HRL@Mozfest2014: A Network of Networks, a Hive of Hives

Global Hive Meetup @ MozFest 2014
Photo by Mozilla Hive NYC Learning Network

As we’ve studied Hive NYC, one of the big achievements we’ve seen is what can happen when previously unconnected educational organizations come together from across a given city. Organizations just miles apart geographically may have previously seen themselves as being in different sub-fields, but in Hive created a shared community platform where they can exchange ideas, find the places they have common values and organize around collective goals. One of the biggest value propositions of Hive, as contrasted with, say, broader field-level structures like conferences or online communities, is its locality. From an organizational perspective, it’s an ongoing field-level community located right in the backyard of your city. This core feature, and value, of locality is what sets Hive apart in many ways in an increasingly ‘flat’ virtual world.

And so the idea of having a ‘global’ Hive movement can seem antithetical to this local commitment. The whole point of a Hive is rooted in the idea of educators and organizations being able to physically come together with regularity, easily collaborate and design solutions to local problems – wouldn’t some sort of ‘Hive global’ be missing the point that the model made in the first place?

What I saw at Mozfest made me think about this issue in a new way. It made me realize just how powerful it is to have interaction among the growing number of cities that have Hives, be they full fledged Hive Learning Networks (in NYC, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Toronto), emerging Hive Learning Communities (in Kansas City, Chattanooga, San Francisco-Bay Area, India) or bunches of others in places that are exploring like Denver, Seattle, Vancouver, Manchester, Berlin and elsewhere. What I saw at Mozfest was not some sort of unitary ‘Hive Global’, some singular über-community that subsumes the commitment to local urban community. Rather, the Hive track represented a ‘Hive of Hives’, with Hive members and leaders sharing, discussing and creating solutions to shared problems together, using common language and based in shared values.

Kevin Miklasz, a Hive NYC member, reflected beautifully on the power of Hives coming together in his post about the festival:

It’s like that feeling you have when you meet up with an old friend and pick up right where you left off, as if no time had gone by. Except we had never met before, but we were able to just pick things up and start going anyway. We talked about the same things, using the same language and ideas, and were comfortable using the same kinds of open-ended design-thinking techniques to work through problems.

The rich interactions amongst ‘Hivers’ at Mozfest was what has convinced me of the value of having a ‘network of networks’. People were not only able to talk about issues that were relevant to actors in every city (e.g., what are effective strategies for making learning relevant for youth?), but also for sharing ideas about how a Hive might work, and how it might organize itself (e.g., what are the ways that your Hive designs opportunities for members to share ideas?). The former example, sharing thoughts on common issues like pedagogical approaches, is certainly powerful. But it is also the kind of thing that happens at many conferences and workshops. But that latter issue – on how Hives might facilitate and organize themselves – this is the place where a ‘network of networks’ can act as a context to innovate on the Hive model, to share thoughts on what works and doesn’t when it comes to building a Hive in a city. A Hive of Hives acts as an infrastructure for innovation on the idea of Hive itself.

As more cities explore organizing Hives in their backyards, it will be critical that there is a common space where the ‘theory of Hive’ and the ideas that Hives care about can be discussed, debated, learned from and about, and most importantly, advanced. Just as a local Hive is a great opportunity for educational organizations and actors that are committed to exploring and inventing around ideas of Connected Learning and web literacy, a Hive of Hives presents a critical opportunity for those committed to such city-based models to share knowledge and collectively level up what Hives around the world can be.

[white paper] What does it mean to Work Open in Hive NYC? New Hive community whitepaper

Working Open Whitepaper front page imageIn the summer of 2014, a group of Hive NYC members and stakeholders came together to think, talk and design around the idea of ‘working open’ in the Hive. The context was the Network that Learns design charrette. Led by Hive Research Lab, we created this two day sprint as a space to address key knowledge management issues that were brought up State of the Hive meeting in March 2014. Members had voiced needs around making it easier to locate expertise in the network, continually capture best practices from ongoing projects, and figure out how the network could be a context for accumulating collective wisdom. In our ongoing work studying innovation in a ‘networked’ context, we’ve see how just such issues can be critical in supporting organizations to effectively leverage Hive as they dive into new areas of work and strengthen existing ones, and so the charrette acted as a space where we could collectively think them through.

We used the idea of ‘working open’ during the charrette as somewhat of a grounding theme that cut across these knowledge management issues. As a way of working that values collaboration, failing early and often, ongoing storytelling, community building and an experimental and flexible spirit, ‘working open’ felt like it might have something to offer these issues that were raised at the State of the Hive. If understood and supported in a way that speaks to the Hive community’s distinct context, working open could be considered a mode of engagement that allows Hive members to progress both individually and collectively.

