We are only one week away from discussing connected learning at the ALA Annual YALSA President’s Program, A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning. One thing about this event that grabs me is the word â€œpassionâ€, something I strive to foster in the teens that come to our library. We hope to give them a voice, and a place to share their passions and interests with each other through anime clubs, cosplay groups, book discussions and more.
This summer, we are featuring a series of fandom events for teens. Some programs focus on a specific fandom, some celebrate all fandoms from Doctor Who to photography. If you love it, we want to help you dive deeper into it. As I prepared for these programs I encountered the challenge of at the intersection of fandom and fair use.
Connected Learning is a phrase for something teen librarians have known about for a long time and for something that is probably already happening in our libraries. Our libraries may be supporting or leading an interest-based program, but it’s even more likely that teens are pursuing their passions in the library right this second by playing Minecraft on the computers, watching videos on YouTube, or doing something else of their own choosing in the library’s space.
When we notice what they’re doing, we have a few choices.
Leave them alone
Create a library-sponsored club or program in which teens can pursue their passions
Leaving them completely alone doesn’t support the kind of relationships we need to be successful in working with teens, what if we didn’t create a program right away?
Last week the Metropolitan Museum of Art’ revealed the renovation work on its fashion galleries, reopening them to the public. Michelle Obama remarked about the important role galleries like this play in the fashion world. Showing everyone that fashion isn’t just for the elite, or only worn on the runway.
Fashion is something we all interact with every day, but many of us overlook the complicated skills needed to work in the industry. Journalism pieces like Planet Money’s T-Shirt Project have shed light on what it involves to take a drawing and turn it into a piece of clothing. Michelle Obama also commented on the variety of tools a designer needs to have at their fingertips. “It’s a career that involves, science, engineering, accounting, marketing and so much more. Maybe they’ll learn about the math behind Charles James’s designs. And they’ll think to themselves, maybe I should pay closer attention in geometry,” she said speaking to students. This’ is another perfect example of connected learning, providing opportunities to learn new skills while diving into a passion for fashion.
The Johnson County Library has been encouraging teens to show their style since 2008 with our first teen fashion show (pictured above). Since then we have branched into a cosplay club that meets regularly to design, sew, critique and wear costumes from their favorite books, movies and TV shows. The cosplay club is a great example of connected learning’ happening naturally and quietly at the library. Club members are required to make a project plan for each costume, set goals and deadlines, define budgets, and critique designs and help other member learn new skills (like 3D printing). The club has made appearances at local conventions in group costumes (most recently the Sailor ‘ Avengers) and continues to encourage members to grow and improve. Not all of these teens will become fashion designers but the skills they have learned to budget, plan and collaborate will serve them well in whatever career they choose. The Library is happy to provide a place for them to explore their passions.
Over the past two weeks, the YALSA President’s Program task force has been meeting with connected learning coaches who will facilitate discussions in Las Vegas to discuss their experience with and use of connected learning ideas. The diversity of these discussions cemented the feeling that connected learning comes in all shapes and sizes and we can’t wait to hear from you at our program at ALA Annual.
As we dove into discussion with the coaches a few themes kept recurring and we wanted to share them with you. Connected learning is already happening in many libraries, some just don’t have that term in their vocabulary to label what they are already doing. Libraries are poised to be the place where passion-directed learning happens. Already a community hub, we can help connect teens with the resources, mentors and spaces that will help them follow their passions. Now that we know what connected learning is and can see it already happening in our libraries, we can begin to foster it with intention.
As we begin to plan programs, services and classes with connected learning in mind, we have to stay flexible. Self-directed and passion-based learning is difficult to direct without derailing the learners enthusiasm. This is an easier goal for public libraries, who likely do not have to prove the learning happening at their programs, and can let the process take as long as it needs to. Schools face the challenge of identified outcomes to every class or program, but there are some great examples of librarians using the concepts of connected learning to add additional value to their testable outcomes.
