The Digital Youth Network

The Digital Youth Network: Cultivating Digital Media Citizenship in Urban Communities

Brigid Barron
Kimberley Gomez
Nichole Pinkard
Caitlin K. Martin
Kimberly Austin
Tene Gray
Amber Levinson
Jolie Matthews
Véronique Mertl
Kimberly A. Richards
Maryanna Rogers
Daniel Stringer
Jolene Zywica
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf8dr
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  • Book Info
    The Digital Youth Network
    Book Description:

    The popular image of the "digital native" -- usually depicted as a technically savvy and digitally empowered teen -- is based on the assumption that all young people are equally equipped to become innovators and entrepreneurs. Yet young people in low-income communities often lack access to the learning opportunities, tools, and collaborators (at school and elsewhere) that help digital natives develop the necessary expertise. This book describes one approach to address this disparity: the Digital Youth Network (DYN), an ambitious project to help economically disadvantaged middle-school students in Chicago develop technical, creative, and analytical skills across a learning ecology that spans school, community, home, and online. The book reports findings from a pioneering mixed-method three-year study of DYN and how it nurtured imaginative production, expertise with digital media tools, and the propensity to share these creative capacities with others. Through DYN, students, despite differing interests and identities -- the gamer, the poet, the activist -- were able to find some aspect of DYN that engaged them individually and connected them to one another. Finally, the authors offer generative suggestions for designers of similar informal learning spaces.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32435-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. SERIES FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)

    In recent years, digital media and networks have become embedded in our everyday lives and are part of broad-based changes to how we engage in knowledge production, communication, and creative expression. Unlike the early years in the development of computers and computer-based media, digital media are nowcommonplaceandpervasive,having been taken up by a wide range of individuals and institutions in all walks of life. Digital media have escaped the boundaries of professional and formal practice and of the academic, governmental, and industry homes that initially fostered their development. Now they have been taken up by diverse populations...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. NOTES ON THE TEXT AND FIGURES
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. INTRODUCTION: THE DIGITAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE
    (pp. 1-14)
    Kimberley Gomez, Brigid Barron and Nichole Pinkard

    There is an emerging cultural image of a “digital native”—most often portrayed as a technically savvy, digitally empowered teen, deeply immersed, often simultaneously, in activities mediated by an array of devices, from cell phones and iPods to gaming equipment, cameras, and computers. Some believe that members of the “Net generation” are more creative, dynamic, socially networked, and technologically sophisticated than earlier generations. This idea is fueled by powerful exemplars of young people who have staked a claim as innovators and entrepreneurs within rapidly expanding networked systems. Take the case of Heather Lawver, who at age fourteen launched theDaily...

  7. I BRIDGING DIVIDES BY DESIGN:: DEFINING A RESEARCH AGENDA
    • 1 THE DIGITAL YOUTH NETWORK LEARNING MODEL
      (pp. 17-40)
      Nichole Pinkard and Kimberly Austin

      Both this book and the Digital Youth Network learning model were informed by multiple years of research documenting the implementation of DYN at Renaissance Academy, an urban public charter middle school serving approximately 140 African American students in sixth through eighth grade. In this chapter, we describe the origins of the school and the DYN program and then lay out the learning model that emerged from the work carried out there.

      In 1998, the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement (USI) opened Renaissance Academy, a K–8 charter school in a predominantly low-income African American neighborhood on the...

    • 2 DOCUMENTING PATHWAYS TO DIGITAL MEDIA PRODUCTION THROUGH LONGITUDINAL AND MULTISETTING RESEARCH METHODS
      (pp. 41-54)
      Brigid Barron, Caitlin K. Martin and Kimberley Gomez

      Whether inside of schools or out in the community, those who organize learning opportunities need to understand how to support idea generation, to nurture learning partnerships, and to provide social and material resources to inspire imaginative work and sustain learning. Novel approaches to assessment are needed that can help document and theorize the social and interest-driven practices these learning spaces are intended to nurture. Three specific use-inspired (Stokes 1997) goals led us to undertake our multiyear study of DYN at Renaissance Academy. First, we intended to support the efforts of other educators who are working to combat inequalities linked to...

  8. II FINDINGS FROM THE FIELD:: CATALYSTS, CHALLENGES, AND SOURCES OF VARIABILITY
    • 3 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT REMIXED: ENGAGING ARTISTS AS MENTORS AND TEACHERS
      (pp. 57-86)
      Kimberly A. Richards, Kimberly Austin, Kimberley Gomez and Tene Gray

      A core principle of DYN is that youth participants are not just students, but rather part of a global community, and it is DYN’s responsibility to prepare them to become twenty-first-century learners and digital media citizens. This undertaking is significant, and program leaders recognized that as much as students need support in this type of growth, so too do DYN mentors. Through formal and informal professional development spaces, DYN mentors built professional identities, practices, and tools. Through this structure DYN forged a common language in the DYN community, and the community had shared goals for preparing students to be digital...

