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/

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 by Connected Learning Alliance (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

Connected learning explains how people can build learning pathways that connect their interests, relationships, and formal learning to lead toward future opportunities such as careers. However, most learning systems are not set up ideally for connected learning; for instance, most schools still teach disciplines as discrete units that do not connect to students’ interests outside of school. We do not yet know enough about the structure of naturally occurring connected learning ecologies that do connect youth learning across contexts and help them follow pathways toward careers and other desired outcomes. Learning more about what works well on these pathways will allow us to design connected learning environments to help more youth access to these desired opportunities. This paper analyzes two case studies of cosplayers –hobbyists who make their costumes of media characters to wear at fan conventions–who benefited from well-developed connected learning ecologies. Cases were drawn from a larger interview studyand analyzed as compelling examples of connected learning. Important themes that emerged included 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. This has implications for how we can design connected learning ecologies that support all learners on unique pathways toward fulfilling futures.

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.”

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.
Conventional wisdom about young people’s use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today’s teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networking sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youths’ social and recreational use of digital media. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fills this gap, reporting on an ambitious three-year ethnographic investigation into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings—at home, in after-school programs, and in online spaces.Integrating twenty-three case studies—which include Harry Potter podcasting, video-game playing, music sharing, and online romantic breakups—in a unique collaborative authorship style, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out is distinctive for its combination of in-depth description of specific group dynamics with conceptual analysis.

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 by Kafi KumasiKafi Kumasi (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 Crafting the Metagame: Connected Learning in the Starcraft II Community (Connected Learning Alliance)

StarCraft, a real-time strategy game developed by Blizzard Entertainment, has been labeled by many of its participants as the chess of the twenty-first century.

Kow, Y. M., Young, T., & Tekinbaş, K. S. (2014). Crafting the metagame: Connected learning in the Starcraft II community. Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Kow and colleagues describe a study of StarCraft II, a real-time strategy game, and the community surrounding it. They selected the game “as a research site because of its intellectual demands, academic relevance, and networked peer support driving players to strive to learn and achieve higher levels of gaming skills” (p. 5). They wanted to understand “both the design and uptake of the game within the context of connected learning” (p. 5), so they interviewed both players and members of the game-development team. They found that players and developers both brought up learning in the interviews.

They found that StarCraft II is a learning environment in which many features of connected learning are present:

    • Competition
    • Production
    • Peer-support
    • Interest-powered learning
    • Community
    • Openly-networked supports, provided both my the designers of the game and the community of players
    • Social interaction and expertise that translates across contexts (home, school, public IRL, online)

They found that “several design features of the game…. enable both the competitive and productive practices at play within the community” and that participation in the game “offers participants a chance to develop soft skills that seem highly relevant to future work environments, characterized by constant competition and nonstop learning” (p. 43).

“…at the core of learning that takes place within StarCraft II is a model in which players are connected by media content developed by players themselves, using the game editing tools or other social network tools, as well as an active and peer-supported social network.” (p. 5)

“…continuous participation within an ecosystem of technology-centered learning circles can help deepen the participants’ expertise and social skills.” (p. 43)

“Players can move at their own pace, take advantage of a diverse set of resources created by other players, and are invited to contribute their own knowledge and expertise.” (p. 44).

Bookmarked Connected learning in the library as a product of hacking, making, social diversity and messiness by Mark BilandzicMark Bilandzic
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).
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.

Larson et al document the YOUmedia Learning Lab at the Chicago Public Library’s downtown Harold Washington Library center. The lab is designed to support HOMAGO.

Ito, M., & Martin, C. (Fall 2013). Connected Learning and the Future of Libraries. Young Adult Library Services, 12(1), 29–32.

Ito and Martin provide an overview of how libraries are “uniquely situated to become a nexus of connected learning because their mission centers on personalized and interest-driven learning” and they 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” (p. 30).