Category Archives: Hive Related

We Launched a Community Events Calendar and You Can Too!

Chicago is known for having one of the richest out-of-school time learning ecosystems in the US. So much incredible work has been done in this city to advance and nurture that ecosystem through collaborative networks like After School Matters (ASM), the Chicago City of Learning (CCOL), Thrive Chicago, Mozilla’s Hive Chicago and others! In particular, CCOL and ASM have done incredible work to make these opportunities visible to young people and adults of influence through online portals, calendars, and searchable databases.

But much of what is true for the needs of young learners is also true for their educators At the Hive, we believe that exceptional connected learning (CL) experiences for young people begin with exceptional CL experiences for educators. Learning is a lifestyle! The same organizational members of Mozilla’s Hive Chicago Learning Network that provide incredible learning experiences for youth bring that energy and creativity to the professional development of teachers, mentors, coaches, and program providers. Yet, we don’t have a community calendar or online portal for those adults.

In the Hive, we make unmet opportunities just like these our mission. Through our Moonshot challenges, community members document issues that stand in the way of a richer learning ecosystem, then curate and incubate solutions from our community to address them. The Hive-School Connections Moonshot group works to strengthen the connection between Hive and schools. Month after month of discussions yielded repeated feedback from the community: there needs to be a way to make professional development for educators more equitable, accessible, and peer-driven. After some nudging from an enthusiastic student at our Hive Chicago Buzz hack day, and inspired by what Ingenuity has done with their creative schools initiative, the team finally pulled it together and threw down the gauntlet: the Teachers @ Hive Chicago public calendar was born!

Since our launch on August 20th, we’ve already added dozens of events and had some great feedback on the work already!

Our Community Events Calendar

What makes our calendar special? Here’s what what we found were three absolutely key, must-have features:

  • Community-sourced events: you don’t have to be a registered user! Anyone can add events to our calendar. Just go to and try it for yourself. Before it goes live though, someone on our team has to approve it.
  • Rich filtering and sensible categories: teachers wanted to be able to find stuff that worked for them and serves their needs, FAST. So we made sure that whatever we setup would be easily searchable by keyword, category, cost, subject, location, etc.
  • Social media integration: social media is key; social media posts should result from event contributions and events should be easily shareable through social media channels.

That’s it. We used these key features as design criteria and worked to find the best solution, given our tight constraints in budget, staff, and expertise.

And You Can Do It Too!

Our calendar didn’t take a team of developers or a million dollar grant. It took a rag-tag crew of local educators, network staff, and yes, a web developer working together for a couple of hours with WordPress. It’ll cost us under $500 a year to maintain the site domain, hosting and licenses.

So now that we’ve made all the mistakes ourselves, we can share our pro-tips with you. Here are the basic ingredients:

I've highlighted the steps that might need some minor web developer support in this code-y font.

0. User-Centered Design: Community Input, Feedback and Buy-In

Before anyone got code-happy, the calendar development work began in group-discussion at monthly Hive Meetups; it continued in shared-community sessions at Hive Chicago Buzz; and after receiving a modest start-up grant from the Hive Fund, it continued in teacher focus-groups and a Hive Dive workshop. So much about what would make or break this effort was learned by prototyping for feedback from the folks who would use it directly; quoting from the gauntlet-throwing blog post linked above:

Teachers had a lot of other great feedback regarding Professional Development in general. If you are interested in that feedback please click here for the slide presentation based on their comments.

Organizational representatives who attended the Hive PD Calendar Crunch Party also had a lot of great feedback. Our web developer was on deck to answer questions and to take note on the functionality of the calendar and what other possibilities were available in the design.

1. Host A WordPress Site and Pick a Theme

To begin our website build, we added a sub domain to our existing website (i.e. the “teachers” that precedes the in our URL) and installed WordPress on our server, hosted with Bluehost. This is easy to do using any number of web hosting services like Bluehost, Go Daddy, or others and will cost you somewhere in the range of $100 per year, depending on your options (there’s little or no cost for sub domains).

Once your WordPress site is up and running, pick a theme that works well with your vision for the calendar, your audience, and your brand. We went with the Sela theme because it was clean, simple and put images front and center.

Even if the color scheme isn't quite right to begin with, you can easily edit the theme CSS to use your own custom colors.

2. Buy The Events Calendar Plugins from Modern Tribe

Here’s where most of the cost came from, but we’re in love with the results. Coding something like this from scratch would be a bug-ridden nightmare and cost the budget of a small non-profit in development. So we thank the good people of Modern Tribe for bringing us The Events Calendar plugin for WordPress. For the full effect, we purchased the Community Calendar, PRO, with the Filter add-on. They’ve also got add-ons to integrate with Eventbrite and other cool e-commerce stuff we didn’t need but you might like. If your budget is extra-tight, skip the filter and the PRO upgrade.

Don't want to pay for their plugin because you've got the coding chops? OK, then you should at least fork their GitHub repo and give it a go from the source-code to make your own adjustments.

3. Install (and Hack) Some Key Plugins

Here are four, key, FREE plugins that you will need to install to get the full-effect:

  • Jetpack: this should come pre-installed with WordPress these days, but if not, get it. You’ll need to link it up with a account. Then make sure to activate Publicize specifically, which is the only reason you really need Jetpack. However, there’s other cool stuff in it.
  • Yoast SEO: stands for Search Engine Optimization. This will allow you to create slick Facebook and Twitter cards for your site. It’s all the rage with the kids these days.
  • Functionality: this one is a little wonky, but it lets you customize (hack) functions (stuff in plugins). See below for deets.
  • Import users from CSV using meta: this is how you’re going to save a million hours when it’s time to add users to your site. Skip it if that’s not the route you want to take. See below for deets.

Phew! That’s a lot of plugins, but it’s worth it. The hard part comes next. You’re going to hack Publicize to work special for your events.

Publicize is a particularly nice plugin that allows you to link your WordPress posts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and some other stuff. By this I mean: when you hit publish in WordPress, it will automatically send out social media posts to publicize your posts! It also adds those nice sharing buttons to your posts. It’s awesome.

Once you have it installed, go to ‘Settings>Sharing’ in your Dashboard to link up your accounts. The only problem is that Publicize only works with standard posts, not Modern Tribe Events. So we’re going to hack it.

Basically, you need to hook `tribe_events` custom post types into the Publicize function. This is made really easy with the Functionality plugin. You can find great instructions on adding custom post support in this link (just use option #1, not #2).

The short story: copy/paste the following code under ‘Plugins>Edit Functions’ in the Dashboard menu.

add_action('init', 'my_custom_init');
function my_custom_init() {
     add_post_type_support( 'tribe_events', 'publicize' );

4. Customize Your Events Calendar Plugin

You’re going to have to do a little work to customize the Modern Tribe plugins to make it work with your theme and to add categories, venues, organizers, etc. Go to ‘Events>Settings’ and poke around the tabs and options. Set default currency symbols, cutoff times, etc.

Pay particular attention to “Default Stylesheet” and “Events Template” under the “Display” tab. With the Sela Theme, we found “Tribe Events Styles” and “Default Events Template” work just fine.

Under the “Community” tab, we found it helpful to set the “Default status for submitted events” to “Pending” so that it’s easy to find them in the Events list later. Also, under “Alerts”, make sure to add emails for folks you’d like to be notified when a community contribution is submitted.

Pro-Tip: Make sure to create a How-To Guide for users of your site. We used our (still draft) guide to explain what our categories meant and we’re going to add more detail to explain our event review process too.

5. Setup Admins and Authors

OK, so now that you’ve got everything setup nicely, it’s time to start soliciting for events! Nope, wait, hold on. So who exactly is going to manage them when they come rushing in?

