Who will I be this year?

My friend Little Willow doesn’t make New Year’s Resolutions in January. She makes them on her birthday, which is not in January.

I like to set intentions lots of different times: in January. In March, when the astrological year begins. At the start of the school year. With each new moon. And, yes, on my birthday.

My birthday was yesterday, and I spent it packing up the last stuff from my brother and Mom’s apartment to move them back into the closest thing I have to a childhood home (where I lived from ages 13 – 18), having lunch, playing video games, and having a much better day than I feared I would, but I didn’t have the oomph to set intentions.

Today I’m asking myself who I want to be this year.

I want to be someone who takes care of herself, unapologetically, and who understands that there is no one in her immediate environment who would deny her the ability to take care of herself. (It’s easy for me to think that self-care needs to fall by the wayside because I’m a mom, but I’m at a point where that’s just not true anymore, so I need to not let it be an excuse for neglecting my own needs.)

I want to be someone who simultaneously understands that she is a person of value just by virtue of existing, but also contributes to keeping her family and household going.

I want to be someone who is invested in her community. (My family gave me a membership to the Durham Co-op Market for my birthday and shopping there and participating in the Co-op is one way in which I can really support my community.)

I want to be someone who makes things for pleasure.

I want to be someone who continues to live a life that is more for living than for documenting, but also be someone who documents her thoughts and understandings both to share with others and so that she can reflect on them later.

Who do you want to be?

What would you like me to write more about?

I love that Ton Zijlstra asked his readers a few years ago

What would you like me to write more about?

I want to blog more and to use the time when I need a break in the middle of an academic writing sprint to write other stuff. So I’m asking you to answer the same question for me. You can answer publicly or privately, and you should feel free to include fanfic prompts in your suggestions.

(And a note for Sandra, you don’t have to answer, because I know and I promise I’m working on it.)

I should mention that it’s my birthday today and answering this would be a great gift from you to me.

I’ll update this post with answers as they come in. Let me know if you want yours to remain anonymous.

The Kimberly Hirsh Eating Plan

Hello, friends! Today I’m going to write up an idealistic eating plan for myself based on what I’ve learned over the past four years about what’s manageable for me. This is as much to remind me as it is to share with you, because it turns out my primary audience for my blog is future me. So future me, here’s what you need to eat.

Requirements I’ve placed on this eating plan:

  • Must be gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free
  • Needs to distinguish between warm-weather and cool-weather foods
  • Needs to have options for both low-energy and high-energy days

Tricky things:

  • I’m really particular about vegetable textures and can never remember which ones I like or how I like them prepared.

Warm-Weather Eating Plan

Breakfast

  • Smoothie: non-dairy milk + fruit + greens + protein powder + fiber powder + greens powder + ice (homemade or storebought: e. g., Smoothie King’s Vegan Dark Chocolate Banana or one of Jamba Juice’s Plant-Based Smoothies)
  • Dairy-free yogurt and granola (on a high-energy day or a day when I have plenty of time, yogurt from a big tub; on a low-energy or rushed day, yogurt in a small package)

Lunch

Dinner

  • Grilled meat + rice/quinoa/sweet potato + veggies
  • Something in the Instant Pot

Cold-Weather Eating Plan

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
  • Toast with nut butter and fruit

Lunch

  • Soup (homemade or Amy’s brand)
  • Leftovers from dinner

Dinner

  • Baked meat + rice/quinoa/sweet potato + veggies
  • Something in the Instant Pot

All-Weather Snack Options

  • Nuts and fruit
  • Larabars

All-Weather Beverage Options

  • Still water with ice
  • Sparkling water
  • Chai tea + stevia + non-dairy milk
  • Coffee + stevia + non-dairy milk
  • In true desperate times when caffeine is required and tea and coffee don’t appeal, Zevia
  • As a rare treat, Izze

Next Steps

I’ve struggled in the past with actually eating the salads I prepare and figuring out how to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. My next steps are to begin trying different vegetables prepared in different ways and tracking how I like them.

This is an ever-evolving meal plan, so expect to hear more as I update it!