    • CASE NARRATIVE A INTRODUCING THE NINE FOCAL CASE LEARNERS
      (pp. 87-96)

      As discussed in chapter 2, we spent a great deal of time with the students at Renaissance Academy over three years and across in-school and after-school time, with a particular focus on nine case learners. These nine students varied on key demographics: gender, socioeconomic status (based on school lunch status), home access to a computer, and experience with technology prior to sixth grade. We interviewed the nine focal cases five times during their three years of middle school, collected their digital media work, observed them in pods, and documented how they engaged with technologies across settings where they spent their...

    • 4 STEPPING INTO PRODUCTION: SEEDING CREATIVE PROJECT WORK
      (pp. 97-116)
      Maryanna Rogers, Brigid Barron, Caitlin K. Martin, Amber Levinson and Jolie Matthews

      The DYN program integrated a variety of social practices and structures to seed creative projects intentionally. We use the termseedingas a metaphor to express the strategic way that the mentors created conditions that encouraged students to take on roles as creative producers. The vignette in the chapter epigraph provides a brief glimpse of the compelling mix of teaching, mentoring, and collaboration characteristic of project work in the DYN after-school pods. Students in Brother Mike’s spokenword pod were preparing for an upcoming open-mic night themed “A Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes.” Students nominated a broad range of possible honorees,...

    • CASE NARRATIVE B CALVIN: FOCUSING IN ON A FUTURE IN ENGINEERING
      (pp. 117-130)

      Calvin was a consistent and enthusiastic participant of DYN across all three years of middle school. Project development was at the heart of his DYN experience, and he created more than twenty digital artifacts in different genres. His work was heavily influenced by the three approaches to seeding creative work discussed in chapter 4. He easily found connections to project-based pod assignments, became motivated to produce through formal contests and even created informal competitions of his own, and used existing designs as models for his work. By the end of eighth grade, Calvin had a clear picture of his accomplishments...

    • 5 “BE A VOICE, NOT AN ECHO”: SUPPORTING IDENTITIES AS DIGITAL MEDIA CITIZENS
      (pp. 131-156)
      Amber Levinson, Daniel Stringer, Jolene Zywica, Brigid Barron, Jolie Matthews, Caitlin K. Martin and Maryanna Rogers

      The intentional seeding of creative production through contests, modeling, and project-based learning opportunities allowed DYN students to develop media production skills as they took on roles as authors, song writers, graphic designers, movie directors, and film editors. These opportunities were foundational experiences in the development of digital media fluency that the DYN leadership imagined. However, DYN’s vision of a digital media citizen went beyond the capacity to simply create with digital media and sought rather to help students become critical consumers, constructive producers, and social advocates for better futures. The epigraph quote from Brother Mike reflects the shift that many...

    • CASE NARRATIVE C MAURICE: CREATING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
      (pp. 157-166)

      In the three years in which we collected data, Maurice was an active and vocal participant in the DYN community, eager to analyze media messages and use his skills to mobilize change, but also playful and humorous in his choice of content. Mentors described him as an innovator and a passionate, committed learner. His regular contributions to pod and class conversations did not always go over well with his peers, and mentors actively worked to reframe them as important and cool rather than as overbearing or nerdy. This reframing was consequential for Maurice and his peers alike. Although he developed...

    • 6 APPROPRIATING THE PROCESS: CREATIVE PRODUCTION WITHIN INFORMAL INTERACTIONS AND ACROSS SETTINGS
      (pp. 167-190)
      Brigid Barron, Véronique Mertl and Caitlin K. Martin

      Interests are powerful catalysts of learning. Personally engaging topics focus our attention, lead us to persist despite challenges, and often generate new questions we want to pursue (Hidi and Renninger 2006). Under the right conditions, interest-driven learning can lead to consequential decisions to seek out new topic-related resources. Enrolling in classes, finding peers with expertise, searching for online resources, and exploring playfully are all choices that set in motion new opportunities to learn. Over longer periods of time, these less-formal pursuits may coalesce and come to play a role in life choices and prospects. Given the powerful nature of interest-driven...