Community-sourced contributions need to be reviewed by a site admin; someone with the authority to edit and post events, or delete them. Or, you can create other trusted authors and editors to do that for you or for themselves. WordPress has multiple “user roles” to help you manage who has permission to do what

Here are a couple of solutions to help manage this deluge of events likely to follow your site-launch:

  • Establish an event review schedule: help your contributors anticipate when they will see their calendar events appear and help your admins fit event review into their schedules. Perhaps you’ll be posting events every Monday afternoon? Or on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings? Whatever your schedule, make it public and stick to it.
  • Share the responsibilities: Identify a core-team of admins to help you review event postings and assign a rotation that everyone can stick to using calendar invites with reminders.
  • Expand your site admins: do you have strong community leaders that are likely to be trusted event providers? Local cultural institutions or community based organizations? Well, skip the review process and grant those organization representatives admin, editor, or author access to draft, preview and publish their own events without your approval.
  • Create organization logins: as we all know, organization staffing is dynamic and individuals change positions over time. Consider creating an organizational login that can be shared by multiple staff, but if you do, limit their role to contributor so that you still review their posts. You want to prevent anonymous publishing!

Depending on the size of your network, setting up all those user accounts can become a real nightmare. That’s where the Import users from CSV using meta plugin (seriously, that’s what it’s called) will come in handy. It’ll allow you to bulk-upload a CSV file (from Excel or Google Sheets) with all the user information in columns, saving a lot of time!

6. Get Social Media Savvy!

I’m no social media expert so I’m not going to get too detailed or too instructional here. I only wanted to note that even with a calendar, people tend to find out about events from their peers: learning is fundamentally social!

The biggest value-add from a shared calendar like this is visibility. But while the event postings will serve as an anchor, nobody will find them unless you publicize, publicize, publicize. The spotlight doesn’t shine on it’s own, you need to light it up.

Again, the Publicize plugin will help you do that, so make sure to take the time to understand how it works, but you should also take the time to do some good, old-fashioned networking too. Thank your event contributors when they add events and promote the calendar and events to influential members of your community. Check out the Tweets above for examples.

If you need more support, consider posting a “social media strategy” volunteer position. You’d be surprised how many marketing and communications professionals are eager to share their expertise for a good cause, or sharpen their skills. We found Catch A Fire to be a particularly nice place to do that.

The Teachers @ Hive Chicago Team

The core contributors to this project included:

Seven Things I Learned Demo-ing the Webmaker App This Summer

This summer, I participated in two exciting learning events in Chicago that gave me a great opportunity to take the Webmaker App on a little test drive. You know, kick the tires and light the fires. Turns out it had great acceleration and handled curves like a dream. Oh, and the kids loved it too!

On Wednesday, July 22, Google hosted a street fair for STEM activities: the Geek Street Festival. Two dozen Chicago organizations participated to lead demonstrations and hands-on activities for almost 5,000 attendees, including thousands of children from Chicago Parks District summer camps! You can watch a great recap video here.

On Sunday, August 8, many of us got back together for the Chicago Southside Mini Maker Faire at the Ford City Mall, hosted by Agape Werks and the Museum of Science and Industry. Many families came out of the mall and walked right up to our tents to make and learn together!

Here are a couple of lessons I learned about the app to help you get the most out of it too.

1. The Web is Really Just 3 Things

Text, graphics and hyperlinks. That’s about it. Lo and behold, this is what you get in the Webmaker App (beta). Yes, the links are in button form, but that’s not the point. So what can you make with just three ingredients? A heck of a lot! So let your imagination go wild!

Oh, and there are pages too I guess; does that make it four things?

We started off with something simple: a “would you rather” style quiz. Would you rather drink coffee or tea? Would you rather play basketball or soccer? Would you rather be the Hulk or Superman? A simple scenario – simple as text, graphics and links – can generate a robust space for creative decision making.

2. Make “Remix” the First Lesson

Constructivists would disagree, but I’ve always been a destructivist at heart. Give me a functional, working thing and I’ll rip it apart and put it back together to be a slightly less functional thing worth a thousand times more to me. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Don’t re-invent the wheel? Scratch that. Break it. Remix it.

This is the hidden beauty at the heart of all Mozilla learning tools, activities and practices. With the Webmaker App, remix is the fundamental unit of currency. Start with a template make and have your kids remix it. They’ll take it from there.

Also, pro-tip: when you’ve got a hundred campers swarming your maker tent like a herd of learning zombies trying to produce brains (not consume them), it helps to have something ready to do, immediately, rather than a blank slate for them to stare at.

3. Kids of All Ages Love Paper Prototypes and Crayons

Which brings me to the next part. Just because you’re teaching tech doesn’t mean paper and crayons have no place. Before you jump into the digital space, start in the analog one. Giving learners a piece of paper and some crayons to imagine their own personal [insert whatever] really gets the creative juices flowing and primes the webmaking pump. It’s also just way easier to make and fix mistakes before you dive in.

But the real wins here? First, pacing: by giving people some time to think on paper, you spread the workflow out to engage more visitors to your maker station in a continuous flow of activity. Second, age-range: adding this step to the activity makes your station accessible to kids aged 2 to 102. So what if that toddler can’t quite handle the app? They still learned some crayon logic. It also keeps them busy while their older siblings mess around.

4. Maintain Creative Flow

You know when you’re in the zone? Like, when you’ve lost an hour trying to pick a color or a font, size an image, place something perfectly, wordsmith that killer comment, etc. and you didn’t even notice? You don’t want to break that flow. You wanna stay in the zone, right?

So before you engage learners in the remix, front load all the non-design stuff. Part of that is the paper prototype, but the other parts are naming your remix (yes do this right away) and searching/downloading all the images you want to use locally to the device.

Trust. Once you’re in the make, you wanna stay in the make.

5. Bigger is Better

Trying to demonstrate how to use the app on a small tablet or smartphone screen can really put eyesight to the test (especially outdoors in bright sun). It tests your patience and limits you to one or two participants at a time. So, think big. Purchase a Google Chromecast for less than $50 and use it to screencast your device on a big screen. We used a busted old 40” flatscreen TV from my garage. You can buy a sweet 24” Viewsonic LED monitor with portrait view (to match the tablet and phone aspect) for just over $200 on Amazon.

6. A Surprising Number of American Kids Use iPhones or iPads

For now, the Webmaker App is available only for Android devices. I didn’t think this would be a major constraint, but it limited the final sell: continue this at home. The good news? Webmaker App makes can be shared and played on the web! Make sure that once your maker is done with their remix, that you show them how to share a link to their make on the web using email. Don’t skip this critical win.

7. Take the Time to Setup Your Devices

Before heading out into the wild to work through these activities on your own, take the time to setup your devices to make sure that the template makes are bookmarked in your browser for quick access; that you have a single, common Webmaker account everyone can share (rather than letting people sign into their own, which slows things down); and that there is an outgoing email account setup and ready to use. It also helps to download a bunch of standard images, like candy and ice cream, Superman and the Hulk, or basketballs and soccer balls.


Download and customize both of these two template makes for an introductory and level-up experience:

  • Would You Rather? is a simple two-choice quiz, with no wrong answers and all the links pre-arranged for a quick make.
  • Pop Quiz! is a slightly more complex quiz with three choices, two wrong answers and none of the links pre-arranged, providing a good decision-logic test for understanding.

Use these paper prototypes to provide a structured thought-space for app brainstorm.

Print out and cut up these Webmaker app promo cards to quickly share the app for download.

A Member-Driven Network: Research, Data & Feedback for 2015

Hive Chicago is a Member-driven Network.

