The San Francisco Public Library, along with 25 other public libraries and museums throughout the United States, received a planning grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Macarthur Foundation to build a digital learning lab for teens. Research from the Macarthur Foundation found that youth learning through technology could be enhanced by creating safe youth-centered places for creation and collaboration using digital media. Much of this research was done at Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia Center, where youth have the opportunity to ‘hang out, mess around, and geek out.’ Chicago’s YouMedia Center exemplifies the concept of Connected Learning, and has been a model for SFPL’s new Teen Center/Digital Media Learning Lab, opening in 2015. All digital learning labs are part of a national community of practice through the YouMedia Network, providing a platform for collaboration, communication of best practices, and professional development through conferences and virtual webinars and meetups.
The Hive Learning Network is connected learning in action. It is a community of organizations that serve youth in the out-of-school space. Together, they are working to create connected learning experiences to not only engage youth and promote learning that aligns with their interests, but to support them as they develop necessary 21st century skills. The Teen Digital Media Center at SFPL will be a hub of the SF BAY Hive Learning Network, currently in development.
In 2005, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation established a new grantmaking area in Digital Media and Learning. Representing an investment of more than $80 million, the effort is focused on understanding how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life, as well as how institutions are adapting to these changes.
As part of this initiative, the MacArthur Foundation has invested in the creation of Hive Learning Networks in Chicago, New York, and soon in San Francisco. The rationale behind Hive is two-fold: First, every day, young people move among learning experiences in a variety of environments. These environments—which can be formal or informal, physical or virtual—are increasingly defined by learners’ personal interests and social networks and less by geographic proximity. Second, is the capacity of new technologies and media to provide the necessary integration and coordination between formal and informal education organizations within a community. When they are designed to link together, these multiple environments can create connected learning experiences in which youth can more easily participate in accessible, "anytime, anywhere" learning activities by pursuing their interests and following their peers.
With the ultimate goal of connecting the learning that takes place across three important spheres of a young person’s life – peer culture, interests, and academics – the Hive experience should: