21st-Century Learning – Youth-Powered YOUmedia@Chicago Public Library

The YOUmedia is a 21st century teen learning space project, a new model for lifelong learning. With digital media and online communication becoming so pervasive in the lives of our youth today, educators in schools, libraries, and other institutions are beginning to realize the potential for using digital media to motivate youth to create, innovate, and become active learners. Together in fall 2009, the Chicago Public Library, Depaul University, and the Digital Youth Network launched the YOUmedia, a 3-year exploration study project (partly funded by MacArthur Foundation), to enable teens to be more than just consumers of digital media, but to be creators as well.
The YOUmedia is a digital media lab with a physical space (with library books, laptop and PCs and a variety of media tools & software, including a recording studio) as well as a virtual space. It is located in downtown Chicago at the Harold Washington Library Center and has a dedicated website for YOUmedia users.

YOUmedia was developed based on the findings of a recent research “Living and Learning with Digital Media” (2008) by Professor Mizuko Ito and colleagues. The research looked at how the new media forms have altered the way youth socialise and learn. It found that hanging out, messing around, and geeking out are three genres of youth participation, each defining a different level of commitment to media engagement and correspond to different social and learning dynamics.  Youth’s interest can grow from “being social/friendship-driven in a particular domain” to “developing skills for that domain” to “becoming specialised in the domain”.
Based on these findings, YOUmedia was developed to allow youth to have access to a physical space (supported by an online community) in which they can “hang out”, “mess around” and “geek out”.  Users’ engagement on the YOUmedia website can likewise range from casual social networking to intense participation.
More details about the findings of this research are available in this ‘Living and learning with new media’ report as well as its corresponding book, ‘Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out : Kids Living and Learning with New Media’ (ISBN: 978-0262013369).

Positive Results for Year 1
YOUmedia’s year 1 implementation was found to have created a dynamic learning environment for teens who participated.  The social environment as theorized where teens are encouraged to participate, perform, and produce were evident. Not surprising, several challenges were also evident and created additional layers of detail, complexity, and nuance. In particular, it highlights the interactive, responsive, and dynamic nature of the environment and the crucial role of both peer-to-peer and youth-staff relationships, all of which feed into a learning cycle rather than a linear process of learning. You can find out all about the project, its observations and challenges in this year one report that was recently released in May 2011 – ‘YOUmedia@Chicago – Reimagining Learning, Literacies, and Libraries: A Snapshot of Year 1’
The early success of year 1 received the endorsement from the White House and 30 new YOUmedia sites will be added across the country – President Obama to Announce Major Expansion of “Educate to Innovate” Campaign to Improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education.
Below is a video from the MacArthur Foundation telling you all about YOUmedia:
You may also want to visit the Flickr site for YOUmedia and have a look at their photo collections and galleries on the various projects that they embarked.

About Rica

Director, Civica Library & Learning ... got teleported from the academic library space to the commercial library space in 2005 ...
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