The white paper we’re sharing now [pdf] is the result of those discussions, and aims to synthesize many views about what constitutes ‘working open’, what it looks like in practice, what tensions are involved and what this all might mean for the Hive NYC community. Drawing on the voices of participating Hive members, as well as our field research in Hive NYC, the white paper offers somewhat of a vision for collective organizational learning within the network. We’d love to hear what you think, and how you could see these ideas applying to the way you do your everyday work.

[brief] Networked Innovation Interim Brief #3 – How does a learning network spread and scale innovations?

spread widelyHow to spread and scale work coming out of Hive NYC has always been a central question for the network. We’ve regularly referenced [pdf] how Mark Surman, CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, early on envisioned Hives as “both R&D and retail”; simultaneously incubators for new approaches to learning as well as a means through which those innovations might travel. More recently, Cynthia Coburn has been writing [pdf] and speaking with the network about how we might begin to conceptualize these issues of spread and scale in a digital age. While the focus of our Networked Innovation research has generally been on the practices associated with early stage innovation design, Hive Research Lab naturally comes across the strategies and practices that member organizations utilize to spread and scale the innovations they design, and in this brief aims to share some of what we’ve seen in our fieldwork in that area. Through naming the approaches we’ve seen, our hope is that the network, as a collective, might better think about how it might accomplish more together than any individual organization might accomplish alone.

NI Brief 3 Cover FinalIn this interim brief [pdf], which we excerpt below and can be downloaded by clicking the image to the left, we give a very brief overview of some of Cynthia Coburn’s framework on spread and scale, then use to bulk of the brief to describe some of what we’ve seen in Hive both in terms of what’s spreading as well as strategies organizations employ to spread work, and finally close with some questions that organizations might ask themselves as they consider these issues internally.

From the brief:

Strategies for Achieving Scale by Hive Member Organizations

As we’ve researched Hive NYC, we’ve come to see a number of distinct strategies that organizations take to spreading their work. In each, different forms of innovations are being spread, different target groups are envisioned (sometimes youth directly, sometimes educators broadly, sometimes specific types of “adopter” organizations, etc.), and different levels and types of capacity are needed to pull off the approach. The following typology is by no means exhaustive, but covers many of the approaches we’ve encountered.

  1. “Physical” Footprint Expansion – this strategy involves increasing the number of physical sites where an organization’s youth-facing programs or pedagogies are implemented. This approach can be achieved through internal growth of an organization in terms of the number of front-line educators it employs, and sites where it implements its work. This strategy often involves intensive partnership and training of “adopter” organizations that implement the model or curricula that was developed by a “base” organization. Such a strategy might also involve the development of online platforms that support multi-site implementation.
  2. “Virtual” Footprint Expansion – in this strategy, we refer specifically to online educational experiences that are aimed directly at young people. Educational video games, online communities, any type of targeted online “content” meant for uptake by youth can be put under this umbrella. This approach is distinct in that it likely means that an organization increasingly develops capacity in areas such as web development, interactive content development, digital design and online community management.
  3. Open Education Resources (OER) Distribution – while it’s an older term, “Open Educational Resources” well describes the kinds of things that many organizations aim to spread for usage by other individual educators or organizations. Well structured curricula, “teaching kits”, digital design tools or games that can be incorporated into an existing curricula, activity templates or even educational design principles all might be considered under this umbrella.
  4. Face-to-Face Professional Development and Consulting PD and consulting are well established approaches taken by specialist educational organizations to capitalize on and spread their distinct capacities and resources. Professional development events often focus on more generalizable innovation forms so as to be more widely applicable and attended by educators from a variety of contexts. PD offerings might combine sharing pedagogical approaches and design principles, with exposing trainees to existing knowledge channels relating to a particular area. Consulting, naturally, is often more intensive and tailored to the needs of a client organization.
  5. Thought Leadership – many Hive organizations actively play a role contributing to and even shaping the discourse within various communities and fields as “thought leaders” that are looked to around particular areas of expertise. Such an approach might leverage public speaking in a range of venues such as conferences as well as regular writing and publication whether it be through white papers, on widely read blogs or in various media outlets. A thought leadership approach leverages some core expertise with facility at communication and framing in order to spread ideas and practices.
  6. Working Open – We’re hesitant to position working open simply as a strategy for spreading innovation, as in many ways it can be seen as a particular configuration of innovation practices (coming from the open source software movement) that values iterative co-development of innovations with a range of stakeholders in a transparent way. At the same time, this approach, which values cultivating community during the design process, could be seen as a strategy that simultaneously develops and spreads innovation.

