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

About Connected Learning. (2017, December 6). Retrieved April 12, 2019, from clalliance.org/about-connected-learning/
Arum, R., Larson, K., & Meyer, W. M. (Forthcoming). Connected Learning: A Study of Educational Technology and Progressive Pedagogy. New York: New York University Press.
Ben-Eliyahu, A., Rhodes, J. E., & Scales, P. (2014). The Interest-Driven Pursuits of 15 Year Olds: “Sparks” and Their Association With Caring Relationships and Developmental Outcomes. Applied Developmental Science, 18(2), 76–89.
Ching, D., Santo, R., Hoadley, C., & Peppler, K. (2015). On-ramps, lane changes, detours and destinations: Building connected learning pathways in hive NYC through brokering future learning opportunities. New York, NY: Hive Research Lab. hiveresearchlab. files. wordpress. com/2015/05/hive-research-lab-2015-community-white-paper-brokering-future-learning-opportunities2. pdf (accessed November 15, 2015).
Itō, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Stephenson, B. H., … Tripp, L. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out : kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., … Craig Watkins, S. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from dmlhub.net/publications/connected-learning-agenda-for-research-and-design/
Ito, M., & Martin, C. (Fall 2013). Connected Learning and the Future of Libraries. Young Adult Library Services, 12(1), 29–32.
Ito, M., Martin, C., Pfister, R. C., Rafalow, M. H., Salen, K., & Wortman, A. (2019). Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning. New York: NYU Press.
Larson, K., Ito, M., Brown, E., Hawkins, M., Pinkard, N., & Sebring, P. (2013). Safe Space and Shared Interests: YOUmedia Chicago as a Laboratory for Connected Learning. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from dmlhub.net/publications/safe-space-and-shared-interests-youmedia-chicago-laboratory-connected-learning/
Livingstone, S., & Sefton-Green, J. (2016). The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age. NYU Press.
Maul, A., Penuel, W. R., Dadey, N., Gallagher, L. P., Podkul, T., & Price, E. (2017). Developing a measure of interest-related pursuits: The survey of connected learning. clrn.dmlhub.net. Retrieved from clrn.dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/CRLN-Measurement-Paper-120714-for-CLRN.docx
Penuel, W., Van Horne, K., Santo, R., Ching, D., & Podkul, T. (2015). Connected Learning: From Outcomes Workshops to Survey Items. Retrieved from hiveresearchlab.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/clrn-from-workshop-to-survey-items-report-may-2015.pdf
Van Horne, K., Allen, C., DiGiacomo, D., Chang-Order, J., & Van Steenis, E. (2016). Brokering In and Sustained Interest-Related Pursuits: A Longitudinal Study of Connected Learning. dml2016.dmlhub.net. Retrieved from dml2016.dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/14_vanHorne_CLRNBrokeringPaper040416_submit.pdf
Watkins, C., Lombana-Bermudez, A., Cho, A., Vickery, J., Shaw, V., & Weinzimmer, L. (Forthcoming). The Digital Edge: How Black and Latino Youth Navigate Digital Inequality. New York: New York University Press.

Bookmarked Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning (Connected Learning Alliance)
New book, Affinity Online, explores how online practices and networks bridge the divide between in-school and out-of-school learning.
Ito, M., Martin, C., Pfister, R. C., Rafalow, M. H., Salen, K., & Wortman, A. (2019). Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning. New York: NYU Press.

Ito et al describe the ways in which online affinity networks can be conducive to Connected Learning, explicating an updated model of Connected Learning in the process. This book is the output of the Leveling Up study; it is a collaboratively authored text identifying themes that were shared across multiple ethnographic studies in a variety of online affinity network contexts.

Connected learning “both describes a form of meaningful and opportunity-enhancing learning and guides design and policies that expand access to this form of learning” (p. 3).

It “is centered on young people’s interest-driven learning and is agnostic as to the types of relationships and institutions that can support this learning” (p. 3).

Some of the questions they seek to answer:

“How do relationships and networks provide social support, information, and connections to opportunity?… What kinds of relationships and networks support connected learning? Can online affinity networks help develop social capital, learning, and opportunity?…what kinds of additional relationships and supports do young people need to connect their learning in affinity networks to academic, civic, and career opportunities?” (p. 4)

“Why do some young people go online primarily to hang out with existing peers and to browse entertaining YouTube videos, while others dive into online tutorials, courses, and communities of interest that drive more specialized forms of ‘geeking out’ and social organizing? What role can educators, parents, peers, and the developers of online resources play in shaping these dynamics? What kinds of institutional practices, policies, and infrastructures can build stronger connections between youth interests and sites of opportunity, particularly for less privileged groups? What kinds of cultural barriers and assumptions inhibit or facilitate the building of these connections?” (p. 7-8)

How do online affinity networks connect to educational, career, and civic opportunity?

