Last week the MacArthur Foundation posted the video of their recent panel discussion titled, What Kids Learn When They Create With Digital Media.
It’s a video worth viewing with some recurring themes and ideas that should resonate with librarians that work with teens in both school and public settings. Highlights from the discussion, at least from my perspective, include:
- When spaces for teens are created successfully, in other words the spaces are comfortable and welcoming from the teen perspective, teens are ready, willing, and able to work with mentors made available specifically to help teens improve literacy. Teens in these spaces often perform beyond what is perhaps generally expected.
- Learning and literacy development doesn’t just happen within a classroom or at home when doing homework. Those who work with teens need to not be space-centered – only focusing on how to connect with teens in a particular environment (for example the public library teen room). Teachers and adults that mentor teens need to be where the teens are – whether that be in a classroom, an afterschool hang-out space, or an online environment.
- The traditional concept of who a “teacher” is is changing within the digital media environment. Teachers are no longer only those who stand in front of a group of students in a classroom. A teacher might be someone a teen meets online who can teach how to play guitar, speak a foreign language, or create a podcast. Age is not important, nor is a teaching credential required, in this environment. What is key is that the skill a teen wants to learn can be taught by an expert.
- Flexibility, community, and conversation are all important when it comes to access limitations (and the lack of limitations) in a digital environment. If filters are used in a school or public library there should be options for managing the filters. This means that when it’s important for teens to have access to a broader digital experience teachers and librarians are able to make the decisions (and the changes) in order to allow for that access. A community of teachers, librarians, teens, etc. should be actively involved in decision-making related to access and discussions have to occur between everyone involved. This helps guarantee that good decisions are made for a particular community.
- Adults need to get beyond feeling dis-empowered when it comes to technology. It’s not acceptable to use the reasoning that teens know more about technology then adults do and therefore teens don’t want or need support from adults when it comes to technology. Adults can’t wait until they learn how technology works and catch up with young people. (That will never happen.) Instead adults have to work with teens as technology mentors, colleagues, and advisers.
Along with watching this video I recommend that you also check out the just released book from MIT Press – Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. The book is the end result of a three-year research project that looked at “how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings—at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces.” Both the MacArthur video and the MIT book provide very useful insights into the how and why of using digital content creation tools with teens and the roles that adults play in supporting teen learning.