Better Prepared for Tomorrow: Youth, Media, Technology and the Future of Education and the Workforce

Thursday, August 1, 2013
by Hollis Headrick, Program Consultant, Hive Digital Media Learning Fund, The New York Community Trust
The new media ecology can be overwhelming, with a growing array of digital devices, the proliferation of massive open online courses (MOOCs), alternative credentials offered through digital badges, and the ubiquity of apps and social networking. A recent Philanthropy New York briefing, attended by over 30 members, offered an overview of digital media learning and technology, its impact on education and workforce development and why it is so important for foundations to better understand these advancements.
A number of key points came out of the conversation, including results from the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study that showed that Black and Hispanic youth are using mobile technology at a faster rate than White youth — White youth consume 8:36 hours of media a day, Blacks 12:59, and Hispanics 13 hours. Given this rate of consumption, it’s clear that new digital media learning strategies can help youth find and follow their interests, learn by doing and document what they’ve learned with digital badges.
Digital badging takes Girl and Boy Scout merit badges to the next level; this micro-credentialing tool can help youth measure any skill (such as coding or writing) and is being embraced by many, given Mozilla’s launch of Open Badges earlier this year, a new online standard for organizations that allows access to free software to create, issue and verify digital badges. Groups adopting badges range from the City of Chicago, whose Summer of Learning is issuing badges so students can show their families and teachers what they have learned over the summer, to the Veterans Administration, which is using badges to help returning vets get jobs.
Participants were interested in learning more about how to support City schools as they adopt the Common Core standards, which include the use of technology to address higher-order thinking skills. The program speakers described a new approach to summer learning, like the NYC Summer Quest taking place at 11 sites in the South Bronx, where students combine academic preparation with enrichment activities, including digital media projects.
Other programs cited by the speakers include the Hive NYC Learning Network and Hive Athens, in which consortiums of museums, libraries and youth-serving organizations are working together to provide youth with opportunities to explore their interests, and develop new skills through the creative application of digital media and technology.
Comments from funders revealed that it was a challenge to stay abreast of the fast-paced changes in digital learning and to pinpoint where to make an investment that best leverages technology’s improvement in public schools, youth development or workforce development. The Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust, a donor collaborative, is one place where funders are working together, sharing information, and making grants collectively. And the March 2014 Digital Media Learning Conference in Boston will be another resource to get more information. As technology rapidly changes the world and the workplace, digital media learning is a way to engage youth to prepare them for the emerging jobs of tomorrow.
This was the first of two meetings organized by The New York Community Trust with the Booth Ferris Foundation, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, The Hearst Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the David Rockefeller Fund, in collaboration with the Media Impact Funders, the Communications Network and NYC Workforce Funders. An additional briefing is scheduled on September 18 and will look more closely at the educational pipeline to the City’s technology sector, which is the fastest-growing and second-largest in the nation. I hope you will join us.
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