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I’m a learning scientist focused on building stronger, more equitable education institutions as they adapt to an evolving digital world. I engage in scholarly research, as well as organizational strategy and technical assistance.


I specialize in the intersection of three areas:

  • digital culture and learning

  • youth pathways and cross-setting learning ecosystems

  • organizational networks, collective action and institutional change

Across these areas, I work to generate new insights into social theory around learning, culture and institutions while also producing designs, principles and strategies that drive impact. I approach research through lenses of collaborative design, democratic participation and joint work across diverse stakeholders.


For more detailed information, see my CV.


Digital Culture and Learning

Shifts in digital culture create new possibilities for designing learning environments, and also the teaching and learning of new literacies and technical skills. My work has focused on theorizing emergent critical computational literacies, constructionist pedagogies around making, computing and digital design, and teaching systems thinking through digital production. 


Youth Pathways and Cross-setting Learning Ecosystems

Youth learning around technology is not bound to any one context, it takes place across multiple settings including home, school, peer groups, online, and in informal, community-based organizations. My work has focused on how continuities and discontinuities around youth learning pathways occur, and the critical role of learning brokers in supporting equitable outcomes.


Organizational Networks, Collective Action and Institutional Change

In a changing landscape around learning and technology, youth serving organizations often struggle to respond and adapt, and new institutional forms are emerging. My work centers on ways that organizational networks operate and how they can be designed to support institutional change within and across organizations. 


Methods and Approaches

In order to support work in these areas, I engage in approaches rooted in traditions of participatory and collaborative design, democratic participation, research-practice partnerships, improvement science, and design-based implementation research. Effective social change is rooted in collective agency, and I approach my work with this as a guiding value.



Funding for my work has been provided by The Spencer Foundation, The National Science Foundation, Google, The Wallace Foundation, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Mozilla Foundation, The Hive Digital Media and Learning Fund, The MacArthur Foundation, Capital One, and the Susan Crown Exchange.



My partners have included the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, The GovLab, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Mozilla Foundation, Hive NYC Learning Network, CSforALL, Scope of Work, MOUSE, Beam Center, Institute of Play, National Writing Project, Digital Youth Network, Frameworks Institute, PBS News Hour, UNICEF, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.


Areas of expertise

Learning sciences, youth development, youth leadership, new media & learning, digital literacies, critical literacies, computing/computer science education, open source culture, youth civic engagement, DIY and Maker culture in education, design thinking, design-based learning, constructionist pedagogy, creativity and new media, systems thinking education, informal learning, out of school learning organizations, district systems change, organizational theory, innovation networks, networked improvement, organizational collaboration, collective action, spread and scale of learning innovations, improvement science, design-based research, design-based implementation research, research-practice partnerships.


Rafi Santo, PhD, is a learning scientist focused on the intersection of digital culture, education, and institutional change. As principal researcher at Telos Learning, he partners with education institutions, foundations, intermediaries, coalitions and government agencies to generate insights through basic and applied research, develop novel strategies for impact, and create new designs for equitable learning. He has studied, collaborated with, and facilitated a range of organizational networks related to digital learning, computing, and technology in education including the Mozilla Hive NYC Learning Network, CSforALL, NASA, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. His scholarship spans multiple levels of activity—from understanding youth learning pathways across settings to investigating policy implementation and organizational network design—in order to develop practical insights that come from a holistic perspective. His work has been supported by the Spencer Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation, the Susan Crown Exchange, Google, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Rafi holds a PhD in Learning and Developmental Sciences from Indiana University.

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