[brief] Youth Trajectories Interim Brief #2: Mapping Social Learning Ecologies of Youth

We are excited to share our latest research report, the fourth in a series of interim briefs related to our YTCover2Networked Innovation and Youth Trajectories strands of research. As we’ve mentioned before, HRL is committed to sharing, early and often, data and findings that we hope will feel relevant and useful to the Hive community.

In this brief, we discuss our recent work exploring how adults and peers have supported youth who participate in Hive NYC-affiliated activities. Drawing from interviews conducted with our case study youth (read more about them in our first Youth Trajectories brief), we articulate a set of 16 supportive roles—encompassing Material, Knowledge Building, Emotional, Brokering and Institutional forms of support—that our youth identified as being important to them.

SLE_MapWe also describe how we developed visualizations of these supportive roles and the adults and peers behind them, forming maps of something we call a young person’s social learning ecology (SLE). These SLE maps may be used to better understand and characterize aspects of a young person’s SLE such as redundancy of support and diversity of sources that we hypothesize may be consequential to sustained engagement in certain activities. Also, comparing a youth’s SLE map at different time periods demonstrates the dynamic nature of social learning ecologies generally and how certain providers (and thus forms of support) may be more transient in a young person’s life than others. Overall, we hope the findings summarized here may provide the Hive community with some useful insights into how a young person’s social learning ecology, with Hive educators as a critical aspect of it, may intersect with one’s ability to engage in interest-related pursuits.

As always, we welcome any feedback, thoughts or questions you may have about this or any aspect of our work!

On Common Language as Hive Network Infrastructure

One of the things I’ve been contemplating recently is the role of language within a network like Hive NYC. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how common language might actually be considered part of the network’s infrastructure, and how that infrastructure can support achieving a host of collective impact goals. Infrastructure is a notion that I’ve previously used to describe Hive, and I think that it’s apt when it comes to issues of common language’s role in coordinated action.

This has been in the back of my mind for a while, but came to the forefront as Hive Research Lab recently released a number of interim briefs relating to our research within the network, as well as through a number of Hive events that we were involved in – the February meet-up focusing on leveling up project ideas and the recent event on “Unpacking Spread and Scale” with Cynthia Coburn from Northwestern University. In each of these examples, language, and specifically well operationalized and meaning-laden language, played a key role.

In the case of the first “networked innovation” interim brief, we worked with Hive NYC HQ to figure out how ideas we shared in the brief could be infused into a network meet-up focused on issues of innovation. Part of the goal of that meet-up was to help members “level up” their projects through creating scaffolds for articulating their value from number of different perspectives and to contextualize the problems they were solving and for whom. We explicitly used some of the conceptual frameworks from our brief to create activities. Specifically, we talked through how examining different “dimensions” of an innovation — such as value-add, novelty, form, complexity –might allow that innovation to be better understood and described. One positive outcome of this meeting was that people were able to better understand this concept of innovation from the perspective of network facilitators, researchers, and funders. In a context where language around innovation is regularly used in conversations, requests for proposals and community calls, the meeting was a means to give more depth to a communally valued idea in a way that cut across stakeholders.

Similarly, the recent event Cynthia Coburn ran relating to spread and scale was centrally focused on sharing and clearly defining language relating to these issues of organizational reach (you can see a similar talk she gave at the 2014 Digital Media and Learning conference here). A lot of what Cynthia shared was founded on clearly defined constructs which were then built up into a larger dynamic framework. As small example, she describes spread as the means to achieving scale, which describes as a state. In this case spread is the verb that leads to scale, a noun. As she shared her broader framework and the meanings associated with various concepts, I saw Hive members actively use newly introduced language as a means to sort through dilemmas they’re encountering in their work. Having meaningful language was a tool to engage in problem-solving.

An important point that Cynthia alluded to in her talk that’s also good to highlight here is that particular definitions for words are of course contextual and that the idea is not to convince people that a given word must be defined in a give way absolutely. It’s just useful to know that within a given context language is meant by a particular actor in a particular way. This is what allows meaning to emerge when people then ground that language in their experiences, and share across them. On a similar note, part of the conversation around common language also needs to address how common language is negotiated and agreed upon, by whom, and for what purposes. Words and their definitions of course carry values and assumptions, and language can end up silencing and marginalizing, even inadvertently.

