Oct 18 2011

Hive NYC Announces Molecular Change

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From the keyboard of Chris Lawrence, Project Director, Hive Learning Network NYC

If I were to characterize the past year of the learning network project in scientific terms I would say we have passed through a phase transition point, changing from slow-moving molecules of a solid into the hyper, warp-speed molecular frenzy of a gas.  Almost everything about us has seen seismic change, except our core value of supporting youth in their development from digital media consumers to producers.


So let me quickly sketch out some of the ways we have grown:

  • Last year we had 13 members and now we have 25, with another growth spurt coming soon
  • Funded projects have increased from 3 to 12, with more to come…
  • We entered into a partnership with The New York Community Trust to better manage and grow our grant-making capabilities
  • We escalated our involvement with New York City-based events like World Maker Faire, Bring To Light and Emoti-Con, and have gone global with greater connections in the Mozilla Drumbeat movement

And some of the key ways that we have changed:

  • We increased our alignment with the MacArthur Foundation’s national Learning Network goals and created a cohesive leadership team between the New York and Chicago Learning Networks. Together we created a unified brand and messaging structure, collaborated on core programming principles and began to document the Learning Network building process with the goal of expansion into new cities.
  • We changed our name from “The New Youth City Learning Network” to “Hive Learning Network New York City” to be in harmony with the “Hive Learning Network” brand established by the cross-network leadership team.
  • We have a new team!  We said goodbye to Diana Rhoten and Ingrid Erickson, and established a new team with Jess Klein, Lainie DeCoursy and myself. Thank you Diana and Ingrid for all that you did to start and grow our learning network.

But even with the change and evolution detailed above, we are especially excited to announce what we think will be nothing short of transformative for Hive Learning Network NYC moving forward…

We are now part of the Mozilla Foundation and a key contributor in their movement into the learning space.

Mozilla took over stewardship of Hive NYC in strong, continued partnership with MacArthur’s Digital Media & Learning work and The New York Community Trust. How did this happen you ask?

Honestly it happened in the emergent, hands-on and participatory process that we seek to build into all of our initiatives. A handful of us were at the first-ever Mozilla Festival in Barcelona last year, “Learning, Freedom and the Web,” where we had the opportunity to mix, mingle and work alongside Mozilla designers, engineers and thinkers.  These collaborations resulted in the youth web building tool Hackasaurus, a deeper connection to the Open Badge project and a mutual interest in the work that we were both doing.

Thanks in large part to the talent, grit and creativity of Jess Klein, the relationship between the learning network and Mozilla blossomed through further development of Hackasaurus and a series of Hack Jams held at network members like the New York Public Library, the New York Hall of Science and Eyebeam and with member participation of MOUSE, Institute of Play as well as others. When it became apparent that Hive NYC needed a new home and partner that could be instrumental in helping us grow, the Mozilla Foundation enthusiastically stepped up.

Change is never easy and usually includes a healthy dose of angst and confusion. How do we fit in with a web company when our focus is learning? Would we be viewed as an asset and not a partner? What would this mean for our members who dealt in more traditional literacies and content? How will the agendas of varied groups like our members, the Trust, MacArthur, Hive Chicago and now Mozilla mesh? Would they?

In some areas this is still being sifted through, but my confidence and enthusiasm has been greatly buoyed by working with Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman. Mark brings a dreamer’s vision, a pratitoner’s eye for detail and people skills that made the union of us and them feel right. Over the past few months, Mark has been publicly processing and sparking conversation around what he calls Mozilla’s effort to “go big in learning” on his blog Commonspace. I urge you to take a look at these posts and see where he believes we are headed, as well as to hear his take on this new relationship.

I started this post with some bullet points and will wrap up with some more, detailing what I think this new merger between Mozilla and Hive NYC means for our learning network as we move forward as one team:

  • The development of Hive NYC as a Learning Lab for innovation in not only education but peer mentorship models, connected learning practices, youth development and the use of digital tools to spark and shape youth interests.
  • The opportunity to play, design and educate with some of the incredible tools that Mozilla is prototyping and producing. Connections to not only Hackasaurus and the Open Badge Project but also to Mozilla Journalism, P2PU and Popcorn.js.
  • A deeper connection to communities and networks interested in open software development, hacking culture, remixing and the democratization of media production.
  • The opportunity for Hive NYC and its members to help shape Mozilla’s understanding, philosophy and practice in the learning space, especially as it pertains to the free choice, interest-driven and informal settings that we’re so deeply entrenched in.
  • An increased visibility and impact not only in New York City, but across the globe.

While this is a lot to chew on, I hope you continue to follow and contribute to what we at Mozilla’s Hive Learning Network in New York City are hoping to accomplish: nothing less then changing the world, even if it’s one project, hack, youth, work of art, organization, poem or piece of code at a time.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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