Connected learning is happening in all types of libraries, as evidenced by the diversity of our coaches. At A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning‘ they will help participants identify connected learning already happening in their environments, and as a group we will discuss ways to level up what we are already doing. There are small things we can do to bring big rewards to our teens.
Chicago Public Libraries and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are on board to expand their connected learning project, YOUmedia. A grant from the MacArthur Foundation and a contribution from the mayor will allow the Chicago Public Library to expand the program into five new locations as well as offering pop-up labs for teens at branches around the metro-area.
Projects and spaces like YOUmedia allow teens to learn at their own pace, emphasizing mentors, one-on-one teaching opportunities and self-guided exploration. The library gives them the tools and allows teens to delve deeper into their passions and share what they have learned with their peers. And now with the support of the MacArthur Foundation and the mayor, this program will be able to help even more teens.
Not all of us have 2.5 million dollars to spend on connected learning spaces but we can all incorporate the ideas of passion-directed learning into our libraries. If you are interested in learning more about how people are already using connected learning concepts, or want to share how connected learning plays a role in your library, mark your calendars for the’ YALSA President’s Program,’ A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning, at ALA Annual this summer.
Welcome to 1999. â€œGenie in a Bottleâ€ and â€œHit Me Baby One More Timeâ€ are playing on the radio. At the hormone riddled age of 15, I sit in my eye-achingly yellow bedroom. The walls are covered with bookshelves and posters. A small room, there isn’t much space for furniture. A twin bed sits on the floor in the corner (beds without frames are so much cooler) and small dresser sits next to desk made from an old door set atop two filing cabinets. Riding the new broadband wave (no more tying up the phone line) I surf the web on my hand-me-down laptop newly upgraded to Windows 98. What do I surf for, what draws me to the growing online community…anime. Continue reading Connected Learning: How Sailor Moon Taught Me To Code
Last week, I stopped to chat with three students sitting together in our high school library. One of the students is a known parkour practitioner. While chatting, I learned that he has become a mentor to the other two, supporting them as they develop their skills and learn how to do parkour. Thinking about this, I realized that it is a small example of connected learning that happened naturally in our library. These three young men got to know each other while hanging out in our space and are now working together on a shared passion. I didn’t make this happen (my parkour knowledge is limited to an episode of The Office) but by providing a space where the students felt comfortable hanging out and connecting with each other, it happened organically.
This has inspired me to ponder what more I can do in my school library to provide opportunities for connected learning. Is connected learning happening in your library? Whether you are a connected learning expert or just learning about it, plan on attending the YALSA President’s Program at Annual 2014 to be a part of the conversation!
You’ve heard about connected learning right? Does it seem really huge and impossible? Is finding the money for technology not a reality for your library right now?
Keep learning more by reading posts oover the next few months in the YALSA blog. A good place to start is with this post from earlier this month, which includes some additional resources and watching and reading on connectedlearning.tv and there are lot of awesome new spaces and programs happening in libraries throughout the country.
But meanwhile, here is one pretty easy thing you can do today in your library â€“ you may be doing this already!
When a young person asks you a question, connect him or her to print and online resources like you always do, but also think about other resources outside your library. At Hennepin County Library, we have a partnership with an organization called Learning Dreams. Their purpose is to connect patrons (young people and grown-ups, too) to resources in the community that can help them pursue the learning that really excites them. Are they interested in music and recording? Where can they learn more about this? Are there internships you can help them find? What are other resources in the community for this? Are there any actual schools? Are they obsessed with legos? Sure, you have some lego books, but are there any lego robotics clubs or big lego set-ups near them?
The specific links are examples from the Minneapolis-St Paul area, but you can find your own by talking with youth, and using both your awesome reference skills and knowledge of your own community.
This post is part of a series where the YALSAblog takes a closer look at Learning Lab grantees from museums and libraries to learn how they engage middle and high school youth in mentor-led, interest-based, youth-centered, collaborative learning using digital and traditional media.â€ To read more about the context of the Learning Labs, visit the first post in the series here.