Connie Yowell, Director of Education for U.S. Programs at the MacArthur Foundation, opened the most recent meeting of Chicago’s Hive Learning Network member organizations with a word of encouragement.

Real innovation typically happens at the edge of systems rather than at their center.”

So as Mayor Emanuel’s office launches the Summer of Learning, I’m tremendously optimistic that all the different Hive partners—from The Field Museum to YOUMedia Chicago to online learning platforms like MentorMob—will have a real influence on formal education policy.

Because guess what? The whole world is a classroom, and open badges are allowing informal learning institutions to encourage and reward kids for all the hands on, interest driven learning they already do!

And our job as Chicago Hive members is to work together and design experiences that are so appealing kids can’t help but fill their brains up with knowledge this summer.

That’s gonna take a lot of work in a very short time, but we can do it. Here are some ways Hive members can accelerate the process:

  • Match up organizations whose strongest resources line up nicely with another member’s biggest challenges.
  • Share all our best successes and worst failures with previous public education initiatives.
  • Explicitly promote each others’ programming to our own constituents through multiple channels including the #hivebuzz hashtag.
  • Make use of informal learning networks that already exist in Chicago.
  • Use technology to ensure the learning kids do with Hive is social, accessible, and interactive.
photo (11)

Big things have small beginnings.

Thankfully, the Hive Chicago isn’t up against a broken formal education system all by its lonesome. Mozilla is throwing its weight behind the Summer of Learning (and Hive Chicago’s role facilitating badge-able learning opportunities) as part of its ongoing efforts to preserve the web as a precious public resource and transform web consumers into web makers.

Plus there are already thriving Hive networks in New York and Pittsburgh, and more are on the way!

It’s going to be a wild ride, but Hive Chicago is going to get kids badging this summer, and reframe the conversation about education in Chicago and beyond in the process.