As part of Mozilla’s Hive Learning Networks global initiative, Hive Chicago shares it’s mission, vision and theory of change with all Hive Networks: mobilize educators in our communities to create connected learning experiences (that teach web literacy) and catalyze others to extend that work.

Yet, as a network of local organizations in Chicago, the unique goals, strategies and calls-to-action that the Hive Chicago adopts to advance that mission are directly informed by the collective aspirations, needs and challenges articulated by our individual, organizational, and community members.

In Chicago, members of the Hive collaboratively shaped a set of four goals in 2013: equitable access, learning pathways, innovative program design, and external value. To achieve these aspirational goals, Chicago membership further articulated six Moonshots in 2014. These are calls-to-action or issue areas that organize Moonshot working groups to generate solutions – onramps to learning, transportation, school engagement, parent engagement, youth voice, and data informed decision making.

The experience of exploring, creating and sharing collaboratively in the Network – either through meetups, online forums, blogs, funding opportunities, youth learning events, or other gatherings and venues for engagement – is also shaped to meet the needs of the network. Hive Chicago collects data on member activity, solicits experience feedback, and engages research partners to assess the effectiveness and to inform the design of our engagement platform and professional learning community.

The NYU Hive Research Report

The Hive Learning Networks partner with New York University, Connecting Youth: Digital Learning Research Project to conduct member-professional-educator and youth-participant experience research in Hive-funded, and un-funded activities. For three years, the NYU team has been conducting interviews, surveys, and observations to produce yearly reports that help paint an unbiased picture of the Hive experience.

In the March 2015 Meetup, Hive Chicago’” staff presented eight “Key Findings” from the NYU Academic Year 2013-14 Hive Report to attendees of the Meetup. Since the report covered a period of time several months in the past, Hive staff prompted them to reflect and provide feedback on whether the key findings had been addressed. The following is the exact text of the prompt:

Reflecting on the NYU report left Hive Leadership feeling encouraged that many of the issues raised by Hive membership in 2013 and 2014 have begun to be addressed leading into 2015.

Yet, the best judge of our work are the members of the Network and we wanted to get your feedback to see where we have been effective, and where we might continue to improve.

Please provide us with feedback on these NYU Key Findings. For each of the NYU Key Findings above, please consider the Key Finding and reflect on how it connects to your experience in the Hive, then leave a colored sticker dot to indicate:

  • GREEN – Being Addressed: this is an issue that has been adequately addressed, is currently being addressed adequately, or is not relevant to the current state of the Hive;
  • YELLOW – No Idea: this is an issue that you have no experience with or don’t know whether the Hive is addressing;
  • PURPLE – Critical Attention: this is an issue that has not seen any significant action from the Network and needs immediate attention;

The Eight NYU Key Findings:

Text and headings taken verbatim from NYU report Executive Summary.

  1. Defining Hive & Hive-like – Some [representatives] pointed out that their work had already been aligned with Hive’s goals, and that these learning models simply provided language to describe their existing practices.
  2. Educational Innovation – Representatives believed that educators from the school sector were missing from the network, and believed that Hive leadership should work to better bridge the gap between the informal and formal learning spaces.
  3. Network Growth – [Representatives] feared that a network that became too large could potentially dilute each organization’s ability to build meaningful relationships and collaborations.
  4. Beneficial Resources – The two most valued benefits of membership were access to funding and organizational peers.
  5. Desired Resources – Representatives highlighted the need for a resource hub where they could easily find information on all Chicago Hive member organizations, as well as their programs and projects.
  6. Desired Resources – [Representatives] requested toolkits with best practices, stronger connections between the various Hive Learning Networks and Hive Learning Communities, and a more organized structure for monthly meetups and Minigroups.
  7. Institutional Support – None of the interview participants reported facing institutional challenges regarding their Hive membership. However, the level of active organizational support they experienced still varied.
  8. Spread – There were mixed responses on whether concepts like connected learning and HOMAGO had spread beyond the Hive network. While some representatives believed that these concepts were spreading in their home institutions, others mentioned that their work had been aligned with these models before they were formally identified and promoted.

The results of the member feedback on the NYU Report are shown in the slideshow gallery below.

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Members almost unanimously felt that – in the time since the NYU research was conducted – Hive has addressed issues around defining Hive, growing the network, and providing beneficial resources for members. Their perspective on their own institutional support for the Hive continued to vary and clear evidence for the spread of Hive-like ideas remains somewhat unclear. Members feel united that there is still room for improvement with engaging formal educators in our innovative work and making the products of our work easy to find and access.

Real-time Feedback Channels

Meetup Feedback

In addition to the NYU Report, Hive Chicago continuously collects network feedback directly through surveys at network engagements and indirectly through tracking participation activity, event attendance, and organizational profiles. As a complement to the NYU key findings, Hive staff also shared samples of this data at the March 2015 Meetup as well. These are presented below.

An Example of Meetup Feedback collected in 2014. The Likert scale used ranges from 1 – Strongly Disagree to 4 – Strongly Agree. #5 – "I think that Hive Chicago is on the right track." #11 –  "Today’s meetup provided me with an adequate opportunity to connect one-on-one with Hive Leadership" #19 –  "Today’s meetup provided me with an opportunity to connect with someone new in the Hive, or reconnect with someone I otherwise see infrequently."
An Example of Meetup Feedback collected in 2014. The Likert scale used ranges from 1 – Strongly Disagree to 4 – Strongly Agree.
#5 – “I think that Hive Chicago is on the right track.”
#11 –  “Today’s meetup provided me with an adequate opportunity to connect one-on-one with Hive Leadership”
#19 –  “Today’s meetup provided me with an opportunity to connect with someone new in the Hive, or reconnect with someone I otherwise see infrequently.”

From the sample data in the table above – the full data-set includes over two dozen questions tracked intermittently in 2014 – we can draw a few conclusions. First, overall, our meetup attendees have found the meetup experience to be improving over the last year. This is implied by the up-and-to-the-right trend in the lines above, but clearer and more compelling in the full dataset. Second, the meetups currently and consistently do a better job at connecting our attendees to each other than they do at connecting attendees to Hive staff, though both have improved over time.

Finally, the sense that “Hive is on the right track” is significantly variable from meetup to meetup suivez ici. This information is regularly used by Hive staff to gauge how attendees have received new direction or messaging offered by network leadership at meetups. It helps indicate when leadership plans are connecting to member expectations.

Meetup Attendance

In the anonymized meetup attendance spreadsheet below – click here to view the spreadsheet in it’s own window – each row tracks a single attendee and each column represents a meetup; cells are marked orange when an individual was in attendance, while those marked blue indicate they were not.

The meetup attendance data is very illuminating. The first thing to note is the “long tail” of attendees with intermittent or singular attendance. The sheet is sorted with highest attendance at the top, to lowest attendance at the bottom. You can see the long tail by scrolling downwards and noting the transition from predominantly orange to blue.

Secondly, when individual attendance is compared against member organization attendance the following conclusions emerge (note that member organization attendance is not shown here, but is calculated by considering when any staff person from an organization is in attendance at a given meetup):

There is a consistent representation of member organizations:

    • Our 64 Member Organizations attend an average of 50% of meetups (6) per year on average;

There is a variable representation of individuals:

    • 374 unique individuals have attended Hive Chicago meetups in the last 18 months;
    • 50% of those attendees came once and never returned (modulo our next meetup);
    • 30 of those attendees attend 50% of meetups or more (6 or more) per year on average.