Constructing websites as constructing ourselves: Thinking out loud

This is just me, thinking out loud, so expect it to be rough, incomplete, unpolished. But I thought it was a train of thought worth stopping, so here we go.

When you’re driving down a city street at a cool 35 mph while “Belle” plays on repeat one for the 1000th+ time in recent months and your toddler is in the back seat sulking because Daddy has to go to work today and separation from Daddy is painful, your mind wanders. It does if you’re me, anyway. Mine wandered to the way in which the only thing I seem interested in besides sleep lately is tweaking my personal website. Then I thought:

As I’m building my website, it kind of feels like I’m building myself.

Identity construction is kind of an obsession of mine, specifically the idea that we create our own identities through narratives we tell about ourselves. Sure, there are identities the world forces upon us, but our narratives interact with those. Most of my work in my doctoral program has touched on identity in one way or another:

  • I wrote about the maker movement in libraries and found Breanne Litts’s Activity-Identity-Community framework, which posits that the development of maker identities is one of the pillars of the maker movement.
  • I wrote about how libraries can leverage tabletop roleplaying games to support teen identity development (in revision for Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults).
  • I touched on the process of developing an identity as an improviser as a key part of participating in the improv comedy community.
  • I wrote about how horizontal learning enables young people to leverage their out-of-school identities for academic success.
  • I wrote about how young people imagine their possible future selves.

And my favorite fictional works often have to deal with reconciling different pieces of one’s identity: Spider-Man, Sailor Moon, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all come to mind. (And the X-Men; I was just reading an old Chris Claremont book – Uncanny X-Men #129, 130 – somewhere in there – where Nightcrawler thinks about how he’s decided not to disguise himself as a normal human; I think there’s something to unpack there.) So, I guess superheroes are what I’m talking about, and I’m sure lots of work has already been done on how superhero identity plays out, including Brownie & Graydon’s book.

So I was thinking about how building my website feels like building myself, and I thought… hasn’t this been true since I first started building websites in 1995? I got my first personal domain in 2001, and building an online space to represent myself has always meant choosing what I want the world to know about me, who I want to seem to be, and by defining who I want to seem to be, am I not defining who I want to actually be?

Then I thought about social media and all the ways we’ve used them to represent ourselves, and all the ways that has gotten away from us. Before we knew how bad Facebook was, when my husband would add a new friend on Facebook, he would immediately peruse their profile to find out what books and movies they liked; what we like contributes to the picture of who we are, but what we want people to know we like does even more so, I think.

My train of thought loses steam here, but I’m definitely interested in digging into the intersection between technology and identity more. Our tools shape not only how we think, but who we are.

Project READY is live!

Still blogging infrequently and mostly absent from social media, but this is a huge piece of work. I hope to write up some reflections on what I learned through this process before too long.

Dear Colleagues-

Today, we are excited to announce that the Project READY (Reimagining Equity and Access for Diverse Youth) online racial equity curriculum is live and accessible at ready.web.unc.edu. Learn more at Booth 2650 at ALA Annual in Washington, DC.

A historic milestone was quietly reached in the American public school system during the 2014-2015 school year: for the first time in history,youth of color made up the majority of students attending U.S. public schools. Creating inclusive and equitable school and public library programs for Black youth, Indigenous youth, and Youth of Color (BIYOC) requires knowledge about topics such as race and racism, implicit bias and microaggressions, cultural competence and culturally sustaining pedagogy, and equity and social justice. Research shows, however, that few library and information science (LIS) master’s programs include these topics in their curriculum.A recent survey focused specifically on early career youth services librarians found that only 26.8% of respondents said that social justice was included in a substantive way in their master’s curriculum; 37.2% said that cultural competency was substantively included, and 41.8% said that equity and inclusion was substantively included. Related to these findings, a majority (54.08%) of respondents said that their master’s programs did not prepare them well for working with youth of color and other marginalized youth.