From an ecosystem perspective, organizations can of course play different roles in relation to these strategies. Some might be looking for other organizations to implement programs developed in-house, others might be looking for online distribution partners to help spread resources they’re developing, and some might even help others to build capacity towards spread and scale itself, as in cases where an organization with greater curriculum development capacity assists another organization to ready an program from broader uptake. One of the advantages of coming at these issues from a “networked” perspective is that it can allow organizations to ask questions about what role they do or want to play in the larger eco-system, as well as how existing actors in the ecosystem can play roles that allow their own organizations to “punch above their weight”, so to speak.

Five questions Hive organizations can ask about spread and scale

As organizations wrestle with these issues, there are a number of basic questions they can ask and bring into internal strategy conversations regarding spread and scale:

  1. What form(s) of innovation I am trying to spread?
  2. What conception(s) of scale am I aiming to achieve and how do they impact my strategy? Does my organization envision adoption, replication, adaptation, reinvention or some combination thereof as being applicable to spreading its work?
  3. What changes need to be made to the innovation I’m trying to spread, the context I’m trying to spread to or through, and to my own organization in order to make spread viable?
  4. How am I going to learn from past attempts at spreading work, both from my own organization as well as others, as I engage in a scaling strategy? How am I going to learn while I’m engaging in a current or future strategy so that course corrections can be made along the way?
  5. What role(s) can I and do I want to play in the larger Hive ecosystem in terms of spread and scale issues? What are roles I can see other organizations in the ecosystem playing in relation to my own strategy for scale?

As a network, we know that there’s much more that can be done together than alone when it comes to achieving impact. Thinking together about how different organizations might leverage their strengths through strategic partnership is ultimately only the first step – just as we need to prototype, test and refine innovations themselves, we also need to take an experimental approach to achieving scale. Each of the strategies above must leverage distinctive best practices that have been developed both within and outside of the education sector. At the same time, such strategies can only be well achieved in Hive if they’re approached from the same perspective of collective learning and careful observation that’s taken by the network in other areas of its work. Scale brings new challenges, and therefore new things to be learned and shared across the network. Success will likely only be found if Hive continues to be “a network that learns” when it comes to efforts to spread and scale.


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]

[brief] Networked Innovation Interim Brief #2 – Innovation Practices and Hive NYC

As many of you following our work know, HRL has been working hard to put together a series of interim NI Brief 2 Cover Finalbriefs that allow us to make more transparent the research we’re doing within Hive NYC. We’ve released two so far, related to our Networked Innovation research strand, and another on our Youth Trajectories strand. Building on the first brief on innovation, which focused on innovations as “things” or products, this second brief on the subject moves begin conceptualizing innovation as a process, or, more precisely, as a set of practices that organizations engage in. We originally wrote about these practices here on the blog, and in the brief we refine our original framework, extended its discussion, and, most importantly, wrote up examples from the fieldwork we’ve conducted within Hive that give life to these practices. A big goal for us was to go from the theoretical ideas about innovation down to the practical level of what innovation looks like on the ground in Hive NYC. We hope you’ll read the whole thing, but as a teaser, here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

Hive NYC has as its tagline “explore+create+share”. It’s a sentiment that expresses many of the core principles the community holds in terms of its pedagogy – one in which youth explore interests and identities, engage in creation, production and expression, and then share this work in authentic contexts. But explore/create/share can also be seen as a loose framework for how those in Hive NYC, as educators, designers and activists, engage in the practices of innovation. It is these practices of innovation we focus on in this brief.

If course, if you have thoughts, feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. Part of our work in these briefs is testing the waters to feel out what has utility for Hive members in their own organizations, so any and all thoughts are welcome.

Introducing our Jumpstart series! Jumpstarting Hive Pop-ups, Hack Jams and Maker Parties

As research partners of Hive NYC, we are invested in linking research to practice in order to address the network goals of supporting youth interest-driven pathways and strengthening Hive as a context for networked innovation. As part of that effect, we aim to regularly experiment with different kinds of knowledge production and sharing with the Hive NYC community. Here, we’re excited to introduce one of these experiments: HRL Jumpstarts, a series of tip sheets that we hope capture “good practices” of interest to the Hive NYC community. In essence, HRL Jumpstarts combine our fieldwork observations of Hive members doing their work and encountering challenges with our understanding of what existing literature recommends in order to come up with “conjectures,” or best guesses, as to what might support the work of the Hive.

