By: Kate Golden, 10/25/06
Last week, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced a $50 million, five-year initiative to explore the ways in which digital technologies are changing how young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. Standing in front of a room of educators, policy makers, grantees, and members of the press, Jonathan Fanton, MacArthur?s President, explained that ?this is the first generation to grow up digital.? Seeking to better understand this digital generation, MacArthur plans on funding research and innovative projects to achieve this goal. Recent MacArthur grants in the field include support for the design and development of innovative game modules, curricula, and tools for media literacy, a study about the effect of digital media on young people?s civic engagement, and research on ethical decision-making in the digital age. As Fanton said, the Foundation is ?eager to know what solid research will tell.? MacArthur hopes that this initiative will enable educational and other social institutions to adapt to the new needs of today?s - and tomorrow?s youth by providing a clearer picture of what those needs are. Using some of the tools that future grant recipients will most likely study, the Foundation?s press briefing and panel discussion was also available via Webcast; Danah Boyd covered it for Spotlight, MacArthur?s new blog.
Highlighting the need to assess how digital media is transforming youth in both formal and informal learning environments, MacArthur presented some staggering statistics: young people today spend an average of almost 6.5 hours a day with media; 87% of U.S. teens aged 12-17 use the Internet; nearly 75% of young people aged 8-18 use instant messaging.
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