About the Challenge

An opportunity and a challenge

Connected learning harnesses the tremendous potential of the web as an open-ended laboratory for learning and creating. Opportunities to connect learning to passions and interests — through school, after-school programs, museums, libraries, community centers, youth organizations, colleges and universities, or online peer networks — make learning relevant to real life and real work.

With the opportunities of connected learning, however, comes the challenge to create and maintain trust in constantly changing digital environments. In an open online world where data sharing can enhance learning opportunities but privacy and safety must be protected, effective connected learning environments require systems, tools, and policies that foster trust for networks of learners of all ages as well as for parents, mentors, and educators.

Connected learning environments that engender trust require systems that:

  • establish optimal ways to share and keep information secure and private for learners of all ages, parents of youth, and learning institutions;
  • optimize the use of data to support learning objectives while maintaining appropriate safeguards to protect learners’ privacy;
  • privilege the choices of learners (and, as appropriate, their parents) in determining if and how their data is stored, used, and shared;
  • create ways for learners to access multiple platforms and use numerous products, services and devices from different commercial entities that can “talk” to each other;
  • agree to open standard technical specifications for how information is shared and protected;
  • facilitate a culture of inclusivity, civility, and respect for diversity through tools, practices, and policies that protect all learners, regardless of age, from  emotional and physical bullying;
  • communicate in transparent, user-friendly language how information and data are being collected, stored, and used; and
  • provide learning content that addresses digital literacies and online risk prevention strategies.

Learners develop trust in these environments when they can:

  • access online resources and platforms that enable them to connect safely and easily with others who support their learning;
  • acquire the relevant digital media and social literacy skills required to take full advantage of online connected learning opportunities so teachers, educators, and learners can collaborate with peers and mentors to deepen learning and gain real-world experiences;
  • pursue their interests and easily share their ideas widely and seamlessly while controlling their data across different learning networks;
  • engage in connected learning environments that facilitate respect and civility through tools, practices, and policies protecting them emotionally and physically from bullying;
  • understand how information and data are created, stored, and shared and have confidence that they are secure, protected, and used appropriately and as intended; and
  • possess the skills and tools to understand, make wise decisions about, and respond appropriately to the risks they may encounter online.


The Trust Challenge

The Trust Challenge is the fifth Digital Media and Learning Competition — an open, international invitation to museums, libraries, school districts, schools, community organizations, app developers, researchers, colleges and universities, and other institutional/organizational partners willing to create collaborations or alliances that address existing real-world challenges to trust in connected learning environments.

Successful applicants will develop digital tools — apps, badge systems, data management platforms, online learning content, etc. — that engender trust, safety, and privacy in connected learning environments, and that empower learners to connect and learn anywhere, anytime in ways that are equitable, social, participatory, and interest-driven.

These scalable, innovative, and transformative exemplars of connected learning must include open standards, or commonly agreed upon interoperable standards for accessing, sharing, and protecting information across multiple platforms and services that “talk” to each other. Successful Trust Challenge proposals must bridge technological solutions with complex social considerations around trust and open standards, including how to:

  • design systems and digital environments that engender trust for networks of learners of all ages, parents of youth, and educators;
  • provide learners with the tools, skills, and knowledge to know when a system is safe, to control their data, and to confidently use the web and its resources;
  • encourage learners to interact collaboratively with peers and mentors in productive ways, by putting web resources and networks to good social, civic and academic purposes;
  • promote a culture of civility and respect online, enabling deeper and more supportive, trusted engagement among learners so that they become responsible creators and stewards of an open, inviting, and egalitarian web; and
  • engender respectful use and sharing of online personal data so that learners understand how their data is used by other people, corporations, and governments, and what the consequences of sharing their data can be.

The Competition is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and administered by HASTAC through a grant to the University of California, Irvine.

See the Challenge Details page for more details.

About the Digital Media and Learning Competition

The Digital Media and Learning Competition is a program designed to find and to inspire the most novel uses of new media in support of connected learning. Over the past five years, the Competition has awarded $10 million to more than 100 projects — including games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, social networks, and digital badge platforms — that explore how technologies are changing the way people learn and participate in daily life. The Competition is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through a grant to the University of California, Irvine, and is administered by HASTAC.

The MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation launched its five-year, now more than $150 million Digital Media and Learning initiative in 2006 to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way people, especially young people, learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. Answers are critical to developing educational and other social institutions that can meet the needs of this and future generations.

The Digital Media and Learning initiative is marshaling what is already known about the field and seeding innovation for continued growth. Initial grants have supported research projects, design studies, pilot programs, and responses to policy implications. The MacArthur Foundation is supporting the Digital Media and Learning Competition as part of its Digital Media and Learning initiative.


HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, Technology Alliance and Collaboratory; “haystack”) is an open alliance of more than 14,000 humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to change the way we teach and learn. Since 2002, HASTAC has served as a community of connection where members share news, tools, research, insights, and projects to promote engaged learning for a global society. Issues of access and equality are as important to HASTAC’s mission as the latest technological  innovations; creative contribution is as important as critical thinking.

Infrastructure and administrative support for the Digital Media and Learning Competition is provided by HASTAC teams based at the University of California Humanities Research Institute and Duke University under the founding leadership of Cathy N. Davidson (The Graduate Center, CUNY, and Duke University) and David Theo Goldberg (Director, UCHRI) through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  Additional support for other HASTAC initiatives is provided by Duke University,  the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), the Graduate Center, City University of New York, the National Science Foundation, and other member institutions.