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EL3 History and Background

The creation of EL3 is a collaboration between Northwestern University’s Digital Youth Network (DYN) and EvanSTEM, a project within Evanston Skokie School District 65. Evanston’s EL3 platform is based upon Chicago’s City of Learning platform that was created by DYN in 2013.

DYN grew out of the MacArthur Foundation’s 2008 five-year, $50 million Digital Media and Learning Initiative, which awarded DYN founder Dr. Nichole Pinkard a generous grant to study how digital media affects literacy.

DYN is expanding its reach in order to become more accessible to a wider audience. But the mission to address one of the nation’s most significant and enduring questions remains the same:

How do we produce reliably excellent learning opportunities for children growing up in urban America?

Chicago’s version of EL3 is called the Chicago City of Learning (CCOL), which grew out of the 2013 Chicago Summer of Learning, when more than 100 youth-serving organizations joined together to make their programs visible. Youth participants earned digital badges that provided permanent recognition of their achievements through their activities. Now, in 2019, CCOL operates year-round and partners with more than 120 youth-serving Chicago organizations, and continues to help youth to find and record their interests and achievements.

As the founder of DYN and the lead for the development of CCOL, Dr. Nichole Pinkard (Profile) and her team at Northwestern’s OCEP are the principal drivers in the creation and development of EL3.

Working in partnership to design and implement the EL3 platform is EvanSTEM, Evanston’s STEM ecosystem housed within Evanston-Skokie School District 65 and led by Kirby Girolami Callam. EvanSTEM is a collective impact effort of STEM educators, program providers, industry leaders and professionals coordinating and collaborating to increase underrepresented student success in STEM programs, courses and ultimately careers.

Core to Evanston’s ecosystem are the Evanston Public Library, the YMCA MetaMedia, Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.), Family Focus and Northwestern University -- five providers working jointly to create engaging accessible STEM programs for underrepresented youth. Via EL3, these youth are now producing, documenting, archiving and sharing their ideas and creations across programs and classrooms.