What is amazing about this information is that despite the fact that very few people attend every single meetup, there is a pervasive sense of connectedness in our community that is driven by many other interaction opportunities outside of meetups: online in our member-forum, through project collaborations, and at other Hive events and programs. The key takeaway is that:

A thriving network can operate through distributed and loosely connected relationships while remaining tightly in synch.

This data also helps us to think strategically about how we design the meetup experience in 2015: if 50% of our attendees only come once, then we need to be much better prepared to make that single interaction a meaningful one. This is true whether or not there is potential for them to return! Ensuring that people who make the time to interact with us face to face just once have a clear sense of who we are is critical if we only have that one shot. First impressions are lasting.

This also provides us with an interesting opportunity to sample folks in different attendance groups to find out why they do or do not return and where else they may be connecting with the Hive in a way that suits them better. These surveys will be conducted in the next couple of months and their results will be invaluable.

Advancing the Network in 2015

Prior to the March meetup, Hive staff prepared a draft engagement plan and calendar for 2015, based on perceived network needs that were apparent to Hive staff from their experience in 2014. Before these plans were finalized, it was important to assess them against actual member expectations. This was another opportunity for feedback. After reviewing the NYU Key Findings and the meetup feedback and attendance data, Hive staff presented meetup attendees with their plan and the calendar shown in the spreadsheet below.

After reviewing the plan and calendar, meetup attendees were prompted to provide one final round of feedback:

After considering the NYU Key Findings from their 2013-14 Academic Year report, seeing the feedback and meetup attendance data collected by Hive Staff during that same year and hearing about the 2015 calendar for convenings that includes Meetups, Community Calls, and “Hive Dives”, what are your reflections on what should stay, what should go, and what should change for the Hive Experience in 2015?

Attendees completed a survey to identify one item of the Hive engagement strategy they would keep, one they would change, one they would add, and one they would throw away. Hive staff received over 30 individual survey responses and while no specific items dominated the keep, change, add and trash categories, the following general trends emerged after review:

  • Variety – people appreciate a variation in their experience, e.g. food, topics, formats, after hours, target audiences, even furniture format;
  • Skill Building – people want to continue having opportunities to build their skills, e.g. communication-tool-tutorials, skill/fail shares, RFP support, etc.;
  • Inclusivity – there’s a widespread desire to continue broadening inclusion of various forms of diversity, e.g. geographic, racial, formal/informal, etc.;
  • Mechanisms for Connecting – people need more information about digital tools already in place for connecting the community and training to use them;
  • Connecting to Resources – people are looking for a more user-friendly format that allows individuals to find and digest our network resources and learning products;
  • Connecting to Peers – peer-to-peer connections and exchanges are Hive’s biggest asset and value-add for the community;
  • Less Yack & More Hack – people feel like they understand what Hive is all about and now they want to spend more time working on Moonshots;

These are the Hive Chicago design criteria for 2015 community engagement.

Extracurriculars for All Kids, an Economic Argument

On Tuesday March 24, I was honored to attend a lecture and discussion with Dr. Robert D. Putnam hosted by The Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago Public Library. Dr. Putnam was introduced as “the poet laureate of a civil society” with a laudable career that has brought him to the oval office on several occasions as an advisor on the socio-economic health of our country. On Tuesday, he spoke about his new book, Our Kids, which makes the case for a growing socio-economic crisis driven by class isolation: an “opportunity gap” tied closely to education.

So why the economic case for extracurriculars? Dr. Putnam described the social and community environment of poor youth in America as one that is increasingly isolated, that breeds a lack of trust in society, and that is significantly limited in learning engagement opportunities when compared to wealthy peers. Driven by extensive research and data, Dr. Putnam makes a clear case that the educational affordances granted to wealthy children by their higher-income parents result in major economic advantages as they age and graduate from college. The result is a self-perpetuating socio-economic inequality.

His solutions include policies that increase the interactions between young people and adult role models and provide community spaces for young people to socialize and practice “soft skill” development that is essential to their future economic success. Amongst those many policy choices, Dr. Putnam stressed the importance of abolishing “pay to play” school policies and making extracurricular opportunities available for all children.

I wanted to thank Dr. Putnam for reminding me why I am proud to work for Hive Chicago, a network of local youth-serving organizations aspiring to transform the learning landscape and provide more equitable access to innovative, interest-driven, learning pathways for all young people in Chicago.

Check out the Twitter Storify below to learn more about Dr. Putnam’s work from the attendees to Tuesday’s event.

Working Together in Hive Chicago

One of the core principles of Hive Learning Networks is a collaborative approach to creating experiences that will transform the learning landscape for young people in cities into connected learning ecosystems. In Hive, collaboration isn’t just a novelty, it’s an essential approach to creating openly networked, interest-driven pathways for young people that are a foundation of connected learning.

A connected learning ecosystem requires a connected network of collaborative learning institutions.

In a successful Hive collaboration, multidisciplinary teams have shared goals, shared purpose, and objectives to nurture new ideas, new ways of working, new partnerships, and – as the Aspen Institute Task Force recommends – “innovations that can be shared across networks.”

So that’s the goal: collaborative innovations that spread.

In the Hive Learning Networks theory of change, spread of innovations created in a networked context are essential to achieve at-scale changes in the learning landscape. If we can mobilize educators in our communities to create collaborative innovations that catalyze others to extend their work, then we can grow our networks to make a scale-level impact in learning locally, nationally and internationally.

In Hive Chicago, we use our Moonshots to mobilize community members around opportunities and shared challenges. The Hive Chicago Moonshots are calls to action, developed by members of the network, that help us organize the projects, programs, tools and experiences that we create, and generate new seed solutions that can be developed collaboratively.

Hive Chicago is also very fortunate to have the Hive Chicago Fund for Connected Learning at the Chicago Community Trust as an essential ally in our work to advance mobilized educators into solutionary creators. The twice-annual Hive Fund Request for Proposals (RFP) is an invaluable tool that provides funding to motivate the creation of collaborative innovations

The RFP features four levels of funding – ranging from $10K to $200K – that scaffold the creation of projects from an exploratory, partner-forming Glimmer grant, to an experimental prototype-development Spark grant, to a project implementation Catalyst grant, and finally to a project refinement and dissemination Lever grant. These grant levels are designed to scaffold the innovation process, starting with small grants that can inspire and spark low-risk experimentation, then building to higher dollar amounts set aside for projects that successfully identify a target audience, demonstrate their learning outcomes, and capture the attention of our community.

The mantra of innovation: fail early, fail often, is the design inspiration behind the Hive Fund RFP.

The successful growth and dissemination of innovative projects is not just a matter of good ideas and risk taking. The intentional development of a learning innovation with scale-level impact potential also requires the careful maintenance of collaborative partnerships, the strategic development of a sustainable context, and an ethic of working in the open that results in an adaptable, remix-able product. Working in the open enables others to replicate your process and customize it for their needs.

A sustainability plan is not only, or even predominantly about drawing in new investment, it’s a sustainable approach to program design: identifying the context in which new ideas can leverage existing resources and catalyze others through existing distribution channels. A single innovative programatic experiment may not have the legs to stand on it’s own in the next level of funding. A developing project may need multiple rounds of experimentation, or may need to stitch together multiple innovative experiments, in order to build an effective, sustainable strategy.

Think “big picture” from the outset.

How does your innovation fit into your organization’s broader programmatic agenda? What local or national partners have the geographic, digital, or professional reach that could allow an idea to spread without a large investment in communications and marketing? What are the two, three or more proofs of concept that you will need to design in order to build to something big?

Which brings us full circle. A project is only as strong as it’s collaboration and any sustainability hinges on a successful partnership. Like any relationship, a strong collaboration relies on intentional communication, explicit alignment of mission, vision and goals, and regular monitoring or re-evaluation of alignment.

