Leveling Up: Connected Mentor Learning in a Digital Media Production After-School Space





mentor learning, connected learning, professional development, interest-powered learning environments, urban education


This article introduces mirrored practice of leveling up as a model for educator learning grounded in connected learning and the connected mentor framework. Our purpose is to introduce this model and share examples of how it can be enacted. We argue that the model is a rich and successful way for youth development professionals to expand their capacities as educators and to support expansive possibilities for young people’s learning. The model supports all educators’ learning and growth, but it is particularly applicable to mentors working in interest-driven, informal learning environments like makerspaces and YOUmedia learning labs. The model is drawn from our analysis of 2 years of ethnographic observations in an after-school digital design studio housed in an urban public high school in Chicago. We describe mirrored practice as the mentors using the same principles and tools to learn that their students utilized. In the model, leveling up means that both students and mentors are supported in constantly moving towards progressively complex tasks, knowledge, and understanding. Methods of data collection include video- and audio-taped observations and interviews with digital media mentors.

Author Biography

Nathan C. Phillips, University of Illinois at Chicago

Assistant Professor, Literacy, Language, and Culture

Department of Curriculum and Instruction


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