The Digital Youth Network
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.
About the Authors
Brigid Barron is Associate Professor of the Learning Sciences in Stanford University’s School of Education and directs the YouthLAB research group.
Kimberley Gomez is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.
Nichole Pinkard is Associate Professor of Interactive Media, Human Computer Interaction, and Education in the School of Cinema and Interactive Media at DePaul University and founder of the Digital Youth Network.
Caitlin K. Martin is Project Manager and a senior researcher in the YouthLAB group at Stanford University.
"A rare book, informed by rigorous research, written with clarity and verve, and filled with concrete insights and tools that educators in a range of settings can use right away to put digital literacy to work for youth."—Elisabeth Soep, Youth Radio, co-author of Drop That Knowledge, and co-editor of Youthscapes
"If we are going to reach minority kids in our schools, we need to empower them to be creative and thoughtful, much like the Digital Youth Network is doing. Their research demonstrates how it is possible to measure student growth in creativity and engagement, which standardized tests ignore. The book shows the way to transforming education in America."—Allan Collins, Professor Emeritus of Learning Sciences, Northwestern University, and co-author of Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America
"So rarely are we offered the opportunity to really learn from the development of an innovative educational youth program. Through careful observation and thoughtful analysis, this book reports on an unprecedented collaboration between mixed-method researchers, program designers, and educators, demonstrating research and practice brought together in service of improving the life opportunities of underserved youth. It is a must-read for learning scientists, educators, media artists, technology makers, and anyone who cares about making a difference in today's pressing problems of educational inequity."—Mizuko Ito, Professor in Residence, University of California Humanities Research Institute, and author of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media