While educational technology (“edtech”), and especially specific edtech tools, have both proponents and detractors, their approaches fail to consider that “Technologies and techniques…. Take on different characteristics depending on the cultural and social settings they are embedded in” (p. 6). Without attention to the cultural and social environment, new technologies “tend to amplify existing inequity” (p. 6).

…access to social, cultural, and economic capital, not access to technology, is what broadens opportunity.” (p. 6) (emphasis original)

A history of this work:
The Macarthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative funded research conducted by, among others, members of the Connected Learning Research Network.

One of these projects was the Digital Youth Project. Fieldwork for this project was undertaken in 2006 – 2007, when “teens were flocking to MySpace… YouTube was just taking off… before the mobile internet and texting had taken hold in the United States” (p. 8).

The output of that project was the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (Ito et al 2009). The model described in that book was designed to describe how children and teens interact with new media, but “was not designed to directly inform educational practice or design” (p. 9).

Affinity Online is an output of the Leveling Up project, another project of the CLRN. Contrasting with HOMAGO, Affinity Online is explicitly designed to inform “the design and deployment of learning technologies and related programs” (p. 10). The project came about because “…large-scale adoption of new media created an imperative to investigate the potential connections between young people’s online activities and meaningful opportunities in education, civic institutions, and careers” (p. 10).

“Critique of existing practices is necessary but not sufficient; we believe that those of us practicing ethnography and social science also have a role to play in presenting alternatives.” (p. 10)

METHODS

This text provides a “cross-case analysis of in-depth qualitative research in networked settings” (p. 12), specifically “a variety of affinity networks that make use of online spaces” (p. 13). Data collection methods include “questionnaires, surveys, semistructured interviews, observation, and content analysis of media, profiles, videos, and other online artifacts” (p. 13).

Networks were chosen by seeking out “examples of practices already existing in communities that can be spread and scaled to address systemic problems” (p. 14), an approach from the public health field called “positive deviance” (Pascale, Sternin, and Sternin 2010).

FINDINGS

Ito et al identify common characteristics of online affinity networks that support connected learning:

  • Strongly shared culture and practices
  • Varied ways of contributing
  • High standards
  • Effective ways of providing feedback and help (p. 17)

“…an interest cannot be separated from its culture, people, and places.” (p. 18)

“Connected learning is not limited… to a particular pedagogical approach… the focus is on building relational, practical, and conceptual connections across settings and experiences, centered on learning interests and affinities.” (p. 19)

“…connected learning 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” (p. 21)

“Transformative and resilient forms of learning are embedded in a web of social relations, meaningful projects, and shared activities with which a learner feels a sense of affinity” (p. 166)

“We see connected learning 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” (p. 167)

This idea of network-building as opposed to pathway-traversing is similar to the contrast Martin (2012) draws between traditional, linear models of information literacy and her new, more networked model of information literacy. It also has implications for people who are trying to identify pathways to connected learning, such as Bender & Peppler (2019). Should people asking questions like Bender & Peppler’s be investigating networks rather than pathways?

KEY FINDING: Online affinity networks rarely overlap with school or local networks or career networks.

“Building these connections requires concrete forms of sponsorship, translation, and brokering in order t oconnect interests to opportunity.” (p. 167-168)

“When we consider the resources and supports that young people need to connect their interests to their opportunity, equity becomes of critical concern.” (p. 168) 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 bulilding 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 insitiututions. 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.” (p. 169

Barriers to “having a shared understanding and public agenda for how the adult world can harness online affinity networks for educational opportunity and equity” (p. 171) include the Digital Culture Generation Gap and Compartmentalized Social Networks.

Re: the Digital Culture Generation gap – “lack of understanding and visibility around what digital youth culture is about” (p. 172) and “cultural values and negative stereotypes” – e.g. gaming and fandom in particular are stereotyped as addicitvie and frivolous, respectively.

Re: Compartmentalized Social Netowrks – “online affinity networks can support bonding social captiial, but they have few avenues for bridging social capital between onlien relationships and local ones, limiting connections to academic, career, and civic opportunity” (p. 173).

Design Principles for creating Connected Learning Environments/Experiences:

Shared culture and purpose

  • “Purpose-driven participation” (p. 174)
  • “Diverse forms of contribution and participation” (p. 175)
  • “Community-driven ways of recognizing status and quality of work” (p. 175)

“In learning environments that are less interest-driven [esp. Schools], it is more challenging to develop this sense of shared community values, culture, and purpose” (p. 176). Schools tend to foster this more in extracurriculars and electives. These activities offer a potential site of connection between online affinity networks and local networks.

