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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Media Empower Youth

Both in the classroom and in after-school pods, students learn to become critical creators in Chicago's Digital Youth Network. On Remix World, the program's social-networking site, participants share, critique, and discuss their work.

Digital Media Empower Youth (Transcript)

Asia Roberson: This chair is for the presenter. This is for the person who created the trailer. You're going to say how you decided to do your trailer. Then we'll do warm and cool feedback.

Narrator: In this digital storytelling class at Carter G. Woodson Middle School on the south side of Chicago, students are learning to express themselves using new media technologies.

Student: I liked how you incorporated everything together and made it dramatic.

Narrator: And learning how to critique what they see.

Student: Because it seemed like the sound effects took over and you really couldn't hear yourself.

Narrator: Carter G. Woodson is one of four schools that make up the Digital Youth Network or DYN, a sixth through twelfth grade program that was created in 2003 by the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute.

Nichole Pinkard: The Digital Youth Network takes up the challenge preparing kids for the year 2020 and beyond. And we do that in trying to create partnerships between all the spaces where kids spend their time during the school day, in school, after school, and after-school programming, at home through the use of online tools and social networks, and in the communities that surround them.

Akili Lee: If you could if you know your account, log in.

Nichole Pinkard: So we've tried to allow kids to sort of learn on demand.

Jared Washington: Through Digital Youth Network and presence of DYN classes inside the school day our students are gaining access to software and skills that really push the envelope on what we think or what teachers think they're capable of doing.

Student: What did you guys do with those pictures?

Student: They're all right there.

Narrator: During the school day DYN staff teach mandatory media arts classes. There students acquire basic tech literacy skills that allow classroom teachers to integrate digital tools into their curriculum.

Akili Lee: So again, you can upload the music y'all are doing, and you can also make blog posts and start discussion forums etcetera.

Narrator: After school, students can pursue their passions in a variety of DYN classes that meet for two hours once a week. They include digital video production.

Teacher: Yeah, make sure you're moving your play and then play from the beginning.

Narrator: Digital audio production, robotics, graphic design, and game design.

Student: I made it based on game so I tried to make it like with some type of fortress-

Jalen: DYN is just like one of the awesomest, sickest programs ever. It's like technically it's just like all these awesome sick programs like gaming all the way to poetry. And after that we have something called Freedom Friday and there sometimes we talk about topics that need to be talked about around the world like global warming.

Teacher: We have many perspectives, not just one. And you could add to that perspective.

Narrator: There's also a Digital Queendom offering just for girls.

Teacher: Alright, ladies, thank you.

Akili Lee: Digital Queendom is an initiative to really support gender equity. Girls often thought that they couldn't necessarily do the work to the same level that the boys would, so we brought the Digital Queendom pod in giving the girls kind of a safe space and in a more engaging kind of context that's focused on their own issues.

Teacher: Think about the kind of advertising too that you've seen before. What is it they try to tell you to get you to-

Asia Roberson: We discuss and analyze and critically break down images of females in the media, anything that has the female presence in it, we break it down to see what is empowerment, what isn't empowerment, and how they can create media that better reflects themselves.

Narrator: The DYN network is accessible 24/7 through its closed social network site called Remix World. Students post their work, take part in critiques and discussions and receive online mentoring which expands learning beyond the school and program day.

Teacher: Did you put sound to this?

Student: Yeah. Yes and no, I don't like it anymore.

Akili Lee: If you want them to really be a sophisticated game developer or a graphic designer or a videographer. It's hard to do that with once a week so we use the online space as an extension and an opportunity for the kids really on their own time to really delve a little bit deeper into the work.

Student: We just talked about the presidential election.

Student: Yeah.

Narrator: Once in high school, DYN students begin to focus their development on an individual medium.

Terrence: And action.

Narrator: Oftentimes youth who excelled in the middle school program are given internship opportunities to serve as mentors for middle school students.

Terrence: Okay, I'm not sure if we're going to get that shot.

Terrence: Being a mentor you know really teaches me skills about working in a productive environment. You know, it teaches me how to be professional, how to take those skills that I have already and enhance them and how to teach another generation how to use those and so hopefully there can be kids that I'm teaching who could wind up being bigger and more famous than I hope to be, you know?

Student: Right now I'm editing the clip shorter so that it kind of looks more like a movie and not like just like pictures just floating out of the air. So I'm going to see how that works out first.

Jared Washington: We know that the world is shifting and that there are a number of new ways of thinking, new ways of learning and working and socializing that won't go away. It's not a fad. It's not a trend. And the way people connect, the way people work, the way people learn is very different so we think our kids need the ability to use technology in their personal development and in their learning.

Student: Hi, this is:

Students: The Random Show!

Student: And you are watching it on DYN TV.

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Maria Finitzo

Written and Edited by

  • Karen Sutherland

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld

Camera Crew

  • Jim Morrissette
  • Zak Piper

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely


  • Kris Welch

Executive Producer

  • Ken Ellis


Digital storytelling: Using new digital tools to help ordinary people tell their own real-life stories.

Sources: Wikipedia.org


Discussion Questions

1. What do you think of the Digitial Youth Network? What would it take to start a similar program in your community?

2. How is DYN redefining literacy?

3. What do you think of the DYN's special program for girls only? Is this a good idea? Why, or why not?

4. The DYN uses a social network for kids to provide each other with meaningful feedback. What are the benefits of doing this online versus in person?

5. Do you agree that the way people learn is different today than it was in previous generations? Why, or why not?




Comments (7)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Kim McLaughlin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I loved this video on the Digital Youth Network in Chicago. I teach 5th grade and it gave me so many ideas but also questions. I wonder about funding and teacher training. I was so impressed with the kids in the video and how they are using the technology creating their own movies and stories. The girls club is outstanding!!! Girls need empowerment in the classroom and in the outside world!!! Great job!!

Pearla Collier's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think this was a great video. Short but very educational.

T Johnson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This Digital Storytelling class is really awesome. I gives encouragement as it builds educational technology confidence in the classroom by allowing the students to express themselves as they use the media technology materials. They also use this material to critic themselves which allows them to have a fascinating vision of their great work along with their errors. It is an excellent tool for empowering youth, both male and female.
The videos gave me a more "out of the box" outlook on technology in the classroom.

Mironda V. Peace's picture

Very inspirational. I would love to see a program like this in my community that engages students especially females in using technology to tell their stories.

ziona's picture

i think this video is very helpful in many different areas for different people. i love it

Andrew Olmos's picture

I really enjoyed this video. Storytelling and dialogue is a part of every student's life. Digital Youth Network introduces students to the initial stages of communication and literacy, as well creating a bridge between the physical world and an imaginative one. Digital Storytelling in my opinion helps students share experiences and feelings in an engaging and entertaining way.

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