Interested groups should start by forming a team of interested adults and youth to explore the YOUmedia model. Download the Toolkit to see how different Learning Labs have put the model into action. Visit your local library, museum, youth center or school to assess the potential for creating a full Learning Lab in one of the spaces in your community. YOUmedia Learning Labs can be created in any space where youth are welcome.
The Learning Labs Report highlights the findings and impacts of three years of IMLS/MacArthur funding, from its beginnings in Mizuko (Mimi) Ito’s research of young people’s media practices in everyday settings as an anthropology professor at the University of California, Irvine, to collective outcomes, institutional transformation, and expansive learning ecosystems that have emerged and continue to grow as a result of this initiative. Hear from some of the Learning Labs themselves about what they learned in regards to teen engagement and the importance of participatory design that is with, not simply for youth, developing a mentor model to support and cultivate teen interest, and building an innovative space that encourages creativity and exploration. Also read about the growing community of practice that has risen out of this network: a group of informal educators, practitioners, and library and museum employees that are shifting the way they think about their job to support youth learning and sharing that passion, knowledge and expertise with colleagues nationwide. As Crystal Faris, director of teen services for the Kansas City Public Library, says, “Because of this experience, for the first time I think of myself as an educator.”
However, Learning Labs are not solely about creating new spaces. They can also be about reframing spaces and programs that already exist. Schools, community programs, and after-school programs have all found ways to make their settings more interest-driven, more production-centered, and more social for the young people and mentors in them. Another way to get started with YOUmedia Learning Labs is to learn more about the Connected Learning and to apply the those design principles to your own work with youth. For an example, see how staff at the Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago took up the YOUmedia principle of HOMAGO—Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out—for their work in this guidebook.
And many places can adopt and adapt programming ideas developed in Learning Labs. Check out this programming guide to see overviews of five different programs developed at Harold Washington’s YOUmedia site and adapted throughout the network. These five programs represent only a small slice of program ideas available at YOUmedia’s online Community of Practice.