Last week I attended the YOUmedia webinar hosted by the Connected Learning group entitled “Teens, Digital Media, and the Chicago Public Library: A Study of YOUmedia’s Progress” (view the webinar here). Probably my favorite thing about the YOUmedia project is its devotion to creating informal learning spaces for students to both engage in academic work, and in multiple forms of cultural participation. But whereas this sounds on its face like a typical library media center, the YOUmedia project has done a couple of things to set itself apart from other learning commons.
First: variety. YOUmedia offers structured programs and unstructured activities. It also serves as just a hangout spot for teens. This means that, on any given day, students can connect with their peers, explore a range of digital media production tools, engage with mentors, attend a creative writing workshop, and move between these “spaces” at will. Taken in bulk, this variety provides the youth that visit the YOUmedia center a sense of autonomy and community. They can move between learning spaces on their own terms, and use the resources provided to develop their own interests.
Second: the YOUmedia project provides a performance space for youth, and actively provides opportunities for youth to connect, learn from each other, and collaborate on their performances (think of an informal grad school seminar). The investment YOUmedia has made in supporting teens and their interests seems to have paid dividends in terms of building a community where people feel welcome, encouraged, and empowered to own a voice.
Take a look at the webinar to hear from the YOUmedia project coordinators themselves. This is inspiring work.