Tag Archives: Hive Chicago

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. 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.

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 Zooniverse.org 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? Connectedlearning.tv 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
    • 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 badgekit.org

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. 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.