Exemplar Playlists

Playlists for Learning invites applicants to create interest-driven playlists that advance connected learning opportunities for youth ages 13 and up. Below are some examples of possible connected learning playlists. Please note that these examples are offered only to help illustrate the connected learning playlist concept. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it intended to be prescriptive.

Example #1: Robotics

A museum in a medium-sized city has a popular camp for middle and high school students interested in building robots. The museum often has waitlists for youth who want to get into the program. As a way to make the content available to a wider audience, staff have created materials about building robots on the museum website. Even so, they see an online opportunity to recreate the full camp experience as much as possible and decided to create a playlist to expand the program to more fully reflect the steps it takes to get involved in robotics and the wider robotics community.

The goal of the robotics playlist is to familiarize youth with real-world applications for robots. Program staff designed a series of relevant steps that ultimately lead to a badge. These experiences include an introduction to robotics, and a series of steps that walk youth through topics such as robot design, tools, materials, programming, arduino, and optional steps like entering a robotics competition, and exploring colleges and careers for robotics.

Example #2: Video Game Design

Undergraduate students teaching in an afterschool youth-serving program in a large city began showing kids ages 11 to 13 how to design video games. The program became the program’s most popular, and the organization decided to create a community of youth who design and prototype their own games, including board, alternate reality, and video games that would eventually come together for a small festival several times a year with other youth who shared the same passion. The organization decided to design their program as a series of steps that they could adapt into a playlist to guide youth who may not have the time or resources to take their in-person classes. They produced a series of videos, did a focus group representing different ages of youth, and ran a pilot to see how their game design steps could be adapted to an online playlist.

The goal of the playlist is to get youth engaged in all aspects of game design. These experiences include designing games on paper, prototyping, testing, as well as sampling different online game design tools, programming, graphic design, building characters, storytelling, and attending or hosting game jams at local libraries or other locations. By participating in this playlist, youth learn the basics of game mechanics, design principles, how to prototype, how to compare design tools, and how to develop the collaborative, team-oriented abilities that contribute to effective game design.

Example #3: Wearable Tech

A group of youth-serving after-school programs in a large city expand their popular existing fashion program by partnering with a local community college design institute to create a playlist that enables high schoolers to explore the design and fabrication of wearable technology. As part of the playlist, participants are guided through a series of digital curricula covering the basics of electronic circuitry, fashion design, and garment construction. Each module is designed to allow participants to complete one additional step in the creation of their garment, and required supplies are provided at no cost to participants. Regular drop-in meetups at the participating centers provide opportunities for youth to connect with peers and mentors to demonstrate their learning, get feedback, and receive face-to-face instruction and guidance. The playlist culminates in the creation of the final garment which uses conductive thread, LEDs, and a variety of switches, potentiometers, and coin cell and solar-panel batteries to fashion cuffs, garments, and backpacks that light up, react to instructions from computers, and switch on and off. A makers-event fashion show featuring judges from the participating design institutes is the capstone event. By engaging in this playlist, youth develop a deep understanding about electricity and circuits that are applicable in a number of career paths, and learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies while developing the skills needed to define and solve complex design problems.

Example #4: STEAM

As part of a city-wide summer learning program dedicated to STEAM programming, five museums coordinate their learning content around the topic of water under the theme, “Blue Planet,” and create a series of digital badges that mark learning pathways through this content. Each museum develops a playlist that represents distinct approaches to the Blue Planet theme: a museum that specializes in art walks youth through photo and video production as they tell different stories about water; the natural history museum focuses on curriculum aligned to National Science Education Standards; a third museum has a dedicated engineering track where youth build structures to direct and contain water; a history museum runs a young adult science fiction and dystopian writer’s camp with a focus on climate change; and the aquarium offers a claymation workshop where youth create sea creatures and stop motion video shorts featuring their creations. Different curricula are adapted to two age groups: middle school and high school. Learners can complete one playlist and earn a digital badge, or complete all five playlists to earn the final Blue Planet badge. At the end of the summer, youth can present their work at a Blue Planet festival that celebrates youth creativity and innovation in the arts and sciences. Blue Planet badge earners are invited to come back and work as interns.

