Kids can be so cool. Their imaginations are so huge and uninhibited, and they can create amazing things. Which is why it is so great to put digital media in the hands of today’s youth and just watch them fly.
In Oakland, California a program called “Digital Underground Storytelling for Youth”, or just DUSTY, young people have the opportunity to pair their wild imaginations with cameras, audio equipment, editing software, and experts to give them guidance. The program is working to close the digital divide, by providing access to the latest in digital technology (Hull, 2003, p.230).
Don’t be so cynical as to think this is an after school club for kids who want to play video games. The point of DUSTY is to get the youth to start thinking of how they view themselves, their neighborhoods, and the stories that exist around them (Hull, 2003, p.230). The results are 3-5 minute long pieces that include video, photography, music, and a narration recorded by the artist.
Hull argues that in a world where “images push words off the page and our lives become increasingly mediated by a popular visual center”, these kinds of programs keep kids focused on their linguistics (2003, p. 230).
It is also helping kids take control of their own lives. Hull uses the example of Randy, one of the participants at DUSTY, who created a piece that began with images that included the pyramids, Malcolm X, and Biggie Smalls. He explained that he wanted to associate himself with all of those objects or people. Hull argues that this project, more so than just writing an essay or a piece of poetry, gives Randy and youth like him a “powerful authorial agency” (2003, p. 231).
Programs like DUSTY can be empowering for the youth they serve, but are also an important model for how technology can be used to educate and facilitate positive growth. Despite some educators and experts strongly opposing the use of screens in education, the reality is that teaching and technology have officially merged, and educational media are making their way into more homes across America. In a study done by the Joan Ganz Cooner Center, it was revealed that 2/3 of children ages 2-10 have e-readers, and children spend an average of 42 minutes watching educational television (Rideout, 2014).
As long as we are a society obsessed, we may as well use the technology we have to bring positive change to the lives of underprivileged youth.
Hull, Glynda. (2003). Youth Culture and Digital Media: New Literacies for New Times. Reseach in the Teaching of English, 38, 229-240.
Rideout, Victoria. (Jan 2014). Learning at Home: Families Educational Media Use in America. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/.