In a network like Hive, made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds both culturally as well as professionally, it’s easy for discourse to simply to be experienced as jargon or buzzwords. Innovation. Pathways. Spread. Etc. These words mean nothing if we don’t work out their meaning together. And unless that happens, we fail to truly reach towards collective impact because we talk past each other in a modern tower of Babel. But when we say what we mean and mean what we say through shared language, then we can actually accomplish something in relation to shared goals. I’m only coming to realize now how much of our role at Hive Research Lab is about that. By engaging in basic research on the network, we work out well defined language that actually describes phenomenon in the real world, and by sharing this language we can do a small part in helping the network take steps towards achieving shared vision. We can play a role in co-creating a common linguistic infrastructure for collective problem solving.

Hive Research Lab at the AERA 2014 Annual Meeting

AERA2014Hive Research Lab will be heading to Philly this week for the American Educational Research Association’s 2014  Annual Meeting.

We’re very excited to ‘debut’ our work on Youth Trajectories and Networked Innovation to the educational research community (and for some reason, despite the hundreds of presentation slots, we ended up getting triple-booked on Friday!)

The theme of the meeting this year is “The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.” Check out the official meeting page, which also includes an online and printable program.

Here’s a run-down of our presentations and posters:

Friday, April 4

8:15 to 9:45am, Convention Center, 200 Level, Hall E
Poster Session 3
Poster: “‘Both R&D and Retail’: Hive NYC Learning Network as Infrastructure for Learning Innovation,” Rafi Santo, IU (presenting author); Dixie Ching, NYU; Kylie Pepper, IU; Christopher Hoadley, NYU

10:35am to 12:05pm, Marriott, Fifth Level, Grand Ballroom H
Symposium: Pathways, Trajectories, Ecologies, Oh My! Bridging Theories and Methods for Studying Youth Learning Lives
Chairs: Kylie Peppler, IU; Christopher Hoadley, NYU
Discussant: Erica Rosenfeld Halverson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • “Leveraging Youths’ Repertories of Practice: Toward Connected and Consequential Learning,” Kris D. Gutiérrez, University of Colorado-Boulder
  • “Trajectories of Family Learning Through Making,” Lisa Brahms, University of Pittsburgh
  • “Trajectories of Science Learning Activation in Scientists and Engineers,” Lynette Jacobs-Priebe, University of Pittsburgh
  • “Connected Play: Making Visible Trajectories of Participation,” Yasmin B. Kafai, University of Pennsylvania; Deborah A. Fields, Utah State University
  • “Connecting Opportunity: Identifying and Mapping Supportive Roles for Sustaining Interest-Driven Pursuits,” Dixie Ching, NYU (presenting author); Rafi Santo, IU; Christopher Hoadley, NYU; Kylie Peppler, IU

10:35am to 12:05pm, Convention Center, 100 Level, 122A
Invited Session: Innovations in Learning in the Digital Age
Chair: Constance Steinkuehler, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Presentation: “Both R&D and Retail’: Hive NYC Learning Network as Infrastructure for Learning Innovation,” Rafi Santo, IU (presenting author); Dixie Ching, NYU; Kylie Peppler, IU; Christopher Hoadley, NYU

Other participants: GlassLab, Jessica Lindl, Institute of Play; iCivics. Jeff Curley, iCivics; Open Badges, Erin Knight, Mozilla Foundation; Educurious, L. Michael Golden, Educurious.

Sunday, April 6
4:05 to 5:35pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Franklin 6
Symposium: Space and Technologies for Learning in Schools, Museums, and Workplaces: Recent Approaches in Design-Based Research
Presentation: “Designing Academic Technology-Rich Spaces to Facilitate Cross-Departmental Interactions,” Christopher Hoadley, NYU; Matt Lucas, NYU

Monday, April 7
12:25 to 1:55pm, Marriott, Fourth Level, Franklin 13
Symposium: Learning in the Making: Studying, Understanding, and Designing Makerspaces
Discussant: Christopher Hoadley, NYU [substituting for Kylie Peppler]