A Learning Network for Berlin

There’s a long road ahead to bring Europe’s “start-up darling” Berlin up to par with learning & and the web. Digital literacy and simple computational competencies are often lacking; and there’s no indication yet that Berlin schools will step to fill the gap.*

There’s an important “out of school” role to play with Berlin’s tech-savvy communities and hackerspaces, together with an existing network of media centers and educational activists.


To get closer to a vision of what this could look like, 10 educators, tech community members, and activists met on Wednesday at St. Oberholz for a community brainstorm.

The goal: to map current digital literacy needs & offerings in the city, and to scope possible next steps for a learning network in Berlin.

Connected Learning

One of theories of change driving this discussion is connected learning.

Pioneered by UC Irvine researcher Mimi Ito and the MacArthur Foundation, connected learning is about re-imagining education in the information age. It leverages today’s technologies to meet youth at their interests and passions, realized through hands-on production, shared purpose and open networks.

I personally find this model very promising, as it centers on:

  • actively producing, creating, experimenting and designing
  • valuing the interests of young people to steer their learning
  • cross-generational collaboration
  • harnessing peer culture
  • linking the school, home and local community in an open network
  • and honoring academic achievements.

While the steps we are taking now are small, there are a number of successful learning networks to draw inspiration and mentoring from. Among them Hive NYC and Hive Chicago, as well other models at work in Pittsburgh and other cities.

Berlin: a network for making & learning together

What could such a network look like in Berlin?


  • Visit the Pergamon Museum and get an introduction to new methods in archeology and how to scan for objects underground.
  • After unearthing a digital file of a buried statue from the museum’s learning center, you head to Open Design City, where you pick up the basics of 3D scanning and printing. You print off a copy of the statue based on the museum’s files.
  • Your class had a workshop earlier that year in the Wikimedia Germany community space. So you know the basics of wiki-editing and online research. After digging through articles, you pull up an ancient inscription to go with your statue.
  • Go around the corner to lasernlasern, who helps you etch the inscription into the statue using lasers.
  • You’re really proud of what you made and want to tell the world. The nearest media learning center is a few minutes away. You bring your statue and some photos, and a volunteer helps you set up a blog and a gallery.
  • They tell you about Coder Dojo, a youth-led initiative to learn code, which has it’s first event in Berlin next week. You sign up, eager to make a game about hunting statues and cracking ancient codes.


Needs & Offerings

At the meet-up, we mapped what we already have to offer and what we need.

It was exciting to see that collectively, we have more to offer than we have needs. Lots of important skills at the table (teaching web development, film-making, media theories, entrepreneurship, and more), as well as connections to subject-matter experts, a nation-wide network of education activists, meeting spaces, hardware, time, and even small funding to get started.

The full list is here, and please feel free to add if you something to offer to the network.


Next steps

We decided we needed to test our thinking by running an event.

An event is a concrete way to 1) try out partnerships, 2) gauge local interest, 3) experiment with the curriculum, and 4) have fun.

Together with Fabian, I’m drafting a lightweight scaffolding for a youth pop-up event this summer. Chris Lawrence from Hive NYC has written an excellent piece about how to run one of these events, from which we’ll certainly borrow many ideas.

If you’re interested in:

  • Hosting a learning/hacking station (1-3hr, fun small activity that teaches a skill)
  • Offering a space (large, open space holding 50-100 participants)
  • Volunteering (the more, the merrier!)
  • Recruiting young people (We’re old. Where do we find young people in Berlin?)
  • Spreading the word

Then please join us on June 20 for a planning meeting. Location & time to be determined.

You can follow #hiveberlin for updates and also ping me (@thornet) and Fabian (@fabianmu) with ideas & questions.



  1. Chris Lawrence · May 18, 2012

    Awesome post Michelle! Let Hive NYC know how we can help.

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