This report is the first in a series that will document a three-year exploration of YOUmedia. In this installment—intended to introduce YOUmedia to a wider community of those interested in digital media and youth development, including researchers, funders, and educators—we describe Year 1 experiences and assess early lessons. We explore how teens discovered YOUmedia and the variety of ways in which they interacted with the space. We identify obstacles encountered during YOUmedia’s initial implementation (from fall 2009 through summer 2010) and examine programmatic responses to those challenges. We also examine what worked, and, in doing so, identify aspects of the program that were not initially anticipated to be useful but were found to be necessary for ensuring effective use of digital media by teens as an instrument to learn critical skills.

This research report documents the first year of implementation of YOUmedia, a youth-centered digital learning initiative at the Chicago Public Library.  It details some of the changes that took place in year one of the three-year study funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  This report details what aspects of the program were successful in the first year and explores implementation challenges encountered when balancing a youth-driven approach with an adult agenda for learning.  It also provides an introductory overview for upcoming research that will be conducted to learn how the YOUmedia community evolves and whether youth involvement in the program has an impact on teens’ learning and development, both inside and outside of YOUmedia.

Report authors Penny Bender Sebring and Eric Brown participated in a connected learning webinar about their findings.  To view the webinar, click here.

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