In 2016, The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University, and the Wake County (NC) Public School System (WCPSS) were awarded a three-year Continuing Education Project grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to develop Project READY to address this existing gap in professional development opportunities for youth services library staff.  The curriculum aims to:

  • introduce youth services library staff to research in areas such as race and racism, critical theory, and culturally responsive or sustaining pedagogy.
  • establish a shared understanding of foundational concepts and issues related to race, racism, and racial equity.
  • encourage self-reflection related to race and racial identity for both BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and white library staff in public and school libraries.
  • amplify the work of practitioners and scholars who are providing inclusive and culturally responsive services for youth of color and Indigenous youth.
  • provide concrete strategies for creating and/or improving library programs and services for Black youth, Indigenous youth, and children and teens of color.

The curriculum consists of 27 modules, designed to be worked through by individuals or small groups. Modules are organized into three sequential sections. The first section (Foundations) focuses on basic concepts and issues that are fundamental to understanding race and racism and their impact on library services. The second section (Transforming Practice) explores how these foundational concepts relate to and can be applied in library environments. Finally, the third section (Continuing the Journey) explores how library professionals can sustain racial equity work and grow personally and professionally in this area after completing the curriculum.

The curriculum represents the work of 40 researchers, practitioners, administrators, and policymakers, and youth from a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. It is grounded in the work of scholars of color and Indigenous scholars who have thought and written about issues related to institutional and individual racism, equity, inclusion, and social justice.

We hope this curriculum will benefit and inform the work of the many organizations and individuals that are working to improve the quality of life and educational opportunities for BIYOC.

We will be promoting the curriculum on the exhibit hall at ALA’s annual conference in Washington, DC – Booth 2650. We invite you to stop by and preview Project READY!

Sincerely,

Sandra Hughes-Hassell, PhD
Professor
She/Her/Hers

Casey H. Rawson, PhD
Teaching Assistant Professor
She/Her/Hers

Kimberly Hirsh, MAT, MSLS
PhD Student
She/Her/Hers

My work is to take care of myself.

I’m still on hiatus from social media activity and comments on my blog posts are still closing after only 1 day. But there are some things that I want to capture in this space immediately, rather than waiting until I “come back,” and there are some things that I think could benefit other people by being public, so I’m going ahead and posting. This is one of those things.

I went to the doctor yesterday. I needed refills on my prescriptions. And I’d also noticed recently that a number of chronic illness symptoms had crept up on me slowly over the past… year and a half? Six months, at least. So I went in expecting to discuss those symptoms with her.

When she asked how I was, I gave her the list of symptoms:

  • Puffy face
  • Missing outer third of eyebrow
  • Low body temperature
  • Intense fatigue (can’t put away laundry or cook)
  • Brain fog (Only about 2 good hours a day)
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Coarse hair
  • Hair loss
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Worsening vision
  • Headaches
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Acne
  • Hirsutism
  • Tinnitus
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Sore throat
  • Waking with a racing heart

I said, “These symptoms are consistent with when my thyroid hormones have been off in the past.”

“Your thyroid numbers are good,” she told me. I looked at them. She was right. They weren’t just normal; they were in what I know to be the optimal range for me. They were excellent.

I’d noticed that a lot of these symptoms were also consistent with diabetes. “Your blood sugar is at the high end of normal, but it’s lower than it was six months ago. It’s moving in the right direction.” So I’m still prediabetic. But not yet diabetic.

This is where most doctors would tell me I was fine, or I need to eat more protein, or it’s because I’m the mom of a young kid.

“But you’re having these symptoms, so you’re not okay,” she said. I love my doctor. “Have you noticed any pattern?”

I told her no. They have snuck up on me, sort of one at a time over months and months, and so I haven’t been tracking them.

“Well, they could be a food sensitivity. Or another autoimmune disease.” There’s a high level of comorbidity with autoimmune diseases, such that having one makes you a lot more likely to later acquire another. “But I don’t even know what to test without more information. So come back in two to four weeks with some data and we’ll decide what to test.”

