The YOUmedia Network

What Is YOUmedia?

YOUmedia are spaces where kids explore, express, and create using digital media. YOUmedia’s core philosophy is that youth are best engaged when they’re following their passions, collaborating with others, and being makers and doers, not passive consumers.

Explore the toolkit to learn more.

YOUmedia are transformative spaces—and catalysts—for new kinds of thinking about libraries, museums, and community centers. The sites are open, flexible, and highly creative, with inspiration zones, production zones, and exhibition labs where youth “hang out, mess around, and geek out.” YOUmedia connects three realms of learning—peer groups, interests, and academics—in deliberate ways. One of the most important aspects is that they connect learning directly back to school, careers, and other realms.

While hands-on learning has a long history, digital media gives it a new twist. Digital media is reshaping how young people think, learn, and play. Tapping into its power in creative and fresh ways, YOUmedia programs grab young people where they are and inspire them to stretch their talents and interests in new ways.

Listen to Chicago Public Library’s commissioner Brian Bannon discuss the role of YOUmedia in envisioning the future of learning institutions.

The key words that best capture the essence of YOUmedia are:

  • Youth centered: Design and programming embrace youth preferences, interests, practices, and attitudes. Youth voice is essential.
  • Interest driven: Programming is driven by youth interests and is meaningful and relevant to their daily lives.
  • Reflective: Youth review and critique their own work to hone their skills.
  • Making and Doing: Programming centers on hands-on, active engagement. Youth are not simply consuming media or information, they are producers of content and projects to be shared with a broader audience.
  • Collaborative: Youth work regularly with others from different schools, backgrounds, and areas of interest and expertise.
  • Interdisciplinary: A variety of content and perspectives from multiple disciplines are incorporated into programming and workshops.

Connected Learning

More broadly, YOUmedia represents a well-planned and thoughtful way of connecting to the learning that happens beyond the classroom. Learning never stops. Kids continue learning after they leave the classroom, as they're visiting a museum, or writing fan fiction on a Harry Potter website, or hanging out with their friends.

Connected learning is learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement. This framework is based on evidence that the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social supports and recognition. YOUmedia connects learning by offering programs and experiences that bridge youth interests, academics and peer culture.

The core principles of connected learning reflect YOUmedia's approach as well because it is:

  • interest powered
  • peer supported
  • academically oriented
  • production centered
  • networked
  • shared purpose

Learn more about connected learning on the site and the following resources:


Working Examples

Here are two examples of how YOUmedia is leading the way in reimagining out-of-school spaces for youth:

  • DreamYard in New York City, for example, combines art + school in a vibrant program of discovery.
  • ARTLab+ in Washington, DC, taps the rich resources of the Hirshhorn Museum at the Smithsonian.

Grounded in Research

Before diving in to planning a YOUmedia space, please take some time to familiarize yourself with the rich body of research that stands behind YOUmedia.

YOUmedia spaces are well planned models of how to engage and encourage kids in self-directed learning. Much research went into their design and curriculum, and YOUmedia developers use the research as a foundation to design and plan their spaces. Learn more about Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out (HOMAGO), as well as other foundational research here.