Project-based and production-centered

  • “Competitions, creative production, and civic engagement” (p. 178)

Openly networked

Read Connected learning ecologies as an emerging opportunity through Cosplay (Comunicar)
Bender, S., & Peppler, K. (2019). Connected learning ecologies as an emerging opportunity through Cosplay. Comunicar, 27(58), 31–40.

Bender and Peppler analyze case studies of two cosplayers “who benefited from well-developed connected learning ecologies” to identify themes that might be useful in designing connected learning environments. They identified the following themes: “relationships with and sponsorship by caring others; unique pathways that start with a difficult challenge; economic opportunities related to cosplay; and comparisons with formal school experiences.”

Read Information literacy in interest-driven learning communities : navigating the sea of information of an online affinity space by Crystle MartinCrystle Martin
Information is ubiquitous in today's digital world, and the creation and application of a personal "crap detector" (Hemingway in Manning, 1965; Rheingold, 2011) is imperative to be effective in the information universe. The knowledge communities for online video games offer a place for studying informal and interest-driven learning, as well as the development and use of crap detectors. This study explores the information literacy practices that take place in the constellation of information, which is the in-game and out-of-game information resources, of the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game World of Warcraft (WoW). The dissertation builds a picture of the information literacy practices from the individual to the collective intelligence and offers a new perspective on how information literacy can be employed to create a better educated populace. It illustrates that at any level these affinity spaces encourage collaborative information literacy practices. The individuals through information horizon maps orient themselves toward the information and community available depending on play style and level of expertise. The use of community created resources like knowledge compendiums and the use of the collective intelligence of the community through forums and chat logs traces the individual and their contact with the group. The group interactions of the chat logs and forums demonstrate the information literacy practices used between members of the community. Then the collective intelligence of the community underlines the accuracy of answers given in the community created resources. The significance of this work, beyond studying information literacy in a new setting, is that it identifies the visible information literacy processes of community using frameworks developed from the literature but grounded in data.
Martin, Crystle A. “Information Literacy in Interest-Driven Learning Communities: Navigating the Sea of Information of an Online Affinity Space.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012. search.proquest.com/docview/1030437582?pq-origsite=summon.

Martin investigates “the information literacy practices that take place in the constellation of information, which is the in-game and out-of-game information resources of the massively multiplayer (MMO) game World of Warcraft (WoW).” (p. i) She uses information horizon maps and an analysis of “community curated resources like knowledge compendiums” and “forums and chat logs” (p. i) to explore these practices. Martin developed a new coding framework for information literacy based on the literature and used this framework to code chat data.

RQs:
What are the forms of information literacy practices engaged in by participants in an online affinity space?
SubRQ1. How do players situatie themselves within the constellation of information available around their affinity space?
SubRQ2. How are information literacy processes practiced in the community?
SubRQ3. Does collective intelligence happen in these affinity spaces? (p. 106)

From her data, Martin generates a new framework of information literacy. She finds that “at any level these affinity spaces encourage collaborative information literacy practices” (p. 108).

Martin’s study assumes “that people can have individualized information literacy practices that they use to help them successfully fulfill their information needs” (p. 108). This contrasts “the traditional perspective that everyone needs to be taught to utilize the same strict structure of information literacy” (p. 108).

“Information literacy is more than a set of skills or abilities. It is the practices individuals use and how these individuals situate themselves towards the information available to them. However, it is also the practices of groups of people in a community that encompasses cultural norms, discourses, and implemented practices. In short, information literacy is a way of being in the world.” (p. 109)

Martin points out that previous research on and standards for information literacy were developed for institutional settings, keeping a division between academic information literacy and everyday life information behavior.

This is only the second study to look at information literacy in an affinity space; Martin & Steinkuehler 2010 is the first.

Martin points out “limitation in scope and research methodologgy within the field of information literacy” (p. 19):
There is an overwhelming number of standards.
Most are expertise-based rather than evidence-based.
“…separation of imposed and self-determined information-seeking makes little sense” (p. 20) as the same skills and abilities can be used for both, as well as the line between work and play not always being clear.

Martin aggregated “information literacy definitions to determine overlap as well as to create a stronger definition from each contribution” (p. 62-63) and that’s how she generated her codes.

She illustrates this aggregate as a “linear and solitary process” (p. 66) but points out that “in affinity spaces with synchronous and asynchronous communication, peer-produced resources, and frequently changing content, these spaces are neither linear nor solitary” (p. 66)

The standard model “presumes dissemination as the end product” (p. 68-69).