    • CASE NARRATIVE D RUBY: STEPPING INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
      (pp. 191-202)

      Ruby’s development reflects the three types of self-sustaining processes discussed in chapter 6. She created her own personal projects and pursuits in sixth grade, recruited adult support, and sought assignments from mentors when she had difficulty attending pods in seventh grade. She ultimately chose to overcome her shyness and share her work and expertise with others in eighth grade. Ruby learned the importance of cultivating and exposing her voice and talents, and that change emerged from within herself as well as through the support of DYN, her family, and the broader school network.

      Ruby’s interest in games had inspired her...

    • 7 PATTERNS OF ENGAGEMENT: HOW DEPTH OF EXPERIENCE MATTERS
      (pp. 203-236)
      Caitlin K. Martin, Brigid Barron, Jolie Matthews and Daniel Stringer

      Throughout this book, portraits and vignettes have illustrated how DYN youth took up opportunities to design, build, and express themselves with digital media and in doing so developed new expertise, learning partnerships, and ideas for their future. Although these narratives provide powerful examples of emergent skills and capabilities connected to interests and digital citizenship, we needed measures that allowed us to speak more broadly about the sample as a whole and to contrast this DYN cohort with students in other communities. Although national and international efforts have been made to define specific competencies necessary for productive citizenry in the twenty-first...

    • CASE NARRATIVE E MICHAEL: NAVIGATING INDIVIDUAL PURSUITS
      (pp. 237-248)

      Of the nine case learners, Michael was the least outwardly involved with the DYN program, including fewer connections with adult mentors and less afterschool pod participation. He was highly motivated to perform well in school but demonstrated a pragmatism and reserve with regard to his DYN participation. It was not that he was not interested in technology, but he was conscious of his time both in and out of school, weighing the choices and opportunities available to him. He engaged in a DYN summer program prior to middle school and participated in the robotics pod in sixth grade and part...

    • 8 CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF DEVELOPING DIGITAL MEDIA CITIZENS
      (pp. 249-270)
      Kimberly Austin, Kimberley Gomez and Kimberly A. Richards

      Nichole Pinkard founded the Digital Youth Network on the premise that the limited engagement of minority and low-income youth in digital media affinity spaces was not the result of disinterest or fleeting curiosity. As we have seen, she correctly reasoned that access to the tools of digital media and learning opportunities would increase their engagement in digital media. Although access to tools and learning opportunities are critical components of the model, Pinkard and other DYN leaders also recognized that youth needed intentional learning spaces to become digital media citizens. To this end, Pinkard and others devised and implemented an instructional...

  9. III LOOKING AHEAD:: IMPLICATIONS FOR DESIGN AND RESEARCH
    • 9 CREATIVE LEARNING ECOLOGIES BY DESIGN: INSIGHTS FROM THE DIGITAL YOUTH NETWORK
      (pp. 273-284)
      Brigid Barron, Caitlin K. Martin, Kimberley Gomez, Nichole Pinkard and Kimberly Austin

      There is a persistent need for environments that allowallyoung people to access quality learning opportunities that can nurture their capacities to use digital tools for learning. Innovative approaches are necessary, especially those that capitalize on the potential of hybrid designs that include physical spaces that nurture sustained face-to-face relationships and digital spaces that support engagement across setting and time. In this chapter, we offer suggestions for those interested in embarking on such a project. Our insights are based on what we learned from our collective design, implementation, and study of DYN. These suggestions are not meant to be...

    • 10 ADVANCING RESEARCH ON THE DYNAMICS OF INTEREST-DRIVEN LEARNING
      (pp. 285-296)
      Brigid Barron

      The empirical effort reported in this book was designed to contribute to both theory and practice, ause-inspiredgenre of basic research notably referred to as “Pasteur’s quadrant” (Stokes 1997). Use-inspired basic research is usefully distinguished from research that is driven by practical goals alone or that is a quest for basic scientific understanding only. The urgent practical need to understand how to create dynamic learning ecologies that prepare all youth to capitalize on new learning opportunities offered by digital and networked technologies is clear. There is an equally important case to be made for building a fundamental understanding of...

    • 11 SCALING UP
      (pp. 297-308)
      Nichole Pinkard and Caitlin K. Martin

      The previous chapters have documented the growth and evolution of the Digital Youth Network in the program’s first years. Through all of the changes DYN has gone through, its mission to address one of the nation’s most significant and enduring questions has remained the same: How do we produce reliably excellent learning opportunities that allow children growing up in urban America to become digital media citizens?

      After the three years of research reported in this book, the DYN team accepted the challenge that many successful design interventions face—to scale up. Using the learning ecologies framework for guidance and partnering...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 309-312)
  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 313-324)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 325-332)