Bilandzic, M. (2013). Connected learning in the library as a product of hacking, making, social diversity and messiness. Interactive Learning Environments, 24(1), 158–177.

Bilandzic describes a study that “explored implications for design of interactive learning enviornments through 18 months of ethnographic observations of people’s interactions at “Hack the Evening” (HTE)… a meetup group initiated at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia… dedicated to provide visitors with opportunities for connected learning in relation to hacking, making and do-it-yourself technology” (p. 1 in author’s copy; consult published version for final page number). The study aimed to address “how free-choice learning environments can provided connected learning opportunities, in particular through an interactive, participatory and inspiring socio-cultural context for learning?” (p. 3 in author’s copy; consult published version for final page number) and the following three related questions:

  1. What factors facilitate the connected learning experience of members within the group?
  2. How does the public library as a location for the meetup group affect the participants’ learnign experience?
  3. What are challenges and barriers for connected learning as experienced by the group, and how can libraries address those? (p. 3 in author’s copy; consult published version for final page number)
Two factors contributed to HTE’s success as a connected learning environment: uncoordinated interactions between participants and diversity in participants’ backgrounds, skills, and expertise. Designing environments that facilitate these interactions through an “open, uncoordinated and flexible meeting agenda” (p. 24 in author’s copy; consult published version for final page number) and invite diverse participants in can create space for connected learning to take place.

Bilandzic draws a distinction between events like Hack the Evening and traditional “free-choice learning  environments” such as libraries and museums “where learning is primarily supported through the physical environment” (p. 24 in author’s copy; consult published version for final page number). HTE focuses on designing a socio-cultural context where people can learn not only in a self-directed manner, but also socially and collaboratively. [Bilandzic’s emphasis on socio-cultural context is consonant with Lloyd’s and others' work on sociocultural models of information literacy.]

Bilandzic offers four suggestions for interventions to help overcome barriers for connected learning:

  1. Increasing the awareness of social learning opportunities within a learning environment
  2. Facilitating an open, collaborative and interactive culture among users in learning environments
  3. Providing access to contempoerary learning tools and materials for “learning-by-doing” activities
  4. Supporting informal socialisation and hangouts between participants inside as well as outside the learning space premises and opening hours (p. 25 in author’s copy; consult published version for final page number).

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Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @KimberlyHirsh
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