Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Digital Youth Project

Ages ago I heard a talk by Christo Sims at a new media symposium. His talk was on the Digital Youth Project, a three-year project funded by the MacArthur Foundation studying the way that adolescents actually use digital media (as opposed to your usual anecdotal kids-these-days rant, into which category most journalism on the topic falls).

When I heard Christo's talk, I was particularly excited by the pedagogical implications of the project. Composition is the ghetto of the English department (not my English department in particular but The English Department writ large), but composition is of course what I currently teach. And although the grading is definitely wearing, in a deep way I believe in composition. I believe that a literature course should always be writing intensive, because I believe that writing is a glorious technology that helps people think well. After hearing Christo's talk, I began thinking more consciously about how I use media in my pedagogy, and in particular about how to exploit students' existing media literacies.

I don't just mean blah blah blah blog. I also started thinking about how to foreground the workings of technology as a way to help students be more conscious of form. One of the reasons I never spent much time with the New Media Working Group is that I'm fundamentally an old media person -- the old medium of choice being, primarily, the modern print book and its relatives (like the feuilleton). But as Andrew Rabin pointed out to me when he told me about his public school outreach program, people are more likely to be interested than not when you start telling them about how people used to write on goat skins. So I've tried to adopt a media-conscious pedagogy that contextualizes print in the history (really, histories) of writing.

The Digital Youth Project was completed last year, and I'm happy to see that they have a book forthcoming from MIT Press, Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. There is also a white paper [pdf] available through the DYP site.

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