Affinity Spaces for Informal Science Learning: Developing a Research Agenda
Researchers and practitioners in the US and the UK, organized by Twin Cities Public Television in collaboration with co-PIs from Indiana University and the University of Bradford in the UK, will develop a research agenda focused on understanding how participation by youth in various online environments, called "affinity spaces," can promote and enable new approaches to informal STEM learning. Affinity spaces provide opportunities for youth to develop deep interest and engagement in specific topics as well as to interact in groups with others who share common interests. By focusing on affinity spaces, this Science Learning+ project will contribute to the collective understanding of how digital media supports STEM learning. Of particular interest is the potential of these spaces to offer multiple interest-driven trajectories, opportunities to learn with others, and paths toward becoming authentic participants in the discussions. Specifically, the collaborators will: (1) produce a literature review on affinity spaces and informal science learning; (2) organize and convene a two-day workshop to review and refine primary research questions; and (3) produce a white paper summarizing outcomes. Affinity spaces have the ability to connect millions of learners. Developing a research agenda to learn how these spaces can involve youth in experiences across the entire spectrum of STEM disciplines promises to reveal new ways to enhance and enrich the entire ecosystem of informal science learning. In addition, the project will enhance the international research and education infrastructure by facilitating collaborations among researchers in the U.S. and the UK who work at the frontiers of social media and learning.