I really wanted to be able to just increase the dose of one of my current medications to fix this, but apparently, that’s not an option. Straightforward dietary changes that have helped in the past, like cutting out gluten and corn, which I’d been doing for the past two months, didn’t seem to be helping. So here we are. I’m spending the next month collecting data on everything I can think of, looking for relationships. I’m tracking which symptoms I have on what days, what I eat, how I sleep, and anything else that comes to mind; the app I’m using, Flaredown, lets you add tags freely so I can track things like travel and even whether my kid naps.

Esmé Weijun Wang, who writes a blog for ambitious people dealing with limitations, writes:

My work, although it may not look like work to most, is to take care of myself. I must care for my health with as much attention as I once paid to the documents I was hired to edit, or to the long hours spent at the office on Saturdays. Aggressive pursuit of one’s ambition is a skillset that, I hope, has not left me. In the meantime, I am aggressively pursuing a dream of recovery.

Similarly, I’m going to collect data on my own health with the attention I would use to collect data for a study, to analyze my own journal with the same tools I would use to conduct content analysis.

I don’t have a pat conclusion to this. I’m disappointed it’s not a straightforward fix. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to work something out to help me. I’m relieved that I don’t need to make any drastic changes to my diet before I’m done traveling at the end of the month.

And I’m tired. I’m very tired.

I thought to myself yesterday, “I can’t believe that I’ve got another fifty or sixty years in this meat cage, dealing with these flare ups.” But I do. I will. And I’ll get through it, with the support of my family and friends and science.

❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️

My writing process: Structure is central.

A quick note about my own writing and the way I’m working these days. I plan to do a more extensive post on this soon.

Way back in 2001 or 2002, I interviewed Joss Whedon. The questions were submitted to me by Bronzers. My lovely Bronzer friend andyourlittledogtoo asked, “How long did it take to go from the conception of ‘Restless‘ until the finished product? And can you explain your writing process?” “Restless” is the finale of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it’s one of my favorite episodes. You can read more about it just about anywhere on the internet, and you should… But ANYWAY, Joss’s answer has stuck with me for 17, 18 years now:

My writing process is about two things: Structure and emotion. I’m incredibly strict about working out a tight structure, every piece fitting, so there are not too many surprises in a first draft. But it all stems from emotion. What emotion are we in love with here? What do we need to feel? What do they (the characters) need to feel (a dif ques). We build from that. with RESTLESS, i had to throw structure out the window. It was a poem. Though I knew what it meant and what the dramatic flow was, I literally just had to sit there (or lie there – I got my appendix out during that script) and wait for the next thing. It was very liberating for me. When i was BEGGED for an oultline for act 4, i made one — and then ccouldn’t write a word, because it was wrong. Had to wait for the flow.

I think a lot of people write first and structure second. I don’t know how common this is in academic writing. I’ve always been a structure-first kind of gal, though that structure can take various forms. I used to be all-in on outlines, but my professor Barbara Wildemuth really hit mind-maps hard, and now I tend to bounce between synthetic notes, mind-maps, outlines, and memos. And the point when I transition from one to the other, and when I know I’m ready to begin drafting, has everything to do with structure.

Until I know the structure of a piece, I just write in little chunks. As I write, I re-arrange. I toy with new structures. Color-coding with pens is involved. I want to document this piece of my process better in the future, so as I begin my next lit review chapter, I’ll try to.

It feels good to remember that one of the writers who has influenced me the most works mostly from structure first. (How much of “Restless” was induced by the painkillers Joss was on for his appendectomy recovery? We may never know.) It feels good to know that there are as many ways of writing as there are writers.

Memo: Connected Learning, Libraries, and Change

The elements of connected learning (interests, relationships, opportunities, sponsorship of youth interests, shared practices, shared purpose, connections across settings, and a focus on equity) illuminate the ways in which connected learning already happens in libraries and the ways in which libraries need to change to expand their support of connected learning.

