Ambitious Mashups: Out-of-school-time (OST) Learning

Author: Wendy Martin; Contributor: Patricia Schank

Definition

Many cyberlearning researchers design projects for learning contexts outside of formal schooling, such as museums, makerspaces, libraries, and in afterschool programs that may be located in schools or other locations. These settings are often more open than formal settings to the integration and exploration of innovative technologies and learning theories. Out-of-school-time (OST) learning experiences tend to be playful, interest-driven, and intrinsically motivated, allowing for engagement in authentic practices that can lead to social-emotional as well as content and skills learning. OST learning formats can sometimes be cross-context, multigenerational, and community oriented. Cyberlearning projects in OST environments have used a range of technologies for multiple purposes such as data collection, artifact creation, documentation, and sharing/collaboration. Cyberlearning research in OST settings has built knowledge about how youth develop STEM identities through engagement with STEM content and practitioners across settings, about how communities co-construct meaning from data, and how youth can develop persistence and agency through iterative design. Some typical types of cyberlearning informal projects include:

  • Making, which involves creative, interest-driven tinkering and building with a wide range of materials from high tech (3D printers, laser cutters, Arduinos) and low tech (hammers, wood, fabric, glue, paper). These often, but not always, take place in makerspaces, dedicated facilities with a variety of materials and tools available to produce artifacts.
  • Citizen science, which has learners in the community collecting data about some aspect of the community or environment and sharing it with researchers and peer citizen scientists. Sometimes learners engage in data analysis as well as developing the research questions so the data can be used to achieve a community goal.
  • Interactive/mobile exhibits, which can take place in a variety of settings, though most often in museums or cultural centers, but also community organizations, parks, and other gathering places. These exhibits draw on technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mobile computing, or touch screens to create immersive and/or multi-sensory experiences.

Project Examples and Resources

Making

Quantitative Data:

Stimulating Quotes and Snippets

  • “When we’re thinking about innovation, we’re not always doing that process. It can be scary to think about implementing new, unstable technologies in practice, because it’s messy and takes much more time. I’m really curious about how the cyberlearning community can bring in practitioners more to co-design tools and technologies to further bridge the gaps between research and practice. Taking seriously that we can learn by making things, how does that apply to us as a research community? There’s definitely been great efforts in this area, for example, the Research Practice Collaboratory is focused on solving problems of practice together. So, what happens when we’re making things together, too? I’d love to see the community co-designing tools and technologies together by leveraging each other’s experiences and considering our specific needs to create something more applicable to the different contexts and disciplines we come from. “ – Breanne Litts
  • “We did a series of design experiments in partnership with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which has one of the finest makerspaces in a museum in the country. One of the questions we looked at was: How do the outcomes look different if students use a maker kit versus exploring an open-ended challenge? Through these design experiments, we learned that the students who used kits were more successful at making stuff that works. The students who worked on open ended explorations didn’t always have a design that worked, but they had more control, agency, and ownership of what they’ve learned.” – Erica Halverson

Example Project Abstracts:

Related Primers/Spotlights/Reports:

Showcase Videos and/or Gallery Posters:

Citizen Science

Quantitative Data:

Stimulating Quotes and Snippets

  • Projects like WeatherBlur connect a young person’s interest in developing relationships in the digital world to the natural world. Plus, cyberlearning projects provide teachers, especially those in rural areas, with the opportunity to give their students access to cutting edge learning technologies. WeatherBlur, specifically, allows these rural communities and rural populations to not just feel like, but to know that they are providing powerful data and powerful information to help inform decisions in both their space, and globally. “ -Ruth Kermish Allen

Example Project Abstracts:

Related Primers/Spotlights/Reports:

Showcase Videos and/or Gallery Posters:

Interactive or Mobile Exhibits

Quantitative Data:

Stimulating Quotes and Snippets

  • “When we focus only on school contexts, we miss a lot of the really rich and powerful ways that children are learning outside of school. When we begin to focus across the contexts of learners’ lives, however, we expand the range of educators in a learners’ life. Parents, caregivers, after-school facilitators, librarians, mentors, community volunteers all become facilitators of learning in ways unique to their roles in learners’ lives and the contexts they interact within. So this work has been really exciting because it enables us to work with informal educators, to work with parents, and to work with teachers — and to bring them all together in these really cool ways with new technologies.“ – Tammy Clegg

Example Project Abstracts:

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Exit Survey Highlights (30 total responses)

  • Projects with staff including Informal Education researchers: 15
  • Projects tagged as Informal/Citizen Science/Making: 8
    • About half of informal education researchers are working on projects targeting other themes.
  • Project Implementation Setting: almost half of projects tagged as informal indicated that their projects took place in both informal and formal settings.
    • 3: Formal and informal educational setting (museum/sci center, afterschool program, summer program, library/community center)
    • 1: Informal learning setting only (homes)
    • 4: other setting
  • Explicit focus on cyberlearning in preparation for and within the context of the work setting: 6/8
    • 4 specifically related to supporting the current and future work of teachers in classrooms and other related settings;
    • 2 related to designing and developing future learning environments to educate/re-educate workers for new worker environments and experiences in collaboration with advanced technology.
  • Project Publications:
    • 4/8 projects indicated that they published project findings in scholarly journals, including:
    • Project 1: Citizen Science: Theory and Practice;
    • Project 2: Mind Brain and Education; Journal of Computer Assisted Learning; Multimodal Technologies and Interaction;
    • Project 3: Cognition & Instruction; Journal of the Learning Sciences; Race, Ethnicity & Education; Anthropology & Education Quarterly;
    • Project 4: British Journal of Educational Technology, Education Sciences; Science Education; Computers and Human Behavior; Comunicar, Mind, Culture and Activity; Arts Education Policy Review