An Approach to Using Log Data to Understand and Support 21st Century Learning Activity in K-12 Blended Learning Environments

Caitlin K. Martin
Denise Nacu
Nichole Pinkard


Online environments can cultivate what have been referred to as 21st century skills and capabilities, as youth contribute, pursue, share, and interact around work and ideas. Such environments also hold great potential for addressing digital divides related to the development of such skills by connecting youth in areas with fewer resources and opportunities to social and material supports for learning. However, even as there is an increasing attention to the importance of 21st century skills for productive participation in education and the workforce and as online environments for K-12 learning are escalating in both their design and their adoption into formal and informal education spaces, there is still relatively little known about how to effectively measure these sorts of competencies and how to interpret learning activity in K12 online systems. In this paper, we offer a generalizable approach for looking at learning activities related to twenty-first century skills within an online environment, specifically focusing on evidence of creative production, self-directed learning, and social learning. Our framework of analysis was developed with empirical data from mixed ethnographic and learning analytics methodologies. We share our methods for operationalizing log data to look at youth activity in these three areas at a system level using automated log data, then provide results from a unique classroom context alongside self-report survey data, and finally explore the individual level through teacher and learner case studies from the cohort that identify these learners and their use of the system in more personal and contextual focus. We close with a discussion of limitations to this approach, but also why this exploratory work is necessary in order to build better systems that can support opportunities for the development of twenty-first century skills for all young people, and to provide educators, designers, and district decision-makers language to discuss and select networked systems that best match their learning goals and individual learner communities.

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