National Writing Project

What Kids Learn When They Create with Digital Media

Date: December 2, 2009

Summary: Educators, parents, researchers, students, and community members came together in a public forum, The Power of Youth Voice, in Philadelphia, to discuss the potential of learning through engagement with digital media.


Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Mobile devices. Learning takes place both within and outside of school in new and different ways these days.

To better understand how students interact with digital media and to explore the dramatic shift in literacy and authorship that is currently taking place, people gathered in Philadelphia at The Power of Youth Voice: What Kids Learn When They Create Digital Media, presented by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Writing Project, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

"In this new world of digital media creation and participation, the role of the parent, the role of the educator, the role of the adult more generally is shifting—and it's still not defined," said Connie Yowell, director of education in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Program on Human and Community Development. "In many respects, it still depends on how we understand what it is that is being learned in these contexts."

In fact, people can be media makers with an incredibly low barrier of entry, noted Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, director of NWP's National Programs and Site Development. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection and you can publish to the world—literally.

"We could potentially have something like universal authorship," said Eidman-Aadahl.

After touring displays of 18 projects involving youth and digital media, forum attendees gathered to probe what it means for young people to be widely involved in digital media use today—whether it is playing video games, using the Internet for research or social networks, or using mobile devices.

The forum panel was moderated by Connie Yowell and included

  • Renee Hobbs, founder of the Media Education Lab at Temple University and professor at the School of Communications and Theater and the College of Education
  • Nichole Pinkard, founder of the Digital Youth Network and senior research associate, as well as the chief technology officer and director of the Information Infrastructure System project at the Center for Urban School Improvement at the University of Chicago
  • Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, director of National Programs and Site Development at the National Writing Project, University of California, Berkeley

For more information, see the event flyer (PDF) or visit the event Web page.

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