October 27, 2011

Worthy Reads: Youth Media Production, Games & Learning, Pottermore, Web Freedom

Categories: Digital Citizenship, Edtech
students sitting at desks playing computer learning games

A new report on YOUmedia, a youth-centered digital learning initiative at the Chicago Public Library, explores what it means to reimagine learning, literacies and libraries. The report takes a hard look at the first year of the YOUmedia project. It details “what aspects of the program were successful in the first year and explores implementation challenges encountered when balancing a youth-driven approach with an adult agenda for learning.” This report comes at an important time within the development of digital media and learning theory and practice, offering a frank assessment of the transition required to bring the role of adults back into the institutionalization of youth’s interest-driven learning. The YOUmedia staff, for example, found that teens left on their own “did not automatically connect” with all of the activities provided for them within the innovative new spaces activities designed to allow them to more deeply explore their own interests. It turns out, sometimes, that simply having an interest is not enough to lead a youth to pursue it. This changed, however, “when adults reached out to connect with youth.” As these Learning Labs spread around the country (federal funding will be announced soon for upwards of 30 sites) it is imperative we learn as much as we can about the tricky process of bringing interest-driven learning into informal learning environments and better understand the essential roles adults can play to support the development of self-directed youth learners.

Six New Games for Change: Check Out the Future of Gaming for Good (blog/video)

At this past June’s Games For Change Festival (which Global Kids co-founded), six games in development made public pitches to an illustrious panel of critics: Frank Lantz of Zynga New York and NYU, Ken Perlin of the Games for Learning Institute, and Connie Yowell from the MacArthur Foundation. This excellent write-up from Jeff Ramos, G4C’s Community and Content Manager, reviews the six games, outlines the jury feedback, and features the video from the entire event. For anyone in the process of or even considering creating games for social impact, this is a new and invaluable primer.

What Pottermore Points Us Towards (article)

While still in beta, the new online portal Pottermore – a collaboration between author J.K. Rowling and Sony – provides for a unique, individualized reading experience. This article discusses possible ways Pottermore and other evolving digital tools at our disposal might change our reading habits. The article also discusses the concept of “booking,” which is “a process that connects readers, authors, characters, ideas, and stories into complex webs.” Pottermore already includes a robust community, new material written by Rowling that provides backstory and original concepts for characters, a customized user experience (you should see my wand!), games and a library of resources to learn more about Rowling’s world. The article questions how experiences like Pottermore will force us to rethink traditional pedagogy and affect how we teach literacy.

A Call for Opening Up Web Access at Schools (article)

This article in The New York Times covers the debate over whether or not schools should block access to particular web sites. Several schools around the country have gotten involved in the discussion. For example, one middle school in Bronx, New York sent over 60 emails to the Department of Education, “to protest a block on personal blogs and social media sites.” The arguments for blocking web access are familiar: protecting students from bullying and avoiding classroom distractions. On the other hand, the arguments against blocking web access come with the growing use of digital media for educational purposes. Blocking certain sites can make it difficult to do research (a problem recently highlighted in this report) and it can prevent social media sites like YouTube and Twitter from being used for education. Global Kids often faces barriers when it comes to using the Internet at school sites.  Important for Global Kids is that the debate also includes students’ voices. Discussions about web access allow students to think deeply about the role of technology in their lives. For example, the article mentions one librarian in Colorado who asked his students whether or not schools should block sites that promote neo-Nazism or racist ideas. Questions such as these force young people to think critically about the uses of the Internet.

Global Kids does a great job each month flagging important resources. Please share what you’re reading and watching, too! Global Kids’ NYC-based programs address the need for young people to possess leadership skills and an understanding of complex global issues to succeed in the 21st century workplace and participate in the democratic process.

Banner image credit: Global Kids http://www.flickr.com/photos/holymeatballs/6033307640/in/photostream/