Collaboration in Informal Learning Environments: Access and Participation in Youth Virtual Communities

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Journal/Book Title/Conference

International Handbook of Collaborative Learning


C. Hmelo-Silver, A. O'Donnell, C. Chan, & C. Chinn

Publication Date



Many a er-school centers, community technology centers, and summer camps designed for youth have begun to incorporate technology. For instance, the Fi h Dimension and the Boys and Girls Clubs provide access to computer game play or learning of technical skills (e.g., Cole, 2006; Hay & Barab, 2001; Hirsch, 2005; Zhao, Mishra, & Girod, 2000). Some sites, such as the Computer Clubhouse (Kafai, Peppler, & Chapman, 2009), have further adopted an explicit focus on providing access to technology in underserved communities by engaging youth in collaborative design activities. Not only have learning technologies become part of informal learning environments, they have also become informal sites of learning in their own rite, virtual communities accessible to millions of youth around the world anywhere they can gain Internet access. Recent developments suggest that new virtual locations such as games, virtual worlds, and social networks have become as important for informal learning as their more physically based counterparts (Ito et al., 2008).

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