Libraries have traditionally supported personalized, self-directed, learner-centered, and interest-driven learning (Braun, Hartman, Hughes-Hassell, & Kumasi, 2014; Hoffman, Subramaniam, Kawas, Scaff, & Davis, 2016; Ito & Martin, Fall 2013). They also have facilitated relationships, sanctioning “intergenerational contact centered on youth interest discovery” (Braun et al., 2014, p. 9) and serving as “inclusive spaces that bring many different groups together” (Hoffman et al., 2016, p. 11). As libraries have transitioned from spaces that serve as warehouses for physical resources to spaces where teens can “build skills, develop understanding, create and share, and overcome adversity” (Braun et al., 2014, p. 4) through the proliferation of learning labs and makerspaces, they have embraced shared practices, especially production-centered practices for knowledge creation and sharing. Their position as a third space – neither school/work nor home – allows libraries to facilitate connections across settings, bridging activities from different spheres of learning (Ito & Martin, Fall 2013).

Libraries traditionally have had and continue to maintain “strong ties to non-dominant communities and families” (Braun et al., 2014, p. 9). Because members of nondominant populations perceive libraries “as lifelines to learning, technology, and information… libraries are well-positioned to not only connect formal and informal learning but also to do this for the populations that are most marginalized in terms of traditional academic programs and indicators” (Ito & Martin, Fall 2013, p. 30). These relationships with nondominant communities support libraries working toward the connected learning agenda of expanding access to connected learning experiences to people who may not have them without community and institutional support.

While libraries already support connected learning in many ways, they may need to undergo further shifts to expand their support for connected learning. Library staff must consider not only the physical and digital resources that support interest-driven learning, but also human resources (Braun et al., 2014), building relationships “among learners, between learners and experts or mentors, and between learners and people outside the learning context” (Hoffman et al., 2016, p. 17). In order to help learners to connect their interests and relationships with academic, career, and civic opportunities, library workers must reconsider their roles, learning to consider themselves sponsors and mentors rather than experts or authority figures (Braun et al., 2014; Hoffman et al., 2016, p. 17). Library policies for use of technology and space may need to change to enable learners to engage in shared practices, socializing, collaborating, and publishing their work online (Ito & Martin, Fall 2013). Libraries may also need to change how they evaluate the impact of their services and programs; traditional measures of impact, especially quantitative measures of participation, may not be sufficient to capture the impact of connected learning (Hoffman et al., 2016). Measures of connected learning need to capture the way learners move with their learning across settings; setting specific desired outcomes can facilitate capturing evidence of and communicating the impact of a program.

This shift to full support of connected learning “demands new competencies from youth-serving librarians that graduate programs in library and information science do not always provide, and may require a shift in thinking for some librarians and outside partners” (Hoffman et al., 2016, p. 19). Hoffman and colleagues identify the following “four categories of interrelated knowledge and skill sets… that librarians must have to promote connected learning among youth”:

…they must be ready and willing to transition from expert to facilitator…
…[they] need to apply interdisciplinary approaches to establish equal partnership and learning opportunities that facilitate discovery and use of digital media…
…they should be able to develop dynamic partnerships and collaborations that reach beyond the library into their communities…
…they should be able to evaluate connected learning programs and utilize the evaluation results to strengthen learning in libraries… (Hoffman et al., 2016, p. 19)

The need for training to build these competencies can be met by in-house professional development, programs provided by professional organizations, open online learning resources, and formal educational experiences. The ConnectedLib toolkit (“ConnectedLib,” n.d.) is one example of an open online learning resource directed at meeting this need, while the University of Maryland’s Youth Experience Graduate Certificate program (“YX @ UMD – Youth Experience Post-Masters Certificate Program at Maryland’s iSchool,” n.d.) is an example of a formal educational experience designed to build these competencies.

References

Braun, L. W., Hartman, M. L., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Kumasi, K. (2014). The future of library services for and with teens: A call to action. Chicago: Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Retrieved from www.ala.org/yaforum/sites/ala.org.yaforum/files/content/YALSA_nationalforum_Final_web_0.pdf
ConnectedLib. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from connectedlib.github.io/
Hoffman, K. M., Subramaniam, M., Kawas, S., Scaff, L., & Davis, K. (2016). Connected libraries: Surveying the current landscape and charting a path to the future. College Park, MD; Seattle, WA: The ConnectedLib Project. Retrieved from connectedlib.test.ischool.uw.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ConnectedLibraries-SurveyingtheCurrentLandscape-and-ChartingthePathtotheFuture.pdf
Ito, M., & Martin, C. (Fall 2013). Connected Learning and the Future of Libraries. Young Adult Library Services, 12(1), 29–32.
YX @ UMD – Youth Experience Post-Masters Certificate Program at Maryland’s iSchool. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from yx.umd.edu/