Before forming a collaborative project, take some time to understand your partners.

Drawing inspiration from conversations with Hive Chicago members and partners, which include After School Matters, The Hive Research Lab, and Hive NYC, we are working towards creating a rubric that Hive Chicago members can use to have the hard conversations early to prepare for a successful collaboration.

Take a look at the infographic Prezi presentation featured below to see an illustration of these concepts and make sure to provide feedback that could help us develop this model.

Watch this live-stream of a recent Network & Fund RFP workshop to hear these ideas articulated verbally (jump to timestamp 31m40s):

Hive Learning Networks Goals & Vision

  • Mobilize more educators to adopt connected learning practices and teach web literacy within a growing constellation of Hive Learning Networks
  • Create high-quality connected learning and web literacy tools, content, curriculum and practices for broad use, increasing demand for Hives in new locations and sectors that can serve a range of learners
  • Catalyze schools, youth programs, and city agencies to provide rich connected learning and web literacy programs, especially in under-served communities

Hive Learning Networks Core Principles

  • Creative & Innovative: supporting inventive solutions and imaginative approaches to learning.
  • Collaborative & Catalytic: multidisciplinary teams (learners) have shared goals, shared purpose, and objectives to nurture new ideas, new ways of working, new partnerships, or as the Aspen Institute Task Force recommends, “innovations can be shared across networks.”
  • Relevant & Consequential: experiences address needs and potential of children, youth, and teens, with learning and interests linked to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement.
  • Equitable & Accessible: productive exchange of ideas and opportunities for all in a way that fosters interoperability (the ability to move freely across networks). “Adopts open standards and protocols that simplify, promote interoperability of learning resources.” (Aspen)
  • Engaging & Participatory: connects the personal with shared interests of the community to actively create, design and test new knowledge.
  • Working Open: Hive is a network that learns together. Hive works open by valuing discovery, acquisition of knowledge, and the process of remixing and sharing that learning with others.

Hive Chicago at MozFest 2014

Every fall, Hive staff and members of our community convene in London, England at Ravensbourne College, on the banks of the River Thames to become immersed in a singular experience: The Mozilla Festival. It has become a yearly Hive tradition and an important launching point to shape the work of Hive Global in the year to come. This year’s festival beings on Friday October 24 and runs non-stop until Sunday the 26th.

Follow us on Twitter this weekend @HiveChicagoBuzz to join in on the action and track #hivebuzz and #mozfest to catch all the energy.

The Hive Chicago MozFest Crew

This year, Hive Chicago is fortunate to bring an impressive cohort of your network colleagues and peers to MozFest, nominated and voted on by you to represent us. There are three categories: Moonshot Representatives will be representing the work of our Moonshot working groups over the last few months to identify solutions to the most persistent challenges to enacting Hive Chicago’s goals; Maker Party People have created highly engaging, hands-on, connected learning experiences with digital media and will be showcasing these at a Maker Party; and other travelers who will be leading or attending sessions at MozFest.

Each of these community members has also earned their Hive Community Member Badge – click on their name below to see their Webmaker profile and click on the badge to make sure you earn or already have yours too. Here’s the rundown of our travelers and what they bring with them:

Moonshot Representatives

Maker Party People

We’re also very excited to support travel for David Bild of The Chicago Academy of Sciences and Emmanuel Pratt of Sweet Water Foundation, who were invited to present a session related to their work on the Hive Mapping Collaborative. And we’ll be on the lookout for Kyla Williams from Smart Chicago Collaborative, and other Hive Chicago friends from around town.

As an essential part of Mozilla’s learning strategy, members of the Hive Chicago entourage, joined by their peers in Hive Networks and Communities around the world, will carry as much to the festival as they will take back with them to Chicago. Here’s what we’ll be up to this weekend.


MozFest: Arrive with an Idea, Leave with a Community

This “unconference” – hosted by the Mozilla Foundation – is part hackathon, part science fair, part Maker Party, and sometimes just full-on dance party. The festival brings together technologists, educators, journalists, bloggers, developers, and learners to share and revel in their vision of an open web, neigh, an open society, and a truly connected world of learning.

Each year, session proposals are accepted around thematic tracks, that loosely organize and bind some structured activities in a sea of self-guided and self-directed experiences. This year’s tracks include: Hive Learning Networks, Build and Teach the Web, Open Web with Things, The Mobile Web, Source Code for Journalism, Science and the Web, Art and Culture of the Web, Open Badges Lab, Musicians and Music Creators on the Open Web, Policy and Advocacy, and Community Building.

The Hive Learning Networks Track

The Hive track is exactly what you might expect: a community gathering of Hive members and the Hive-curious, people united to create a transcendent learning ecosystem in their respective cities or nations by promoting web literacy, digital media production and creating an openly networked environment of service providers and learning spaces. These are solutionaries, ready to tackle the unique challenges – both obstacles and opportunities – in their local neighborhoods. They are ready to bring innovative programs, projects, platforms, and products to their communities and bring us all one step closer to our goals.

The track consists of meetups, fireside chats, a number of sessions organized as an “Action Incubator”, a Maker Party, and opportunities to showcase our work. We open the festival with a global meetup on Friday night, which convenes a conversation around the Hive goals and the principles of connected learning. Then we dive right in.


Action Incubator

Our Friday evening meetup is immediately followed by the first session in our Action Incubator: Identifying Challenges – participants will identify obstacles that stand in their way of enacting our shared goals and a connected learning ecosystem in their local community, or identify the opportunities that might get them there. Then we will sort these challenges by affinity and reveal shared challenge areas that we all face in this work. Prepared with these shared goals, learning principles and challenge areas in mind, we will go forth and engage with all that MozFest has to offer with a collaborative, unified clarity of purpose.

Sound familiar? This process is modeled after our work in establishing Hive Chicago Moonshots, complemented by the creative insights and work of our sister Hive Networks around the globe. This is where our Moonshot Representatives get to provide guidance and support to the community. As experts in identifying shared challenges and organizing a community to action, the Moonshot Reps will play an important part in connecting and supporting attendees to the Hive Track at MozFest. Their existing Moonshots may also serve to help organize our global peers’ obstacles and opportunities into similar challenge areas.

Science Fair!


Before diving into the busy weekend, MozFest take a moment to reflect and share in a science fair! Participants of every track at MozFest demo work that they bring with them, or ideas they hope to explore, in a cocktail-party-styled showcase that exposes attendees to the incredible diversity of creative endeavors that they can choose to engage with during the rest of the weekend. This is a place to spark action.

We’re excited that Miriam Martinez will be sharing out SCCoogle and, two student-created web app projects aimed at addressing youth needs around school discipline and criminal records. David Bild and Emmanuel Pratt will also be sharing their Mapping Collaborative project as a teaser to their session.

Activating, Brainstorming, Prototyping, Iterating and Getting Feedback

On Saturday morning, we host session 2 of the Action Incubator: Brainstorming Solutions, where participants that need to spend a little more time with the Hive before venturing out will rapid-fire identify prototype solutions to their challenges or opportunities in a fun peer-to-peer exchange. On Sunday morning, we invite everyone, members of a Hive or otherwise, to session 3 of the Action Incubator: Receiving Feedback, where participants will share their the insights and prototypes from their MozFest experience for some peer-to-peer feedback to further develop their ideas.

For our Moonshot Representatives, these two days are a unique opportunity to share the Hive Chicago Moonshots with a diverse, international crowd to see how and if our messages resonate. This is an important test of our work as we head into Hive is Five: can we activate interest and support from a broad community? Taking these Moonshots to sessions around MozFest will also be an opportunity to brainstorm solutions and start to develop prototypes that might be executed over the course of the next few months or years after MozFest. There is a depth of potential resources at MozFest that we should leverage.

