Bendable is a robust learning marketplace. It allows residents of all ages and backgrounds to easily discover content that is just right for them on a wide variety of subjects and then acquire new knowledge and skills through online courses as well as local, in-person learning opportunities.
Bendable Maine will launch in summer 2022. The vast majority of the learning made available through the system will be free to residents of the state. (When there is a cost to the user, it will be clearly indicated.)
Best of all, the system is being shaped by Mainers for Mainers. Hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals across the state are participating in workshops and other activities to help with design, content curation and promotion.
Having people learn new skills so that they can improve their job prospects and advance in their careers is extremely important, and many of the resources on Bendable Maine will be work-related. Indeed, we are collaborating with major employers, labor leaders, workforce development officials and others to ensure that we provide learning opportunities that are truly relevant and in accord with Maine’s 10-year Economic Development Strategy.
But we also know from our research that people are eager to learn for different reasons throughout their life—sometimes even throughout their day. As a result, Bendable Maine will include resources on a wide variety of topics, including cooking healthier meals, handling personal finances, fixing things around the house and understanding technology. Users will also be able to tap Bendable to study science, literature, music, art and a host of other subjects.
By offering this kind of breadth, we believe that Bendable Maine can achieve its central mission: cultivating in people the habit of continuous learning, so as to make them more resilient in the face of a fast-changing economy and improve their overall sense of well-being.
The Bendable lifelong learning system offers several distinct advantages from what’s available elsewhere:
- It is an abundant marketplace, offering dozens of choices of content providers. This gives everyone—no matter their level of formal education—the best chance to find the learning that suits their needs and interests, including the way they like to learn (through text or video, bite-size lessons or longer sessions, online or in-person, etc., etc.).
- While it is abundant, the system is also highly tailored. All of the content is being curated by the Maine State Library, so you can be sure that it is of the highest quality and meant for Maine. You can trust it.
- The system’s content catalog blends national online courses with local learning opportunities from across the state.
- Most of the content will be free to state residents, including through pre-paid course seats that lead to industry-approved certifications. You can’t get that by surfing the web.
- While the system includes a great digital platform, it also is a hub of place-based learning, featuring community-based, in-person study sessions, learning meet-ups and other face-to-face activities.
Learning is social, and people want to learn with each other and from each other. Bendable Maine recognizes and leans into that.
The Maine State Library and Bendable Labs are committed to building out a statewide volunteer network that can keep local learning opportunities up to date.
We’ll also be working with local libraries to make sure that a wide range of community stakeholders—employers, nonprofits, schools and colleges, government agencies and others—are contributing to the system and drawing on its benefits.
Bendable is a web application that can be accessed by any user with any modern web browser on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smart mobile device.
We are committed to making Bendable usable and accessible to the widest possible audience, and we provide features that support accessibility. For example, web pages on the Bendable platform are intended to be compatible with screen readers and accessible to keyboard navigation.
We also comply with federal accessibility standards.
Beyond that, our goal is for Bendable to offer a delightful and inviting experience for all, regardless of technology or ability. We leverage Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in our design process and consistently include learners with a range of abilities and different levels of digital confidence in our co-design sessions and user testing with the community.
For those who come to the Bendable platform and don’t sign up for an account, no personal information is collected. For those who do sign up for an account, Bendable collects limited personally identifiable information (PII)—specifically, name and emailaddress. Account holders may also choose to provide Bendable with additional profile information, such as ZIP code, library card number and mobile phone number, to help maximize their experience on the platform.
Bendable will never share PII without consent, and we will never rent or sell PII to anyone. We may share aggregate information about our user base with our partners, and we may publish these aggregate usage statistics.
The Bendable Platform is not intended to be used by young children alone.
You must be 14 years of age or older to create an account on the Bendable platform. In accordance with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Bendable will never knowingly solicit, nor accept, personally identifiable information from Bendable users known to be under 14 years of age.
That said, Bendable is meant for all ages. We encourage parents, guardians and teachers to share learning content found on Bendable with younger children, as appropriate.
This is our central design challenge—and, by working with stakeholders across the state, we are committed to cracking it: How can Bendable reflect the cohesive identity that many Mainers proudly share while addressing the specific needs of every distinct region and local community?
A big part of the way that we are solving for this is by working closely with local public libraries across Maine; nobody knows their communities better. We also have four Bendable Fellows on the ground across the state. Their job is to listen to, and collaborate with, all stakeholders, ensuring that local learning needs are being met and everyone has a seat at the table.
Just the opposite! We want community-based organizations, including local libraries, to leverage Bendable so that they can better meet their own missions and take care of those they serve.
In South Bend, Indiana, where Bendable was first launched in June 2020, this model is playing out right now. Major local employers, like Beacon Health, are using Bendable as a learning-and-development platform for their employees. Goodwill case managers are sending their clients to Bendable to learn new skills and help them make the transition from prison back into the community. Public school teachers are directing their students to Bendable as part of their lesson planning. A youth jobs initiative is weaving Bendable-based resources on goal setting and career exploration into the program. The St. Joseph County Public Library is integrating Bendable into a good portion of its activities and events. And much, much more.
We have no doubt that, once it’s launched, Bendable Maine will similarly help to enhance the great work that is already happening in communities throughout the state.
If you represent an employer, nonprofit, government agency or other stakeholder, or you’re an individual resident, just go to bendable.com, click on the tab for Maine and sign up at the top of the page.
If you’re a public librarian, please reach out to Janet McKenney at the Maine State Library at [email protected].
Or simply contact a Bendable Fellow in your area: Northern Maine—Christina Kane Gibson at [email protected]; Central Maine—Kate Hunter at [email protected]; Southern Maine and Downeast—Paul Salway at [email protected] or Landis Hackett at [email protected].