November 29, 2010

ARTICLES: When Youth Own the Public Education Agenda

I've devoted my career to researching how young people take up new technologies like computers, mobile phones, and the Internet and make them their own. If we pay attention to what young people do when they are socializing and having fun with these new media, it's clear that they are both highly engaged and learning a great deal. For most young people, however, this is about learning how to get along with their friends, what it takes to get a date, or how to get to the next level in Halo, and not the kinds of academic learning and civic engagement that schools are concerned with. As a parent and educator who is also an anthropologist committed to appreciating youth perspectives, I stand at the cusp of two different learning cultures--one that is about youth-driven social engagement and sharing, and the other that is embodied in educational institutions' adult-driven agendas. My biggest challenge has been to find what it would take to get alignment between the energy that kids bring to video games, text messaging, and social network sites and the learning that parents and educators care about. I have been on a quest for examples of educational institutions and programs that can bridge this cultural divide, and I'd like to share an example that has come out of collaborations I have had with some of my colleagues in the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative.

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