When words won’t go in your brain

I suffer from migraines. I’ve gotten them since I was around 7 years old. There are any number of triggers: changes in barometric pressure, eating MSG, but the most frequent one is hormones. I’ve got one right now, and though I’m not certain, I think it’s probably hormone related.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I couldn’t do anything with a migraine. I had to go right to bed, preferably in a dark and silent room, banishing everyone else. This was before triptans got big, so I just guzzled Coca Cola, took some Percogesic (which researching it I now see is just Tylenol + Benadryl), and hid for twelve hours or so. After twelve hours of solid sleep, I usually felt like new.

As a college student and young professional, I tried Imitrex and some other triptans. They always came with nasty side effects: actually increasing the migraine-related nausea if I didn’t take them fast enough, giving me a weird lockjaw-type feeling but in my whole body. So I still mostly drank some Coke, took some Excedrin Migraine or Tylenol Arthritis Strength, and went to bed.

As a young teacher with a limited amount of sick leave, I couldn’t just go to bed. I worked through these migraines many times, doing what I essentially called “subbing for myself” – tossing my original lesson plan for something I would have been comfortable giving to a sub, and asking my students to please work in silence, in a somewhat darkened classroom.

As a parent, I can’t just go to bed. But also, my migraines aren’t usually as bad now as they used to be. I usually can get through them okay with just being chill. I don’t usually need to just go to bed and be left alone.

Usually.

I have one today. We’re in Day 2. My sweet child keeps asking me “Mommy, is your headache gone?” and it breaks my heart every time I tell him it’s still here. The first time I told him that, he said, “But I kissed your head!” I had to explain that kisses can ameliorate pain, but only sometimes take it away entirely, and this was not one of those times.

(BUT HOW CUTE IS HE?)

Anyway. All this to say: when I feel this way, words won’t go in.

I’ve been trying to read, because that’s one of the two key activities in my day. (The other being writing.) I’ve been trying to review my own notes. I’ve been trying to refresh my memory of the Dublin Core. I tried to watch a video that explained Dublin Core, and the professor’s words wouldn’t go in my brain through auditory means any easier than the DCMI specification’s words would go in visually.

There’s a very light halo on my vision in the eye where the headache sits.

Words can come out, apparently, though analytic ones won’t.

It’s possible fiction could make it in. I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s frustrating.

I guess that’s all I wanted to say, really. It’s frustrating that migraines make me unable to work with words, when words are most of my work.

Memo: Defining Connected Learning

Connected Learning can be conceived of in three ways: as a type of learning experience that occurs spontaneously, as an empirically-derived model or framework for describing that type of experience, and as an agenda for research and design approach for creating learning experiences. The model/framework was first described by Mizuko Ito, Kris Gutierrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, and S. Craig Watkins in their report, Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design (2013).

The Connected Learning framework incorporates three spheres of learning: interest-based learning, peer-based learning, and academic learning (Ito & Martin, Fall 2013). These spheres of learning are derived from the HOMAGO framework outlined in the report, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (Itō et al., 2009). This report draws on three years of “ethnographic investigation of youth new media practice” (p. 2) examining how these practices fit into social and cultural worlds and how they are meaningful in youth’s everyday lives. Ito and colleagues found that youths’ new media practices tended to fall into one of three genres of participation: “hanging out,” a friendship-driven mode of participation, “geeking out,” an interest-driven mode of participation, and “messing around,” a mode of participation that tended to bridge the other two, in which either youth deepen their commitment to particular interests as they engaged in social practices, or in which youth engage in expanded social activity via participating in their current interests. Ito and colleagues found that young people transitioned easily between these three genres of participation.

