Teens, Digital Media, and the Chicago Public Library

Sebring and Brown

October 15, 2013 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy
1155 E. 60th St. 
Room 289B

Penny Sebring, Founding Co-Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, and Eric Brown, PhD student at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy

As new initiatives to exploit technology and digital media for learning sweep the country, a learning center for teens at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago demonstrates both the challenges and opportunities that these efforts present. Opened in the fall of 2009, YOUmedia Chicago attempts to capitalize on teens' interest in technology to motivate them to create, innovate and become active learners by providing them access to digital media, a safe, inviting space and staff members who serve as mentors. It is a new kind of space—one that encourages teens to follow their interests to pursue substantive learning opportunities, but also allows them simply to hang out, study or socialize with peers. There currently are 30 learning centers across the country being modeled on YOUmedia Chicago and funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. According to a study done by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, YOUmedia attracts between 350 and 500 teens weekly. The largest single demographic group attending YOUmedia is African American males, who historically have been underserved by after-school programs. With the guidance of adults and collaboration with peers, participants discover and pursue their interests through activities such as blogging, writing and sharing poetry, playing and reviewing electronic games, producing mu¬sic and videos, and participating in book clubs. This talk will describe how YOUmedia is designed, as well as the demographics and patterns of participation of the teens it serves.

Penny Bender Sebring is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Chicago and Founding Co-Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, at the University’s Urban Education Institute. She is an author ofTeens, Digital Media, and the Chicago Public Library and the book Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. The research underlying the latter provides the intellectual foundation for the 5 Essentials Survey, which provides a comprehensive picture of schools’ strengths and weaknesses as organizations. The Survey is now being used by over 5,400 schools in IL and other states and districts. Dr. Sebring graduated from Grinnell College, following which she was a Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher. She received her Ph.D. in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University.

Eric Brown is a second-year PhD student at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. He received his bachelor’s degree with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors from the City University of New York and his master’s degree from the University of Chicago, School of Social Services Administration. Eric is interested in studying the influence of peers, family, school and community on the development of emotional self-regulation for urban adolescent youth. Eric worked at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research for a little over four years prior to beginning his studies at Northwestern. Eric’s other research projects at CCSR include the Focus on Freshman project, the evaluation of the Excellence in Teaching Pilot study, and providing research support as part of the Data and Practice Collaborative with a network of schools in Chicago’s Woodlawn community. Eric is especially proud of his involvement on the YOUmedia study as the project uniquely drew from his research background and direct service experience as a social worker with adolescent youth.

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