over the next month as we prepare to launch the application on September 3rd. You can follow us on twitter @dmlcomp and join the ongoing conversation with the hashtag #dmltrust.