Example #5: Math, Engineering, and Physics

A school district in a rural town creates a playlist to supplement traditional high school in-class physics and mathematics curricula. Designed to walk students through the creation of a Rube Goldberg machine, the playlist provides opportunities for students to deepen in-class learning and demonstrate skills through the completion of a series of sequenced learning modules hosted on the district’s online learning platform. Digital content modules address research methodologies for ideation, online physics, mathematics, and engineering principles, as well as providing a guide for model development, prototyping, and product pitching. District-wide, in-class maker labs that invite external community design resources round out the playlist, offering opportunities for peer collaboration and team building and effectively connecting school-based practices to resources, institutions, and opportunities beyond the school’s walls. The playlist culminates in a district-wide competition where students pitch a working prototype of their machine to a jury of professional creative practitioners that will offer feedback and awards for especially noteworthy productions.

Example #6: Cyberbullying

A non-profit LGBTQ advocacy organization has created a cyber-bullying toolkit targeted to high schoolers. They hope that creating an online playlist will substantially broaden their reach and impact, enabling them to reach a national audience. Playlist development, which involves youth participants as playlist co-designers, includes the digitization of an existing toolkit curriculum that explains individual rights and legal protections for LGBTQ youth; addresses how to protect privacy online, controls digital footprints, and navigates the web safely; considers what constitutes cyberbullying and offers strategies for what to do if youth experience it; and provides support resources for bullied youth.

In addition to sequencing the online curriculum, the playlist also includes a series of online peer discussions moderated by professional youth advocacy experts where learners consider specific fictional scenarios and solutions and engage in dialog around shared experiences. The culmination of these online events is a collaborative storytelling and video production module that enables youth to design and create a series of videos that provide tips on how to identify, combat, and cope with cyber-bullying and offers peer guidance on how to be a strong ally to LGBTQ peers. These videos are designed to demonstrate learning and are also incorporated into the playlist curricula, becoming key resources for future learners. Optional related playlists include a sequenced guide to creating a LGBTQ-straight alliance in school and a playlist for straight students on how to be an effective ally for LGBTQ youth. Completion of the playlist deepens digital literacies on how to navigate the web safely and in privacy-protecting ways; introduces important legal concepts; teaches video production and storytelling skills; and encourages learners to interact collaboratively with peers and mentors to put web resources to good social and civic purpose that promotes a culture of civility, equality and respect online.

Example #7: Digital Citizenship and Civic Engagement

A California school district has partnered with a well-established youth-serving after school program and the statewide student poll worker program to create a playlist that is designed to encourage students to become civically engaged, active voters once they are old enough to cast a ballot. The playlist combines sequenced an online civics curriculum with modules on mobile app development. As users walk through the playlist they learn about electoral history, politics, process, as well as key contemporary political issues that pertain to youth. Users put this learning into practice during completion of the the second half of the playlist, which guides users through the development of a mobile app, from paper prototyping to coding to user testing. The playlist culminates in the creation of a working app that enables a user to look-up a candidate’s stance on any number of issues that pertain to youth and to find their local polling place, as well as unlocking a real world opportunity to work at the polls on Election Day.

Example #8: Teacher Lifelong Learning

A group of teachers want to develop a playlist that brings other teachers together to learn about questing and role-playing games as a method to improve lesson plans and teaching in the classroom. Teachers want to give their kids challenges. They want to develop lesson plans that are fun, inspire creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and promote collaboration. They want students to be challenged at first, then struggle to find the answers, and ultimately overcome obstacles, while at the same time enjoying these challenges and working collaboratively with peers. These same qualities exist in popular role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, an inexpensive, paper and dice game that shares similar skills with designing fun and effective lesson plans. This playlist introduces teachers to the game, making comparisons to lesson plan development through the principles of game play, role play, and questing. Completion of this playlist deepens an understanding of collaboration skills, leadership, interest-driven learning, and the role of creativity and imagination in designing lesson plans. Teachers can earn several badges as they work through the playlist, culminating in a Dungeon Master badge when teachers host a game and share a lesson plan inspired by what they learned.