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While mobile technology has supported and enabled both formal and informal learning, there remain difficulties connecting learners’ interests to places-based learning contexts. Place-based and affinity space learning frameworks are useful for understanding and scaffolding learning. Place-based learning looks at ways aspects of the local context/geographical context (e.g., plants, animals, stores, houses, etc.) can shape learning. Affinity spaces, as a learning theory, focuses on the interests and passion that motivate learners and communities. Bridging the interests from affinity spaces with the knowledge from lived environments can help scaffold learners to help them connect their learning to new contexts. Being able to connect learning in new contexts is an important step that currently is not thoroughly described between online interest spaces and place-based learning environments. Technological affordances of mobile technologies (e.g., cameras, apps, GPS, etc.) can provide tools to bridge gaps between learners’ interests and lived environments. For example, the always on connection mobile phones have to the internet allows people to bring their interest communities to new places (e.g., telepresence robots). New technologies thus have great potential for connecting these interest and place-based aspects of children’s lives to learning.

My dissertation study explores how to help learners connect their interest-driven learning to everyday place-based learning using technology. An important aspect of this connection centers on how to effectively encourage new lines of communication between learning communities. The specific technology I used to encourage the development of learning communication is digital stickers. Digital stickers, much like their analog counterparts, are used by learners to communicate interests and, importantly, emotion with images. Unlike emoji or badges, stickers have the added affordance of allowing learners to collectively edit or contribute to a single image rather than being a more standard time-based conversation log. Placement, theme, recipient, and other factors provide the technology with the ability to impact and communicate emotional ties and potentially influence more enduring connections between place, interest, and learners. My dissertation specifically looks at (1) how members of the Science Everywhere informal learning community currently connect place and interest and (2) how the affordances and constraints of digital stickers impact usage of these stickers with respect to connecting and communicating learning interests. Analysis of this data examined factors that impact design of digital stickers or potential similar technologies when connecting interests from affinity spaces to place-based learning environments.