New Futures Summer Youth Group @I Workshop Week 1

The introductory session to the Summer digital literacy workshop series with New Futures at Woodridge was structured to expose the youth group to the architecture of the world wide web, the modalities by with we access it, the history behind the internet and the evolution of access devices. After an initial overview of these topics on information access–including a poll on how many had library cards, and meeting the newer members of the group, we closed the session with an open interaction to prepare the group to select specific topics to explore during the 5 week workshop. Each participant was also assigned an information search goal that related to the upcoming Thursday field trip to the Seattle Storm game at Key Arena.

The session started with an overview of how information affects how we interact. I discussed the evolution of communication devices, telegraph to personal computing devices, explaining how Sears started selling watches to build the greatest mail-order catalog; and, how today’s website commerce options have eliminated the need for printing costs.

The new members of the group included a couple of savvy 14 year olds boys and three very astute and observing 17 year old girls. These new members both helped and affected the dynamic of the group. They weighed in when the younger participants deviated from topic or interrupted the discussion. They also brought a new optimism, absorbing the information being passed in the brief lectures; and, participating enthusiastically in later discussions to assign tasks for our next workshop sessions.

I tailored the narrative of how information flows on the web by appealing to their movie interests, taking a cue from the introductory session last week. Yet, I soon discovered my presumption in thinking they’d seen recent movies. And, by recent, I mean those released within the past 10 years. No hands went up when I asked who’d seen The Matrix or Tron. Perhaps two had seen Transformers. For someone as myself who seldom goes to premiers at the movie plex, I was dumbfounded. Lucky for me, our trusty youth Program Manager (yPM) came to the rescue, sharing details about how animatronics had made each of these movies unique. Just for fun, we allowed ourselves a chance to relax watching a video of Matrix on YouTube (“this is The Lobby scene”). The yPM led in a discussion of the use of multi-directional cams that allowed these shots. I added how it all started with Bruce Lee and Hong Kong movies. They seemed to take a moment for a brain scatter in all of this, taking it all in but also not able to put it all together because they had not seen these movies. Even moreso, they had very little understanding yet of the movie making process. Note to self: let them watch a video on live performance or even the making of El Laberinto del Fauno–not that I am recommending they go beyond the director’s notes on how the movie was engendered. ;P

I suppose that’s when we found ourselves off track. The time left allowed us to continue the discovery process by having them take on an information lookup task in the next 48 hours that related to their field trip to the Storm game. Some were assigned to simply find out what the team’s URL was, while others were asked to research Sue Bird’s college contributions, or find out who was the top scorer in an NBA game, or the athlete who had competed in professional football, basketball and baseball in his career. Others were asked to explore the history of Seattle Center, when The Needle was built, or find directions to Key Arena. They very enthusiastically were begging for a task by the very end, even the younger ones who for the most part had remained quiet during the earlier phases of the session.

That surprised me, in retrospect: how disquieting still these younger kids were during the sessions. I am used to my own children as being very hyperactive. About three of the younger boys had been clearly bored, based on their physical demeanor; yet, they never bothered to speak up, or try to disrupt. Based on some other recent engagements in the Latino community in Highline, I wonder if this is an extension of some kids who are still adapting to English. It begs the question whether the problem was that they were yet not used to hearing English in their daily lives as much as the teenagers in the group who seemed more readily adapted to group interaction in English–sidenote: I did ask in the beginning of the session whether they preferred English or Spanish, and the session was conducted in English.

It could also be the case that the initial narrative on information, media, sharing, etc. was just not the kind of topics they would be asked to discuss. I do guide them in a much simplified speaking manner, to be sure, even as we sprinkle in such topics as the 1st amendment and the responsibilities of the freedom of expression. But, as media savvy as this generation might be, I can admit that I went in prejudiced thinking they may not be as digitally savvy as the youth in other parts of King County or the State of Washington; but, there was plenty of evidence in their input to the conversation that they could certainly appreciate information sharing topics in the most popular social media platforms just as much. And, sure enough, they schooled me on their use of Facebook, taught me new uses for the word “swag”, and along the way showed more positive attitudes that reflected a desire to learn about how to mediate their online time.

So, talking about media creation in this session SORT of worked. Putting them to task to research their field trip to the basketball game was SPOT ON! This workshop continues as a work in progress. Probably best to leave organization and categorization for later dates, and let them play and share intuitively. The beauty of our approach is that we can weave in a new narrative as our days in Summer workshop progress.

Tomorrow’s session revolves on them reporting back about the Storm et al, and starting to pair up in teams to work on short-term information seeking exercises in the upcoming weeks. The next three sessions will be open, focusing on discovering more about the group’s information seeking inclinations are, observing their personal information spectrums.

This was a very refreshing session for us all! Everyone got to participate, took on an assignment, and seemed eager to continue the narrative on what it is exactly that people do with information. ;P

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