Our first Jumpstart, available here and by clicking the image to the right, HRL-Jumpstarts_front_pageaddresses Hive one-day events, which include Pop-Ups, Hack Jams and Maker Parties, with suggestions for both the host of the event as well as participants who are manning tables or stations. Much appreciation to the über-talented Jess Klein for creating such a playful visual template for us. We hope the community finds the suggestions we pulled together useful — we welcome any and all feedback! Also, as we’ll be releasing other Jumpstarts in the future, please tell us what you think could use a good jump start!

Our process

As ‘working open’ is a value that we share with the Hive NYC network overall, below we provide a recap of the process we underwent to create this Jumpstart.

In early November, Rafi Santo and I brainstormed some guidelines for what could be included in Jumpstarts, based on articles we’ve read, things we’ve observed occurring in the Hive and conversations we’ve had with Hive members. The primary guideline was that each suggestion should support our two research strands: Supporting youth interest-driven learning pathways and furthering innovation in the Hive network. Our first brainstorm of potential ways to support day-long events produced far too many candidates, and in the end we decided that 16 suggestions was probably a good target number to shoot for. After several rounds of revisions, we landed on a reasonable first draft for feedback from the Hive community.

Hive Meet Up Jumpstart picAt the November Hive community meet-up at WNET, we debuted our “Cheat Sheet” (the original framing we’d come up with) to Hive members and the responses overall seemed to indicate that this would be a useful resource (phew!). We passed out hardcopies and had members meet in small groups to “hack” the cheat sheet for about 10 minutes, then we all came back together for a whole group discussion. The feedback everyone gave was fantastic and helped us see where there were points of confusion. We took notes during the discussion and collected all the sheets people had marked up and any notes people had taken on our behalf (thank you again!)

In early December, we took every piece of feedback from the meet-up notes as well as the “hacked” cheat sheets where people wrote their thoughts and put them all into a google doc, grouping similar points and adding “+1s” to ones we thought were especially valuable. If multiple people seemed to say the same thing, that also signaled us that that was an important issue to pay attention to (for example: changing the “cheat sheet” framing to avoid the perception that this set of tips covered everything about such events; another one was clarifying the two roles, event host and station facilitator, that we were making recommendations for). We then discussed the consolidated and prioritized feedback and tried to come to some sort of consensus around how to change our current version while still keeping it short, sweet and usable.

Come mid-December, we were ready for the fun part — making our content look pretty! Lucky for us, Jess Klein had some spare cycles to work out a template for us, coming up with several great options, including a “recipe”-like format that would allow folks to cut out various tips and use them like a deck of cards, as well as the version we ended up with, which featured an array of colorful hexagons (a Hive visual brand “go-to”). In the end, we really liked the playful and flexible aspect of the hexagon design. Also, because it doesn’t use a ‘bullet-list’ convention, it encouraged us to pare down our sentences as much as possible.

Since we now have a word template, we’ll be able to pump out future Jumpstarts a bit more quickly than this first one. We’re looking forward to sharing more down the line!

[brief] Networked Innovation Interim Brief #1 – Innovations and Hive NYC

Over the course of the coming weeks, Hive Research Lab will be releasing a series of interim briefs, short form writing based on early observations and conceptualizations that are designed to provide the Hive NYC community with ongoing frameworks, findings and recommendations related to the Lab’s two research areas: supporting youth trajectories and pathways, and developing the Hive as a context for networked innovation. The briefs are part of a broader effort to connect current research and emerging findings to issues of practical importance to the Hive NYC community in order to improve network activity. Recommendations are preliminary and based either on existing literature or observations of practice within the network, and we hope that they can serve to spark conversations both within member organizations as well as across the network.

Hive Research Lab - Networked Innovation Interim Brief #1 - Innovations & Hive NYC - February 2014 cover imageOur first brief, which speaks to our Networked Innovation research strand, builds off of earlier work we’ve done to think about what counts as an innovation, but in it we take more of the perspective of what this question might mean for Hive members, as opposed to for our work as researchers. We include a set of “dimensions” that can be considered vis-a-vis a given innovation, consider how these dimensions might have import in the Hive NYC context, and provide a snapshot of things that might be considered innovations, broadly speaking, within Hive NYC.

Of course, thoughts and questions are welcome! Link to the brief is here.