Remake Learning On the Town in Chicago

In Chicago to attend the Digital Media and Learning Conference, Pittsburghers connect with members of the Chicago Hive Learning Network and see how they’re remaking learning in the Windy City.

With the recent launch of Hive Pittsburgh, we thought it would be a good idea to stop in at a few learning and creativity programs for teens happening at some of Chicago’s leading cultural institutions as part of the city’s Hive Learning Network.

First stop—the Boring Store. This place is totally boring. It is definitely not a secret agent store where kids can come to expand their creative writing skills, connect with an inspiring tutor, find an after-school workshops, and publish their own work through zines, blogs, and small presses. Nope, definitely not any of that happening at the Boring Store. Except of course, yes it’s all happening and so much more.

Zine racks inside the Boring Store / Photo: Mac Howison

Part of the 826 National network of writing, publishing, and tutoring centers, the Boring Store was launching in 2005 and is located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. We stopped by during the afternoon just as dozens of middle school students started rolling in for afterschool programming. The place was jam packed with kids showing up to work with volunteer mentors showing up to provide tutoring, creative feedback, and have fun.

Next stop was YOUmedia at the Chicago Public Library. In many ways YOUmedia has become a model for youth-driven informal learning for 21st century skills characterized as Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking out, or HOMAGO for short. YOUmedia provides ongoing programs to provide kids with media literacy and production skills, as well as access to media tools. Kids can borrow laptops, musical and video equipment, and other tools just like they can check out a book.

YOUmedia Chicago / Photo: Mac Howison

Serving primarily an audience of teen agers, the YOUmedia space is organized into color-coded areas where kids can Hang Out in a relaxed social setting, Mess Around with laptops for gaming, podcasting mics, digital Flip and still cameras, drawing pads, and more, and Geek Out on more in-depth projects using more advanced technologies with the help of an active mentor.

We visited on the day the Library of Games kids were doing a live podcast. Library of Games is a video game journalism program that creates a forum for teens to discuss video games in thoughtful, intelligent conversations that generate new ideas, critique games, and develop media skills.

It was an entertaining show, with lots of animated commentary, strong opinions, and lively conversation.

In addition to energetic space, we were impressed by  how much the teens have taken ownership of YOUmedia. The kids absolutely own the space and the collaboration and community that sense of ownership creates was palpable.
Library of Games podcast at YOUmedia / Photo: Mac Howison

Our final stop was the Art Institute of Chicago, where we met Robin Schnur, Director of Student Programs in the magnificent Modern Wing. Robin works closely with many Hive Chicago network members and shared insights and recommendations to help us organize the Hive Learning Network in Pittsburgh and build advisory committees of both learning practitioners and youth participants.



It’s been an inspiring few days here in Chicago and we’re looking forward to bringing much more back to Pittsburgh, so be sure to RSVP for our next Lunch and Learn where we’ll provide a full report-out on the DML Conference with members of Kids Creativity.

Published March 16, 2013