-part of the N4L Series; celebrating Learning at Work Week-
It’s my great pleasure to introduce Jacqui Hamlin…
I have a background in IT and now work as an artisan distiller for The Gin Kitchen, a micro-distillery based in Dorking. I am also a director of Food Float, a local not-for-profit community interest company which supplies locally sourced food to local people in Dorking.
What networked for learning means to me
I guess some people would consider the phrase ‘Networked for Learning’ in a digital context. Wikipedia defines Networked Learning as ‘a process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another’s learning’, which certainly sounds easier digitally than it would be by other methods.
However, I’ve recently embarked on a (non-digital) project with some friends which I believe embodies ‘Networked for Learning.’ After some (non-networked) research we decided to set up the Dorking Repair Café, and inadvertently found ourselves networked – and learning – in lots of different ways.
Repair Cafés are free meeting places and they’re all about repairing things (together). In the place where a Repair Café is located, you’ll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need. On clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, toys, etc. You’ll also find expert volunteers, with repair skills in all kinds of fields.
Visitors bring their broken items from home. Together with the specialists they start making their repairs in the Repair Café. It’s an ongoing learning process. If you have nothing to repair, you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Or you can lend a hand with someone else’s repair job. You can also get inspired at the reading table – by leafing through books on repairs and DIY.
There are over 1400 Repair Cafés worldwide, and we decided to give it a try. We contacted them and obtained the extensive Repair Café manual containing everything we needed to start. The step-by-step manual is based on years of other people’s learning, and guided us through the different stages from finding local repair experts and a suitable location, to collecting the right tools and creating publicity.
My personal learning insights
We learnt how to set up our Repair Café by linking into the user resources which already existed from other Repair Cafes learning experiences. The resources are continually being enhanced by new ideas from the network, and there’s even an international repair café week, where we all repair and learn together.
So we are networked and learning internationally, but also on a very small, local scale.
One of the most satisfying aspects is the inter-generational networking where our more senior expert volunteers teach and mentor the younger ones, demonstrating skills which are less common now, such as darning. The younger ones are often found assisting the older ones with computer skills.
Our ‘Networked for Learning’ sessions end not with the click of a mouse, but with a cup of tea, a handshake, and sometimes a hug.