Martin proposes a new model, based on Martin and Steinkuehler (2010):

The major differences in this model are that it shows the complexity that can occur during information seeking, it can take collective and collaborative information literacy practices into account, and it shifts the focus of the information literacy model from ending with dissemination to ending with using information for a specific purpose, that is to satisfy the person’s information need.” (p. 71-2)

The phases in the standard model can be grouped: recognizing the information need, developing a strategy for finding information, finding the information, and creating a product with the information. (p. 68) Martin’s new phases can be grouped as: recognizing the need, input, evaluation, and output (p. 74).

“The division of information literacy by the process in which the intellectual work is undertaken represents information literacy as a cognitive process instead of a skills-based system that essentially lays out a checklist.” (p. 75)

Diagram on p. 76

After using this new model to generate codes and analyze chat logs and forums, Martin proposes a refined version of the model based on her data.

NEW CODING SCHEME p. 84

Bookmarked Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out (The MIT Press)
An examination of young people's everyday new media practices—including video-game playing, text-messaging, digital media production, and social media use.
Itō, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Stephenson, B. H., … Tripp, L. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out : kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ito and colleagues take an ecological approach to youth new media practice, looking for both commonalities and diversity, seeking to describe youth’s practices and how they affect “the dynamics of youth-adult negotiation over literacy, learning, and authoritative knowledge” (p. 2). They report on “a three-year ethnographic investigation of youth new media practice” (p. 2). They consider how these practices fit into social and cultural worlds and how they are meaningful in youth’s everyday lives. They take a sociology-of-youth-and-childhood approach, considering youth as social actors who can impact culture. Youth are both consumers and producers. The practices Ito and colleagues examine occur in social or recreational contexts rather than instructional contexts.

Ito and colleagues analyze their data around four concepts: “genres of participation,” “networked publics,” “peer-based learning,” and “new media literacy” (p. 14). Genres of participation include friendship-driven participation (“hanging out”) and interest-driven participation (“geeking out”). A third genre, “messing around,” bridges the other two. Youth transition between the three genres. “Networked publics” captures the socially- and technologically-mediated nature of youth spaces. Peer-based learning is reciprocal and not hierarchical, occuring in spaces where adults do not have authority. Ito and colleagues describe but do not prescribe new media literacies.

Having described youth practices, Ito and colleagues offer “potential sites of adult participation and intervention in youth practices” (p. 341). They suggest that adults and youth need to develop “a shared sense of what counts as valuable learning and positive sociability” (p. 343) and share equal contributions of interest and expertise.

Ito and colleagues point out that educators are often cut off from adult leaders in interest groups, and that it would benefit youth if these two groups coordinated their efforts. They emphasize that educators must provide youth with the tools they need to participate in these practices, and recognize that this may require access to content that is more social or recreational than “serious.” Learning environments and pedagogical interventions should be designed with the social, technical, and cultural support youth need in mind.

“In many ways, the crucial ingredient in youth engagement and successful adult intervention in these spaces seems to be a stance of mutual respect and reciprocity, where youth expertise, autonomy, and initiative are valued” (p. 350). Ito and colleagues conclude by imagining the goal of education to be not preparing youth for jobs and careers, but instead guiding them toward participation in public life by sharing the responsibility for education between schools and a “distributed network of people and institutions” (p. 352).

Bookmarked Connected Learning: Linking Academics, Popular Culture, and Digital Literacy in a Young Urban Scholars Book Club Program (DigitalCommons@WayneState)
Kumasi, K. (2014). Connected Learning: Linking Academics, Popular Culture, and Digital Literacy in a Young Urban Scholars Book Club. Teacher Librarian, 41(3), 8–15.

Kumasi describes a Young Urban Scholars Book Club as a model connected learning program designed to meet the needs of youth who could “become disconnected from school and life if the right kind of learning opportunities are not available to them” (p. 8).

Bookmarked Connected learning in the library as a product of hacking, making, social diversity and messiness | QUT ePrints by Mark BilandzicMark Bilandzic
Learning is most effective when intrinsically motivated through personal interest, and situated in a supportive socio-cultural context. This paper reports on findings from a study that explored implications for design of interactive learning environments through 18 months of ethnographic observations of people’s interactions at “Hack The Evening” (HTE). HTE is a meetup group initiated at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and dedicated to provide visitors with opportunities for connected learning in relation to hacking, making and do-it-yourself technology. The results provide insights into factors that contributed to HTE as a social, interactive and participatory environment for learning – knowledge is created and co-created through uncoordinated interactions among participants that come from a diversity of backgrounds, skills and areas of expertise. The insights also reveal challenges and barriers that the HTE group faced in regards to connected learning. Four dimensions of design opportunities are presented to overcome those challenges and barriers towards improving connected learning in library buildings and other free-choice learning environments that seek to embody a more interactive and participatory culture among their users. The insights are relevant for librarians as well as designers, managers and decision makers of other interactive and free-choice learning environments.
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).