Programs

Programs at YOUmedia can be wide-ranging, from creating video documentaries to podcasts of video game critiques to creating a student-run online magazine. Really, the sky is the limit. But as many of the program directors will tell you, the most effective programs are those that are student-driven.

To get you started thinking, here are four signature programs at YOUmedia Chicago.

Additional examples of students at work are availble in the StudentSpeak series, produced by Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning.

Programs at YOUmedia reflect how learning and exploration happen with digital media today. Research shows that kids learn best when they’re following their interests, learning from their peers, and have opportunities to be guided by mentors and other experts.

YOUmedia’s programs also help build 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, media literacy and effective communicating, and the skills necessary to succeed in today's workplace.

What follows are answers—some in video—to the common questions that arise in developing programming.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q How do we incorporate research into the design of programming?

YOUmedia staff answer this question for you. Jennifer Steele in the first video answers from a smaller branch library YOUmedia and Taylor Bayless at the Harold Washington Library's YOUmedia offers additional insights.

Q Who designs the curriculum?

Programs can be designed by staff and mentors, but the most effective programming is student-originated. In fact, in Chicago, YOUmedia started with adult-designed programs and the turnout was only so-so. So they asked the teens what they wanted to do. And lo and behold, participation ballooned.

Listen to YOUmedia Chicago’s Brother Mike discuss the role of student voice.

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Q When should curriculum planning begin?

It’s best to start planning the curriculum (and professional development) while you’re planning and building out the space.

Q What does a YOUmedia curriculum look like?

Nichole Pinkard discusses some core elements of curriculum and the flexibility sites have in designing them.

The curriculum centers on digital media (video, programming, music mixing, photography), but is not limited to it. The curriculum is project-based and provides opportunities for hands-on making and doing.

A key thing to remember: the curriculum is interest-driven. That means there is no set curriculum. Instead, it morphs and changes as interests change. It is also youth-led. The curriculum should match the interests of youth, as those interest evolve. Programming must therefore be nimble and flexible, so that workshops can reflect interests discovered during workshops.

Strong programming has specific outcomes in mind. It offers opportunities for institutional and personal reflection.  And it looks for partnership possibilities. One program at YOUmedia Chicago, for example, worked with novelist Neil Gaiman to remix his book “Neverwhere.” They also collaborated with the Kennedy Center, writing poetry and lyrics for John Legend, and critiqued video games for parents for Common Sense Media.

Q What are some examples of programs?

Here's a few examples of YOUmedia signature programs with more detailed information on programs.

In Library of Games, one of the signature programs for example, teens critique video games and create podcasts and blog posts of their reviews. The project focuses on developing skills of collaboration, critical thinking, and key digital literacy skills.

The program engages teens who come to the space to play video games. Students write, record, and edit podcast reviews of video games. The program allows for various roles, including podcast contributor, host, feature producer, podcast editor, audio producer, web developer, web master, graphic designer, writer and senior writer. For example, as producers, students read gaming blogs and magazines and pick one story that they feel has enough content for a 30-minute discussion. They then write five discussion questions that will guide the podcast.

Here’s an example of a recent podcast, and here's a blog post.

Q How is YOUmedia programming different in a museum?

Ryan Hill, of ARTlab+, answers this question for you.

Q How do staffing realities affect programming?

For staffing, it’s important to determine what teens need to learn and what they want to learn. There should be at least two mentors in the space daily, so that while one mentor is holding a workshop, the other mentor can be connecting one-on-one with students, encouraging them to try new things.

At ARTlab+ in Washington DC, for example, staffing has grown with attendance. On a typical weekday, ARTlab+ has between 25 and 30 teens visit and between 35 and 45 on weekends. When it’s really busy, they have three to four staff working, plus a cybernavigator (the staff member who is the equivalent of a clerk at a library: he or she is the greeter, registers people for the day, checks out equipment for teens, and performs other tasks). ARTlab+ also has between one and three mentors per shift, depending on the size of the group.

Q What is the framework for programming?

Programs immerse youth in a culture of critical thinking about new media. They also offer multiple entryways—from music production to spoken word to community documentaries—to pursue interests. Youth see multiple pathways to involvement, with opportunities to tinker on their own, hang out with friends and learn from one another, or take part in more hands-on, directed workshops.

Throughout, youth engage with mentors and librarians to learn the basics of digital creation and participation. Youth then apply what they have learned by “making and doing,” from creating movies, podcasts, or websites, to performing.

Here are some signature programs with more details.

Q How is “Leveling Up” incorporated into programming?

YOUmedia is designed to support a leveling up process, which is a concept derived from the video gaming community that reflects how gamers advance through various challenges. Each level becomes slightly more challenging than the last. Players remain in a level until they have mastered it and are ready to advance.

