Resources on media, technology and youth advocacy

Dunlop & Holosko cover imageCoe-Regan, J. R., & O’Donnell, Julie. (2006). Best Practices for Integrating Technology and Service Learning in a Youth Development Program. Dunlop, Judith M. and Michael J. Holosko, eds. Information Technology and Evidence-Based Social Work Practice. New York: Haworth Press.

The setting for this study is the Long Beach YMCA Youth Institute, a program that “uses technology and service learning as a mechanism for promoting positive youth development while enhancing the academic and career readiness of low-income, culturally-diverse, urban high school students.” The researchers used focus groups to assess program participants’ views of best practices in the program surrounding recruitment, engagement, technology, service learning, and preparation for future careers or higher education. The analysis of data is somewhat shallow, and issues of power, voice, and context are underexplored, but youth feedback regarding their reasons for joining the program will be useful to youth advocates creating or running similar programs

Durrance & Fisher cover imageDurrance, J. C., & Fisher, K. E. (2005). Empowering youth: Outcomes of public libraries’ youth technology programs. How libraries and librarians help: A guide to identifying user-centered outcomes (pp. 114-135). Chicago: American Library Association.

This chapter of a practical LIS guide on program evaluation  compares three very different outreach programs in different libraries, all of which are designed to connect youth with the technology the public library has to offer. It includes detailed tables linking activities and attitudes to outcomes and enumerating the resources and strategies that enabled each program. Interview data is used to illuminate outcomes, and community needs are discussed in relation to the projects.

Berson & Berson cover imageLeaning, M. (2010). The One Laptop per Child Project and the problems of technology-led educational development. Berson, Ilene R. & Michael J. Berson, eds. High-tech tots: Childhood in a digital world, Research in Global Child Advocacy. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Leaning offers a valuable critique of the nonprofit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, which aims to “empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child” (231). The critique centers around three issues: the project as technological determinism; the project’s one-size-fits-all approach, which doesn’t consider “local needs or conditions” (232); and the project’s focus on providing the hardware and software while leaving content, training, and support to local or national authorities. As Leaning puts it,

The OLPC is in effect reducing difference, flattening disparities, and articulating a simplistic description of education in the developing world. More problematically it uses a default position that identifies a problem, a lack or shortcoming in the developing world to explain highly complex, historically differentiated situations. In this model, education in the developing world is at fault; it is a problem, and the solution is to provide laptop computers. (237)

Leaning also provides useful overviews of issues and theories surrounding the dissemination of technology (and its colonialist implications), youth media literacy education, and models of advocacy in a development context.

Media and Social Justice cover imageTaub-Pervizpour, L., & Disbrow, E. (2011). Detours through Youth Media: Backseat Drivers Bear Witness to the Ethical Dilemmas of Youth Media. Jansen, S. C., Pooley, J., & Taub-Pervizpour, L., eds. Media and Social Justice (pp. 97-114). New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.

This chapter describes a project in which participants in a summer program for minority urban youth created media to document their lives. The details and dilemmas of this project are used to interrogate the discourses of the internet and media 2.0 as democratic, leveling, and empowering. The authors unpack and complicate issues of power, agency, and voice in youth cultural production. They also explore the tensions between the “youth-driven” and “adult-supported” aspects of this particular program in a way that is relevant to any program that seeks to give youth authority and agency in how it is carried out but still relies on adult supervision and support for its existence. The chapter also reminds us that even the most utopian and empowering online environment for marginalized youth is no substitute for addressing power imbalances in the institutions and social structures they encounter in non-virtual life (school being the dominant example here). As the authors put it,

If youth media is to fulfill its promise as a force for community change, it will require us to constantly reflect on our objectives, methods, and, crucially, the social relationships that shape youth cultural production. (p. 111)

–Claire

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