Hogwarts at Ravelry and the Connected Learning Core Values
September 3, 2013
PROJECTS: Leveling Up
Figure 1. A crocheted mandrake, inspired by the Harry Potter movies.
It’s been nearly two years since I began fieldwork with Hogwarts at Ravelry, and, as the fieldwork winds to a close, I’d like to take a moment to step back and reflect on how the core values of connected learning make up the foundation of the group and allow it to become a thriving learning and social environment. By looking at Hogwarts at Ravelry, we are able to see that the core values of connected learning – equity, full participation, and social connection – are not just an abstract way of looking at and understanding learning in the group. They are integral to the culture, values, and atmosphere of Hogwarts at Ravelry, and they motivate the organization of the group and form the foundation of the expected goals and interactions of members.
At the heart of Hogwarts at Ravelry are the members who make up the group, and the members recognize this and actively work at keeping the group easy to participate in, fun, and friendly. In the blog Changes are Coming to Hogwarts, I discussed a major reorganization of the group that came about after member discussions about declining participation. Through the member discussions and the reorganization of the structure and activities of the group, we can see how the group intentionally works to keep a “low floor” to participation for its members. This monitoring and intervening as necessary is not just limited to major changes, however, and moderators and members work to keep the atmosphere friendly and intervene when they feel members are going counter to these values. For example, when one member of Ravenclaw encouraged a manipulation of the rules to earn points and “win the House Cup,” two moderators quickly reprimanded her and reaffirmed the group’s values of fun and being open to all:
Moderator 1: If they want to make toys, that is great. And if they want to earn points – good for them for finding a way THEY can participate! The main goal here is to have fun!
Moderator 2: Winning isn’t everything. It is unacceptable to hurt anybody’s feelings by putting down – even generally – their choice of crafting. The overview of our group says ‘Be nice in general. It is not appropriate to speak poorly of anyone else’s projects, nor their choice of projects. Everyone has varying levels of experience. Admins reserve the right to edit or remove any posts that do not meet these guidelines.
Underlying the ethos and atmosphere of Hogwarts’ members dedication to keeping the group friendly and open, we see the connected learning value of equity. The connected learning model values equity because it recognizes that everybody benefits when educational opportunities are open and accessible. In Hogwarts, we can see the result of a group that strives for equity. Members come from all over the world, span from middle schoolers to grandmothers, have diverse technical experiences, and have varying fibercrafting knowledge and skills. While the shared interests of fibercrafting and Harry Potter are the reason that people join the group, the goal of the group goes beyond these interests to be a welcoming home to all regardless of who they are, their background in the group’s interests, or their level of participation in the group. KnittingPrincipal, the headmistress (leader) of the group, describes this community value and atmosphere of openness:
“I just want to figure out a way to make people realize that they don’t have to craft everything or earn hundreds of points for their houses. It’s more important that they play and know that we love them!”
Tied into the goal of being open and accessible is the emphasis that members be able to fully participate in Hogwarts at Ravelry. As KnittingPrincipal says, it is important that members “play” – that they join in, have fun, and participate in the group. The other two connected learning core values are full participation and social connection. Connected learning recognizes that learning thrives and is made more resilient when members fully participate and contribute to the community. Engagement and activity are often motivated by or encouraged through social connection with other members who share interests and values. In Hogwarts at Ravelry, we are able to see how the three core values of equity, full participation, and social connection are intertwined in the heart of the group. The group wants members to be able to participate, and the relationships formed while in the group keep members engaged, participating, and having fun.
A Hogwarts at Ravelry, the playing is done as part of a community, with peers of varying levels of expertise and varying types of expertise. Learning conversations (Nardi, Ly, and Harris, 2007) between members on how to participate in the group, fibercrafting techniques, and Harry Potter background happen in the discussion-focused areas of the group, such as the Ravenclaw Tower or the Great Hall. In one message, veteran Ravenclaw, Kina, offers specific advice to a new member on how to participate:
“Welcome, my friend. I see you are working on the buttered toast scarf. Did you know that at any time you can enter each slice of “Toast” as a “Lovegood Square” in the Visiting Wizard hall? Professor Jackie will award points for each completed block. Good luck with everything, and welcome to Ravenclaw Tower!”
Importantly, expertise is distributed and shared across the members of the group, and it is through fully participating in the group and working collaboratively that members alternate roles of experts and students. Through different conversations, a knitter may alternate between expert or student depending on the topic, and the varying levels and types of expertise are often leveraged in conversations to help one another succeed in “playing” the fantasy world of the group. KnittingPrincipal, for example, already knew how to knit squares for blankets but gained technical knowledge on the creation of DIY knitting charts from an expert crocheter – Jen2291:
“I just use an Excel spreadsheet and color in the squares. Pretty low-tech, but it works well for me! jen2291 helped me get started with it – sent me her file with just a blank chart on it – it really makes it easy!”
In this way, the group is able to leverage the different experiences that all members bring to the group. Full participation is not just important for learning on an individual scale, it is essential for the learning of all members and the community as a whole. With a cross-generational membership that spans middle schoolers to grandmothers, the varying types of expertise can be incredibly valuable as members share tips on uploading photos, spinning yarn, or even parenting.
Figure 2. A blue cat that was made by a Harry Potter team member for the 2012 Ravellenic Games. Pattern found here.
Throughout and underlying these dynamics, we see the social connections and relationships forged at Hogwarts at Ravelry motivating participation. The depth of the relationships often surpasses fibercrafting or Harry Potter, with members meeting up with one another at conventions, chatting daily on the phone and sharing personal struggles, or even working together to create a blanket for a member’s new grandchild. Pilots, summed up the atmosphere of the group:
“Everyone is so friendly. It feels like such a real community. I would love to meet everyone in the real world someday.”
Through Hogwarts at Ravelry, we see how the connected learning core values are not just abstract ideas to understand these groups; they are integral to the community itself. Equity, full participation, and social connection are at the heart of Hogwarts at Ravelry and make up the concrete day-to-day interactions, learning, and goals of the group. The relationships formed and the benefits of participation in the group have propelled some members to learn new techniques in fibercrafting. Participating in the group has helped Amy create and advance her fibercrafting business interests. The friendships formed in Hogwarts at Ravelry motivated many members to join and participate in Ravellenics and, through that participation, become civically engaged. Hogwarts at Ravelry members have even invested large amounts of time and energy to intentionally reorganize and restructure the group to better achieve an atmosphere that worked towards equity and welcomed new members, encouraged full participation from all members, and helped build and strengthen the social connections between members and the fun environment of the group. The ethos of the group is guided by the connected learning core values because the members are the heart of the group.
Nardi, B.A., Ly, S., & Harris, J. (2007). Learning conversations in World of Warcraft. Proceedings of the 40th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. 79-98.