JakieMakerPArty MozFest2013

A Maker Party Too

Saving the best for last… did I mention the MozFest Maker Party? Oh yeah, we’ve got one of those on Saturday too! The party is hosted by Hive Global, for the young people of London. This is where our Maker Party people come in and bring a gust of our Windy City energy across the pond. I hope these Londoners brought their galoshes, ’cause they’re about to get showered in learning.

Celebrating Our Accomplishments

The weekend comes to a close on Sunday evening with a Global Meetup Redux and a Final Showcase to reconvene our new and not-so-new community to share what we’ve accomplished, learned or created over the last 3 days and identify what’s ready to share with the world, or at least our friends at the festival. The Final Showcase on Sunday evening is less of science fair and more of a circus!

Phew, that’s a busy 48-ish hours.

The post Hive Chicago at MozFest 2014 appeared first on Hive Chicago.

Cultivating Diversity in a Networked, Digital Age

This is a post that I drafted to collect some thoughts about diversity, learning networks, social media and youth development for future use in posts by me and my colleagues elsewhere. Many of the ideas presented in this post are formative or deserve a more sophisticated treatment than is achieved here, but the underlying thread is complete. The role of digital media and social networks in our modern discourse and learning is pervasive, but those networks require a cognitive diversity amongst their members in order to be effective. Unfortunately, the modern tools we use to cultivate these networks are not without bias and they require intentional and informed use to overcome those limitations. Moreover, we bring the limitations of our offline networks to bear on them as well, requiring us to understand how this can further limit the potential of these digital tools. In our work with young people, this is an issue that is of critical importance to their future success in an increasingly connected society. So we must work to first cultivate our own diverse networks and secondly, by example, focus on doing the same with our youth.

Recently, I made an offhand remark to an old and respected friend that contorted his face into a confused and skeptical look; I absentmindedly confessed that I now received all of my news from Facebook. I didn’t even give the sentiment a second thought before I said it, though I nervously followed with: “Well, most if it anyway. I guess I catch a little NPR in the morning too.” This gave me pause. Had I really just said that Facebook was my primary source of news? Some version of myself, from a time seemingly long past, would have been dismayed and disappointed.

And yet, I was neither of those things, dismayed or disappointed. Rather, the more I thought about it, the more I felt a mixture of pride and fortune. I came to realize that this was in fact exactly how news should work. It was my diverse network of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances that made it possible. The depth and diversity of my personal network was essential to my understanding of the world.

Why Diversity?

In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki makes a compelling case that “Large groups are smarter than an elite few”. I say compelling because not only do his case-studies and statistical references ring true, but as a former Adler Planetarium employee and an early witness to the birth and development of the project, I know this to be quite accurate, first hand.

For most of his book, Mr. Surowiecki concerns himself and the reader with the specific application of this crowd-wisdom to problem solving, and one of the most stunning elements of this argument concerns the role of diversity. It turns out that:

Diversity and independence are important because the best decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus and compromise. — James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

This is a sentiment that somehow feels wrong at first, but one that isn’t far from our actual experience. Diversity isn’t easy, it requires cultivation and intentionality, it can be contentious and uncomfortable, but it is essential for success because it expands our experience and understanding. Diversity challenges us.

Diversity Is Not Easy, Even Online

Sure, diversity can be a challenge to manage, and it’s the challenge that gives it value. But in some cases, the challenge of achieving diversity can seem unattainable in the face of deep-rooted social inequalities; those that face the youth we work with in the Hive every day. Yet, we hope that maybe technology can overcome this divide.

In her book, It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens danah boyd dedicates an entire chapter to how inequality is translated into the digital space; one that struck me deeply. She details how despite the promise of networked information technology to break down our boundaries, diversity online can still be undermined by the same forces at play offline.

Ms. boyd points out that throughout modern history, even with the advent of trans-atlantic telephone communications, people have continuously projected their dreams for a more integrated world onto new technologies. Yet, whether by the intention of their designers, or the broader social constraints they are designed within, this is rarely the case. Technology itself will not break down what divides us and a blind devotion to this faith can have dire consequences.

Because prominent figures in society – including journalists, educators, politicians – consider social media to be a source of information and opportunity, our cultural naïveté regarding the ways social and cultural divisions are sewn into our mediated social fabric may have more damaging costs in the future. — dana boyd, It’s Complicated

When the designers of our social media experiences fail to include diverse experiences and perspectives into their designed online platforms, or create systems that propagate, reinforce, or exaggerate social mechanisms that lead to segregation and homogenization in real life, then they can make it impossible for users to explore and network with each other unfettered by offline limitations. As educators and mentors, this means that our choice of platform can have serious limiting factors for our youth, or can create new opportunities otherwise inaccessible to them.

Moreover, the very same power that can re-enforce our divisions can also be used to make them visible in ways that we have never seen before. We are mapping and visualizing our human networks in spectacular fashion. There is much to be learned and Ms. boyd reveals some fascinating insights in her book.

Diversity, Repressed

Over the last few weeks, there have been a spate of articles that have pointed out the obvious: Facebook is designed to serve you more of what you like to see. This, we have learned, is of course so that Facebook can in turn better serve its advertisers. These articles have explored the question, “What happens when I like everything or nothing on Facebook” The lesson is simple, but the implications are of great consequence. If you are provided the luxury to see what you like alone, then your world becomes very small indeed.

But how small? Does it really matter who’s Facebook posts I see or not? Yes, it does.

When we “like” something on Facebook, we cast a vote to see more of it and give up the opportunity to see something we don’t like. When we unfriend, unfollow, or even just ignore someone who we don’t agree with, we lose their perspective on the world. We narrow our worldview and we constrain our thinking in exchange for reinforcing our own existing beliefs; we give up challenge for comfort, democracy for security.

Gilad Lotan makes this quite hard to dismiss in a brilliant Medium article, Israel, Gaza, War & Data: social networks and the art of personalizing propaganda. It’s a fairly unbiased look at how online social networks trace an underlying segregation of beliefs and opinions, and how that segregation may be reinforced by these networks.

As compelling as Mr. Lotan’s global perspective might be, Ms. boyd brings is all back home for us:

When teens go online, they bring their friends, identities, and network with them. They also bring their attitudes towards others, their values, and their desire to position themselves in relation to others. — dana boyd, It’s Complicated

This means that teens are bringing their real-life experiences, biases, and constraints with them to their online networks and by doing so, are re-creating the same divides that they face offline. And this isn’t just a failure of imagination or intentional neglect on their part. There are many forces at play that re-enforce these networks on and offline. Fear of social stigma, a feeling of resignation to social pressures, and sometimes a threat of real violence can constrain the extent of a teen’s online network. In other cases though, it’s just the benign human desire to seek comfort amongst like-minded, homogeneous social groups, known as homophily.

Despite our best intentions and the intrinsic power of technology, diversity can be repressed when we are not intentional about cultivating it.

The Intentionality of Diversity

We have all heard it before, and the truth is, we may have said it once too: “everyone was invited”; “I wasn’t being exclusive about it”; “the opportunity was open to anyone”; etc. Yet, while deep inside we know that it’s complicated, and that it takes more than an open door to invite a guest, somehow, we have fallen in love with the idea that the internet makes all that simple. We have decided that just “posting something online” will make it visible and understandable to all. By “sharing it on social media” we have released our information into some collective intelligence we all share. That, assuming you can access it, the internet is inherently equitable.

In her final words on inequality, Ms. boyd reminds us that “Networks Matter” (in a way that is eerily reinforced by a recent University of Phoenix TV ad campaign).

