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A Growing Network: Year 1 of the YOUMedia Learning Labs Online Community

Written by Lesley Markam

On Monday October 19, the YOUMedia Learning Labs team showcased their year-old YOUMedia Learning Labs Online Community. The community has emerged from the successful Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and MacArthur Foundation-funded Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums project that developed learning labs for teens in 24 museums and libraries throughout the United States. To date, the online community has 181 users with 2,000 views per month. Membership is growing rapidly as the second year begins. The YOUMedia Online Community project is a collaboration between ASTC and the National Writing Project (NWP), Berkeley, California. It continues to be funded by IMLS.

K-Fai Steele from NWP described the model of bringing creative, thoughtful people together in an online community to share resources. There was a real need to reduce the hunt for quality resources and avoid constantly reinventing the wheel. But there were also emotional reasons for the community – especially for smaller institutions – where failures and struggles could be shared as well as successes.

Korie Twiggs from ASTC described the three project goals developed in year one, to drive the online community:

  1. Create a free and open online community for the YOUmedia Learning Labs network to support and sustain their work.
  2. Provide a public entry path to grow the site’s user base and to share the network’s practices with others.
  3. Provide resources to support the professional development needs of network mentors and staff.

A major part of the first year was to kick-start the community. Three Lead Contributors (LCs) were appointed through a competitive application process to advance the three community goals. The LCs received stipends and made a yearlong commitment to the community.

AJ Almaguer of the Lawrence Hall of Science is the LC for resource wrangling. His mantra is “you get out what you put in.” It is important to provide resources as well as use them. An impressive collection of 105 resources has emerged thus far around curriculum and activities.

Matt Baker of Science Museum of Virginia, is the calendar keeper hosting an events page and a monthly round-up digest.

Sari Widman of the Free Library of Philadelphia is the discussion moderator. She has interacted with teams across the country and cultivated a supportive environment. One of the beauties of the online community is the diversity of members, from floor staff to CEOs. There is no hierarchy – just good, informative conversation. The site archives conversation threads as a reusable resource.

What is in store for year two of the community? There will be a fourth LC added to
develop online programming and act as a communications guru. Ongoing community engagement and growth will be encouraged along with community ownership. Mini webinars, 8 to 18 minutes long, will describe the curated resources.

If you are interested in joining the community or learning more, please contact Korie Twiggs at ktwiggs@astc.org or visit community.youmedia.org.