The HOMAGO framework was derived from a study that was designed to describe current practices, especially in informal learning spaces (Ito et al., 2019). This study was not aimed at creating a design agenda for educational experiences or describing formal learning environments. Ito and colleagues (2009) found, however, that formal learning environments were often cut off from peer-driven or interest-driven learning environments. The Connected Learning environment seeks to incorporate academic, civic, and career opportunities with peer-driven and interest-driven learning, describing and expanding access to a mode of learning in which all three of these spheres overlap (Figure 1).

In its initial iteration, the Connected Learning framework encompassed six Connected Learning principles. The first three incorporated the spheres of learning: peer-supported, interest-powered, and academically-oriented. The other three principles described the kind of environments that tend to promote connected learning experiences: being production-centered, having a shared purpose, and being openly networked.

“Connected learning is a framework under constant development that offers principles and examples to be adapted and remixed rather than a template for programs and activities” (Ito & Martin, Fall 2013, p. 31). In the years since the model’s initial development, it has undergone some changes. A number of studies developed by the Connected Learning Research Network have provided new evidence that contributes to revision and refinement of the model (Arum, Larson, & Meyer, Forthcoming; Ben-Eliyahu, Rhodes, & Scales, 2014; Ching, Santo, Hoadley, & Peppler, 2015; Ito et al., 2019; Larson et al., 2013; Livingstone & Sefton-Green, 2016; Maul et al., 2017; Penuel, Van Horne, Santo, Ching, & Podkul, 2015; Van Horne, Allen, DiGiacomo, Chang-Order, & Van Steenis, 2016; Watkins et al., Forthcoming). The three spheres of learning have shifted slightly (see Figure 2): “peer-supported” has changed to “relationships,” to indicate not only peer-to-peer relationships but also relationships between young people and adult brokers or mentors, while “academically-oriented” has changed to “opportunities,” to include not just academic opportunities but also civic and career opportunities.

Figure 1. Original spheres of learning.
elements of connected learning
Figure 2. Revised spheres of learning.

The other three principles of Connected Learning have shifted, as well (“About Connected Learning,” 2017). “Sponsorship of youth interests” is a new principle that was previously woven throughout the others; studies have consistently demonstrated that young people require adult assistance to make connections between their own interests and academic, civic, and career opportunity (Ching et al., 2015; Ito et al., 2019; Van Horne et al., 2016). This principle asks adults to reconsider their role in youths’ learning, to be more than either a “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side,” engaging in actively assisting youth in expanding their networks. “Production-centered” has shifted to being described as “shared practices,” including not just media production as the early model suggested, but also “friendly competition, civic action, and joint research” (“About Connected Learning,” 2017). “Shared purpose” remains, while “openly networked” has changed to “Connections across settings” to incorporate not just openly networked online platforms, but also connections between online and local affinity networks and relationships between home, school, and community.

All of the principles of Connected Learning are directed toward creating learning environments with an equity agenda, in which nondominant youth gain access to learning experiences that have historically been more available to those with privilege and financial access. Without attention to the cultural and social environment, new technologies like those that facilitate connected learning “tend to amplify existing inequity…access to social, cultural, and economic capital, not access to technology, is what broadens opportunity” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 6) (emphasis original).Youth need programs and mentors with social capital to broker connections; if brokering is treated as a market-driven process, this exacerbates inequity.

“The responsibility of providing mentorship, brokering, and connection building to link youth interests to opportunity is a collective one and cannot be shouldered only by families, nor only by schools and other public educational institutions. It entails a broader cultural shift toward recognizing the new learning dynamics of a networked era, paying more attention to learning and equity in online communities and platforms, and providing more educational supports in both formal and informal learning environments.” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 169)

Connected learning has often been conceived of as occurring along pathways, but recent research suggests that it “is more appropriately conceived of as the growth of a network of connections than as a linear pathway or an internalization of skills and knowledge” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 21). Connected learning is best seen “not as a journey of individual development that is transferrable across different settings that a person moves through, but as building stronger, more resilient and diverse social, cultural, and institutional relationships through time” (Ito et al., 2019, p. 167).

References

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