Penny Sebring & Eric Brown – Teens, Digital Media, and the Chicago Public Library: A Study of YOUmedia’s Progress

April 18, 2013
11:00 am - 12:00 pm PST
By Educator Innovator

An in-depth look at YOUmedia’s strengths as a space for connected learning, and broader considerations for application in other environments.

Key Questions and Comments:

  • (06:33) We estimate that between 350 and 500 teens come to YOUmedia each week. They are serving a large number of teens…We view YOUmedia as a hybrid organization: it has elements of unstructured programs and structured programs.
  • (08:08) Over three-quarters of the teens live 5 miles away or more, so they’re making a real commitment of time and money to get there. Over half of them have been coming for more than a year, and they come pretty consistently as well.
  • (09:23) We were able to figure out 5 participation types:
    • 1. About 18% of [youth at YOUmedia] are Socializers–they hangout with friends, they get on Facebook.
    • 2. 28% are Readers/Studiers–they use YOUmedia like the library: they get on computers to do their school work.
    • 3. 21% are Floaters–they’re more involved that the previous two groups in the digital media activities, but they tend to float from one interest to another.
    • 4. 11% are Experimenters–this is primarily a group of African-American males who come to use the keyboard and the computers to practice and create music.
    • 5. 22% are Creators–this group exemplifies what we imagined YOUmedia participants would do.
  • (13:37) About half the teens across the different participant types reported improving in at least 1 skill due to YOUmedia…With the Creator group, 84% of them improved in 1 or more skills; 60% improved in 2 or more skills.
  • (19:34) Why do you think you were so successful in attracting and keeping this large group of teens?
  • (20:59) A lot of these young African-American males coming through may not have this access at home or in their schools. So, YOUmedia becomes a foundation for them to have access and equal the playing field.
  • (22:31) You’ve got to have those folks in there who can really speak to the culture of a student–race and culture, really. The “window” and the “mirror.”
  • (27:06) I wondered if Brother Mike and Taylor could share how they were able–as adults in the space–facilitate that deep sense of community that youth told us they were experiencing?
  • (27:58) The biggest thing I tell our staff is listen, no matter what youth are talking about…Don’t fake your interest. Really be there to listen to them.
  • (33:31) I wonder, Brother Mike and Taylor, if you could talk about how you really get [youth] to…get engaged and persist and actually produce artifacts and media? What do you do to make that happen?
  • (35:34) I think one of the things that’s so beautiful about the space is that any kid who encounters a mentor there is going to encounter someone that believes in them, even if they don’t believe in themselves.
  • (38:15) Is this kind of a self-contained thing? What are the spaces that are part of the YOUmedia space? The different ways youth can move in and among “the space”?
  • (39:27) We often get from patrons: “Am I in the library?” as soon as they walk in because they are hit with video games, there’s kids rapping or performing but they also see books.
  • (43:00) Why do you think teens were able to improve the skills we talked about? Also, whether or not there is a goal or a thrust among the staff–librarians and Digital Youth Network (DYN) staff–of moving kids between a participation type of a Socializer or a Floater to someone who’s more of an Experimenter or a Creator?
  • (47:16) I’m just glad that kids are in the space. Ideally, I think, yes, we want all our kids to be Creators. But, if they’re not all Creators, it’s not a giant problem because they’re in the space and they’re gaining something from it.
  • (51:33) Sometimes, when you say to a kid, “You’re going to come to a workshop and you’re going to learn how to use GarageBand,” that’s not really meaningful to them. But when you can say to a kid “OK, you’re going to come make a song for this project,” that’s meaningful…So, I think the challenge for us as program designers is to think about how we create projects where the focus is creating a product that’s going to live somewhere outside in the real world.
  • (54:41) I think these different learning activities that [YOUmedia has] developed are a testament to the innovative nature of YOUmedia, and to the responsive teaching, mentoring or instructional design that’s prevalent in the space.

View the Conversation
During the broadcast, the conversation also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #connectedlearning.

Guests for this webinar included:

  • Elyse Eidman-Aadahl – Moderator, Director at National Writing Project
  • Penny Sebring – Guest Speaker, Founding Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago. Penny Bender Sebring is a founding co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago. CCSR is dedicated to informing and assessing policy and practice in the Chicago Public Schools. She serves on the board of the directors for the Chicago Public Education Fund, the editorial board for Catalyst Chicago and the Social Sciences Visiting Committee, University of Chicago.
  • Eric Brown – Guest Speaker, Research Analyst at Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago. Eric Brown is a research analyst at CCSR for the Focus on Freshmen project and the Evaluation of the Excellence in Teaching Pilot. He is interested in researching family and community level-interventions to improve educational outcomes for students in inner-city schools.
  • Taylor Bayless – Librarian at the Chicago Public Library and YOUmedia Mentor
  • Brother Mike Hawkins – Lead YOUmedia Mentor and Coordinator

Resources for this webinar:

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