Opportunities via Extended Networks for Teens’ Informal Learning

  • Peyina Lin ,
  • Shelly D. Farnham, Ph.D.

Published by ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work

With the increasing use of the Internet and social media for knowledge and social connections, we might expect that people more easily expand their opportunities for new learning through social relationships online. Yet, this mixed methods study of teens’ use of technologies (e.g. YouTube and social media) in informal learning contexts reveals that, in teens’ preferred learning activities, few interact with new ties outside their immediate networks (school, family, and friends). Given the value of social interaction and weak ties for learning new knowledge, this research investigates teens’ use of networked technologies with people and resources outside their immediate networks. Based on 23 semi-structured interviews, we describe teens’ informal learning activities and technology practices, from which we identify design opportunities. To inform these, we examine teens’ paths into extended networks, including the role of digital skills, technology access, intrinsic motivation, and sense of relatedness. We find that relatedness both motivat-ed and inhibited teens to reach beyond immediate networks into extended networks for informal learning activities.