September 16, 2010
CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY AND PRIVATE FOUNDATIONS
COLLABORATE TO MAKE LEARNING STICK
Looking to find ways to create an engaging learning environment for Chicago’s young people, the Chicago Public Library, the Pearson Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation worked together to create YOUmedia – an innovative, 21st century teen learning space housed at the Chicago Public Library’s downtown Harold Washington Library Center and online at YOUmediachicago.org. YOUmedia was created to connect young adults, books, media, mentors and institutions throughout the city of Chicago in one dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity.
High school-age teens engaging with YOUmedia can access thousands of books, over 100 laptop and desktop computers, and a variety of media creation tools and software, all of which allow them to stretch their imaginations and their digital media skills. By working both in teams and individually, teens have an opportunity to engage in projects that promote critical thinking, creativity and skill-building.
Trained mentors from Digital Youth Network as well as Chicago Public Library librarians lead workshops to help teens develop their skills and create digital artifacts – from songs to videos to photography to blogging. Teens learn how to use a variety of technology and digital equipment, including still and video cameras, drawing tablets, and video and photo editing software. YOUmedia also provides an in-house recording studio featuring keyboards, turntables and a mixing board. Teens post and critique their work on the online social learning network, where they also receive immediate feedback from YOUmedia mentors and peers.
The goal, in time, is to increase substantially the number of young people in Chicago who use online resources and new media as tools to engage in inquiry about their neighborhoods, the city and the world. For example, one recent assignment encouraged teenagers to read a book about the Burnham Plan, the century-old blueprint for Chicago’s development, and use digital media to apply its principles in thinking about their own neighborhoods.
As digital media becomes a primary source of information for young people, libraries are using a variety of media platforms to appeal to young patrons. Like community centers, afterschool programs and other informal learning environments, libraries are part of a larger learning network for teens that extends beyond formal learning environments, such as schools. The MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, recently announced that they will create 30 new youth learning labs in libraries and museums across the country. Other partners in this effort include the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Pearson Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the Chicago Community Trust, the Mozilla Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Grable Foundation.
The Chicago Public Library is thrilled to be part of a nationwide effort that is really re-imagining learning environments and providing young people with innovative learning experiences that make learning stick.