… just because people have access to the internet does not mean that they have equal access to information. Information literacy is not simply about the structural means of access but also about the experience to know where to look, the skills to interpret what’s available and the knowledge to put new pieces of information into context. In a world where information is easily available, strong personal networks and access to helpful people often matter more than access to the information itself. — dana boyd, It’s Complicated

In a modern, connected, online society it becomes more important than ever to cultivate diverse social networks of people, to help us not only access information but also to receive information that contests our existing perspective and puts new information into a greater, richer context. To tap the wisdom of crowds.

Diversity does not come easy. It requires intentionality. It requires us to ask hard questions about who’s not there, to understand the complex barriers that can divide us, and take the difficult step to cross them and reach out to someone different than us.

What We Can Do

Young people live in a culture of pervasive social inequality, but that does not mean that they are equipped to deal with it. Likewise, although they have spent their entire lives immersed in a glut of information technology, it does not mean that they are equipped to interpret and manipulate it to their needs. We must lead the way.

First, change always begins within ourselves. We start by cultivating our own diverse networks. By looking around at our network: in our meetups, in our projects and proposals, or in our social media spaces to ask the hard questions: are we represented by a thoroughly diverse set of people, ideas, experiences, backgrounds and passions? Who is not at the table? How can we welcome them?

Together as the Hive Chicago Learning Network, we must create an environment that welcomes members of our community who are underrepresented in our work. We must invite diverse perspectives into our work, whether that includes race, geographic location, or subject matter. No, not only invite, we must reach out and make welcome. Again, an invitation is only just that and nothing more.

Individually, online or off, this might mean thinking twice before deciding to un-friend or un-follow someone who challenges us, or to proactively seek out a dissenting opinion, to go out and visit a place we have never been to before, a place that challenges us, to follow the comments of someone who is different than us, to give voice and space to ideas that conflict with our own.

Second, we must take responsibility to acknowledge that technology is not a panacea and only we can access it’s untapped potential to empower young people through intentional intervention. Diverse social networks do not build themselves. Build a Community of Participation with Mozilla’s Webmaker Web Literacy materials. Through mentoring and modeling, we can help the next generation cultivate a diverse social network, online and offline. This is not a self-emergent phenomenon, even online.

In some cases, we need to identify safe spaces online where young people can thrive without threat of offline social repercussions. Introduce your youth to safe, intellectual social networks that offer a greater degree of privacy or anonymity without sacrificing social norms. Or build your own, like the Chicago Youth Voices Network’s Nuf Said platform or the Chicago City of Learning initiative. Online, open communities of practice, like GitHub, offer both a greater degree of anonymity as well as a professional experience that will distinguish youth in their career trajectory.

Helping young people to cultivate a truly diverse network of peers, mentors, and educators may be one of the most important elements of the work we do. It is the very heart of connected learning.

After years of intentional cultivation, I am very appreciative and fortunate to have a personal network that supports my lifetime of learning.

Designing a Hive Badge Ecosystem – Attributes

Previous posts in this series have discussed the structure and contributors to a Hive digital badge ecosystem. In this post, we will explore the attributes that will define these badges.

A Hive is a beautiful, complex, busy thing. Activity in a Hive, or #hivebuzz, takes many shapes and forms from the serendipitous or programatic connection between two educators at a local Hive meetup, to complex multi-organizational, cross-city partnerships pursuing big-budget funding, to Maker Parties: local community catalytic events with a Global connection. So, how do we focus and narrow down a Hive Global Badges Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for Summer 2014?

What We Value Most

Working within the Community Badge framework allows us to balance those global community attributes with the very unique local activities that express them. Focusing our attention on the professional activities of our practitioners further narrows the playing field. But what specific attributes will we tackle?

In order to test this model and to minimize the need for new design or spin our wheels on badges that are only marginally valuable to our members, we need to identify those connected learning attributes that are already the most clearly Hive-y.

STEP 1: Attribute Strands

We began our conversation at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning (#SRL14) by considering all of the Connected Learning attributes and voting (+1) on those that the Hive delegation at #SRL14 viewed as the most critical to Hive success: 

Learning Principles

    • Interest-powered +1+1+1
    • Peer-supported+1
    • Academically oriented

Design Principles

    • Production-centered +1+1+1
    • Openly networked +1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
    • Shared purpose +1+1+1+1+1+1

Core Values

    • Equity +1+1+1
    • Social Connection +1+1+1+1+1+1
    • Full Participation +1+1+1

The clear winner was Openly Networked, followed closely by Shared Purpose and Social Connection. Those attributes are not surprising if you’ve ever spent time in a Hive. The established networks have all grown through a process of member mission/vision alignment and relationship building. Hive meetups feel like a friendly gatherings and places where our communities normalize their work with each other. This is done through information sharing in an openly networked fashion, person-to-person and online.

STEP 2: Attribute Expressions

So what does “Openly Networked” mean? offers the following description:

Connected learning environments are designed around networks that link together institutions and groups across various sectors, including popular culture, educational institutions, home, and interest communities. Learning resources, tools, and materials are abundant, accessible and visible across these settings and available through open, networked platforms and public-interest policies that protect our collective rights to circulate and access knowledge and culture. Learning is most resilient when it is linked and reinforced across settings of home, school, peer culture and community.

So what does this mean for a Hive professional learning community? Well, much the same. We asked our representatives at #SRL14 to contribute how they see this attribute was expressed in their local Hives. The most popular were:

    • Inviting peers to observe programs and practices+1+1+1+1
    • Understanding and communicating partner organization’s functions (what they can do for the Hive and how can we scratch each other’s backs) +1+1
    • Able to identify who is within the network and what their contribution level is+1
    • Intentionally including others / networking with intention / collaboration ecosystem +1+1+1
    • Integrated approach of participating in cross-sector possibilities e.g. digital media, STEM, STEAM, arts, youth development, etc.+1+1
    • Clearly articulating resources your org can share with the network +1+1+1+1 eriacta 100mg tablets
    • Transparency+1+1
    • Sharing your work – outcomes and challenges+1
    • sharing data / creating structured data collection systems +1+1+1
    • Documenting and sharing useful processes – curriculum, brainstorming and design process, outcomes +1+1+1+1

STEP 3: Summer 2014 Attributes

The recurring themes of  linking, sharing, cross-sector collaboration, visibility and preserving the rights of equitable access are reinforced in both descriptions. So while “Openly Networked” is a very broad concept that would be matched by extensively vague criteria, the most popular community attributes above are more concrete:

    1. Inviting peers to observe programs and practices.
    2. Clearly articulating resources your org can share with the network.
    3. Documenting and sharing useful processes – curriculum, brainstorming and design process, outcomes.

These three attributes will become the foundation of the Summer 2014 Hive Global Community Badges. A Community Badge diagram for our top 3 Connected Learning Attribute “Strands”, and our top 3 Openly Networked Attributes is displayed below.

A schematic representation of how local Hive member contributor badges create pathways to Hive Global community badges.
A schematic representation of how local Hive member contributor badges create pathways to Hive Global community badges.

Next Steps

At #SRL14 our team moved on from here to discuss the value of badges to our community, which is detailed in my previous post.  Our next steps here will be to define the criteria of these three community badges, detailing the local contributor badges and resolving the logistical issues of hosting and issuing badges on

Designing a Hive Badge Ecosystem – Contributors

In my previous post on designing a Hive badge ecosystem, I focused on the Community Badge model as a possible structure for badges and pathways. In this post, I will describe the formative work of determining the audience and value of these badges. Given that the attributes of our Community Badges will be drawn from the Connected Learning theory… then who gets them and for what?