Youth at any level of expertise should be able to begin a program based on their personal interests and work individually and in collaborations with peers to gain experience. Once they have mastered the skills in a particular interest area, they move to the next level of engagement.

For example, in the student-developed video game podcast at YOUmedia Chicago, students level up by moving from being organized and directed by a mentor in creating a podcast to creating their own rotating feature for the podcast. A student must propose a feature, receive feedback from the mentor and group and then determine the content of the feature. Or they might level up to writing their own reviews to post on the student-run blog, along with creating the graphics for the post and maintaining the site with updated side bars, managing comments, connecting to social media.

Students can also level up by taking on specific roles within the production team including audio producer, host, editor and web master.

Leveling up happens not only in terms of critical thinking about video games but also through acquiring digital skills. Students also level up by acquiring soft skills like friendly and constructive communication; one cannot become the host unless you can manage the flow of conversation and diffuse possibly contentious situations. For more information, see the Signature Project, “Library of Games.”

Mentors help youth develop skills as they pursue their interests more deeply.

Youth who reach a level of expertise in their pursuits ultimately produce a digital media artifact that is socially significant, personally meaningful, and can be performed for or otherwise shared with their peers and beyond.

Q What happens in workshops?

Workshops are where kids geek out. Led by mentors, workshops are both a culmination of interest-driven pursuits in the hanging out and messing around stages, and an opportunity for youth to hone their budding skills as digital media creators. They also allow opportunities to develop their skills and leadership abilities via collaboration and critique.

Examples of workshops at YOUmedia include the following:

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Q How is a sound studio best used for programming?

ARTlab+'s Ryan Hill discusses how they use a sound studio in their programming at the Hirshhorn Museum.

Here’s another example of sound studio programming—this time with Daniel Robbins, a 17-year-old Chicagoan, mixing music in a sound studio at YOUmedia in Chicago. It also shows how mentors are critical to helping teens stretch their abilities.

Here are some documents about sound studio certification:

Basic Studio Certification.doc
Certification and guide.doc
DYN STUDIO RESERVATION.pdf
Garage Band Cert guide.doc
ProTools Cert guide.doc
YOUmedia Song Posts.doc

Also, please take a look at this post by the Audio Mentor at Artlab+ on how they handle certification.

 

 

Q How do we collaborate with other institutions, experts, or community organizations?

The easiest way to collaborate is to co-lead or co-design with other organizations. YOUmedia Chicago has collaborated with the Museum of Contemporary Art, for example, which has brought in major artists who have worked with the teens and mentors to create new art projects. Here’s a project with abstract artist Mark Bradford.

Other partners have included the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Kennedy Center, where the teens performed with John Legend on stage. YOUmedia also worked with Common Sense Video to critique video games for parents, and worked with the Chicago Public Schools’ Service Learning Division to learn how to use technology effectively.

Listen to several YOUmedia leaders thoughts on how they collaborate with other groups and the importance of tapping these important resources.

* Don’t forget! Build in time for youth feedback on planning and design. Will programming all roll-out on the same date? If not, which activities need to be ready to be implemented first?

Q How do we integrate cooperating institutions’ unique strengths into programming?

Brother Mike, the lead mentor at YOUmedia at Chicago's Harold Washington Library, offers some advice on how to effectively collaborate.

Q How do we incorporate student voice into program design?

YOUmedia Chicago's Brother Mike discusses how they incorporated student voice. The key, he says, is to listen to what the students are saying and how they're reacting to programs.

YOUmedia Chicago's Taylor Bayless suggests that program designers must actively ask kids what they want and be willing to throw out things that don't work.

ARTlab+'s Ryan Hill discusses their feedback loop with students, and the importance of featuring student on their social media outlets as a way to inject student voice into their lab.

Q How do we promote student work?

The options are limitless. YOUmedia Chicago, for example, has partnered with the Art Institute’s afterschool programs on exhibits of project work. They have participated in the spoken word competition, Louder than a Bomb. They also hold weekly performances at YOUMedia (which they advertise using social media; good practice for budding public relations specialists). Brother Mike offers some advice and insights.

Q Are there any lessons learned from programming?

Three YOUmedia experts answer this question in three different ways.

Lead YOUmedia Chicago mentor Brother Mike Hawkins talks about avoiding top-down programming, and how to get the word out about programming.

Tim Lord of DreamYard discusses how young people use YOUmedia as a home away from home, as well as the basic skill-level building that is needed among youth.

Amy Eshleman of the Urban Libraries Council discusses how teens have taken on traditional library programs and made them their own.

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