In February, a dozen representatives from Hive Networks across North America met at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning to discuss a badge ecosystem that would recognize Hive Global member contributions. The goal was to start modestly: identify a single key attribute of connected learning, as well as 3 of the most essential expressions of that attribute – the elements that make Hives… well, Hive-y? These would become our first badges, but who are they for?

Contributors and Target Audience

A Hive, whether it’s a network, a community or a learning event, generally consists of member organizations: museums, educational non-profits, government agencies, for-profits, foundations, community based organizations, schools, etc. Yet, the individual staff members of these organizations are the people who breathe life into the Hive. Their professional commitment and peer-to-peer learning is what ultimately translates into amazing opportunities and experiences for young people. They are the core audience of the Hive.

Even still, if Hive badges are for adult members – serving as experience designers and mentors for young people – should they be used to assess design practice, recognize facilitation of quality connected learning experiences or evaluate mentoring relationships?

If we expect high quality Connected Learning experiences for young people to emerge from the Hive, then Connected Learning has to be the way that we work in the Hive. By using and modeling these attributes in our peer-professional communities, as part of our peer-professional activity, we can expect that those same attributes will naturally emerge in the learning experiences we design.

Therefore Hive badges will initially focus on Connected Learning as expressed through Hive member engagement as opposed to the emergent results of that engagement. However, the experiences that we craft for young people are the ultimate goal of this work, so though we may begin working with the assumption that form follows function, we cannot ultimately ignore the products of our work; we should keep that layer in mind as we proceed.

Members of Hive Chicago take a "dotmocratic" vote on the network-relevance of challenges their peers voiced in their work.
Members of Hive Chicago take a “dotmocratic” vote on the network-relevance of challenges their peers voiced in their work.

Hive Global Mini-Badge Summit

The 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning #SRL14 was the perfect place to talk Hive Global badges – because it was all about badges – but most importantly because we had great Hive representation from NYC, PGH, TOR, CHI and SFO! The roster was filled out by:

  • Kathryn Meisner // Hive TOR
  • Leah Gilliam // Hive NYC
  • Marc Lesser, MOUSE // Hive NYC
  • Robert Friedman // Hive CHI
  • Sam Dyson // Hive CHI
  • Chaya Nayak, Sweet Water Foundation // Hive CHI
  • Emmanuel Pratt, Sweet Water FDN // Hive CHI
  • Rik Panganiban, California Academy of Sciences // Hive SFO
  • Eric Hannan, San Francisco Public Library // Hive SFO
  • Ingrid Dahl, Bay Area Video Coalition // Hive SFO
  • Katie Levedahl, California Academy of Sciences // Hive SFO
  • Jennifer Collins, San Francisco Public Library // Hive SFO

And though they were unable to be seated at our table because they were running the show in Redwood City, most of Hive PGH leadership was around too. This was the team that contributed to the conversation up to this point.

STEP 4: The Value of Community Badges

I started this blog-thread in the last post with a pledge and a precedent, but I should have started with what really matters: why do we need Hive Global badges anyway? What is the value of a badge system for Hive members? This will be at the forefront of our members thoughts when we present this work.

The group had a pretty rich discussion about this, which resulted in the following top-level takeaways: Hive badges will help us to…

  • Define a Hive culture and identity;
  • Facilitate peer recognition;
  • Illuminate new contexts to sharpen our skills;
  • Demonstrate that we are achieving our mission;
  • Facilitate more equitable access, exposure and opportunity;
  • Provide clarity around expectations and requirements;
  • Help members demonstrate the value of Hive externally;
  • Make visible activity deserving recognition;
  • Earn community status for contributions to shaping the Hive;

I could wax poetic about this list, but I think it speaks for itself. Taking a moment to ground ourselves in the value of a badge ecosystem can help us to prioritize what goes into it first.

Designing A Hive Badge Ecosystem – Structure

This is the first in a series of posts describing the process of designing a Hive digital badge ecosystem that began at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning.

Just about a month ago at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning in Redwood City, Sam Dyson, Director of the Hive Chicago Learning Network representing Hive Global, made a pledge to issue badges that recognize Hive member contributions by summer of 2014.

Around the globe, city-centric Hives bring together organizations with a shared vision for anytime, anywhere learning. Together, they serve young people with educational and career development experiences provided through innovative opportunities that develop 21st century as well as digital media and web literacy skills, which are essential to success in our increasingly connected world.

The Hive Global model is based on three tiers of engagement: Learning Networks, emergent Communities, and groups of local organizations that collaborate to host Learning Events cialis generika kaufen deutschland. There are now more than a dozen cities that have taken a step up this engagement ladder, and almost half are now full-fledged networks: NYC, CHI, PGH, TOR, and an emergent SFO.

So then, what should a badge ecosystem for this diverse network of networks look like? How do we recognize activity around a common set of values, while also preserving the unique qualities of local Hives?

Community Badges

To begin with, I took a cue from Chicago STEM Badge Ecosystem #CSTEMBE initiative, a local working group – expanding nationally this summer – supported by the Chicago Hive Fund for Connected Learning. Their goal was to create a set of learning pathways in STEM that bridged the gaps between their many unique organizations: museums, community based organizations, out-of-school time providers, cultural institutions, etc. Each of which had it’s own programs, pipelines, and unique participants.

An inspiration came from Karen Jeffrey of ForAll Systems: if the collaboration could rally behind a single, unifying pedagogical framework that defined essential STEM attributes – core values, skills, and practices – then the badges could easily follow using a Community Badge* model, even if every collaborator hadn’t already designed programs explicitly to that framework in advance.

Community Badges are developed to represent the essential attributes – core values, skills and practices – that represent a community. The criteria for these badges are kept simple, only to provide some definition of what those elements mean and what they might look like in practice. Then, it’s up to the community to interpret and respond to them semi-independently.

Interpretation and response from community members takes the form of Contribution Badges that identify and recognize relevant contributions – participation in activities, creation of artifacts, or peer engagements – that best illustrate the community attributes.  The message being: badge what you already do instead of re-designing your community experience. Community members who then earn the Contribution Badges also work towards earning the Community Badges by design.

Issuing and earning Contribution Badges within or across various community organizations becomes a natural way to build pathways. Community members could choose to issue the Community Badges directly as well, but it is assumed that those badges are earned through the contributions.

Community badges are based on shared community attributes and build pathways through community member contribution opportunities.

Community badges are based on shared community attributes and build pathways through community member contribution opportunities.

Identifying Community Attributes

The Community Badges framework sounds simple in principle, but in practice the main challenge lies in defining those essential community attributes that provide foundation.

For the STEM community, this has been a complex process, awash in national learning frameworks from AAAS 2061, to the 21st Century Learning standards, to NGSS, etc. The #CSTEMBE group was fortunate to catalyze around a popular local, research-driven framework: the Project Exploration Youth Science Matrix.

For Hive Global, this part is actually quite simple: the most significant unifying element of all Hive networks, communities and events is an alignment with Connected Learning – a set of core values, design and learning principles that drives the practice of all Hive educators.

A good starting point for a Hive Badge Ecosystem is therefore a set of Connected-Learning-based Community Badges with supporting Contribution Badges coming from each local instance of Hive Global, be it network, community or event.

In my next post, I will describe the first steps completed in this effort at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning: isolating the most essential Connected Learning attributes and articulating the value of this ecosystem to community members.

*Note: the language, definitions and descriptions used for Community Badges are my own and adapted to be *more consistent* with Mozilla Webmaker speak. However, the concepts are inspired by conversations and meetings with Karen Jeffrey and  #CSTEMBE.