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Living and Learning with New Media

Living and Learning with New Media

Written by Henry Cohn-Geltner
June 10, 2010

Living and Learning with New Media Coverpage“The digital world is creating new opportunities for youth to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression. These activities have captured teens’ attention because they provide avenues for extending social worlds, self-directed learning, and independence.”

Living and Learning with New Media is a white paper produced by the researchers at the University of California at Berkeley from their Digital Youth Project, which looked at emerging trends in youth culture surrounding the use of and integration of digital media and technology in their lives. 

The research took place over three years and resulted in over 5000 hours of interviews and observations with over 800 participants, to produce some very interesting results.  The researchers discovered that youth are now coming of age online and struggling for autonomy and identity in “reconciliation of new worlds for communication, friendship, play and self-expression.”

Youth believe that the digital world creates new opportunities for them to deal with social norms, explore interests, develop new technical skills, and experiment with ways to express themselves, however this falls in conflict to adults’ view that youth are spending too much time engaged in front of screens.

Three major categories of use and participation were created to explain how youth are negotiating relationships with peers and adults, choosing to spend their time, and exploring how they will learn online.  These are called, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out.

Hanging Out refers to the tendency of youth to extend friendships that are first begun in physical spaces online through social networks.  In addition, private and public communication are increasingly being facilitated by online and social media, providing outlets for youth to express themselves safely.

Messing Around is how youth begin to combine learning with the use of new media technology, when they create and communicate by using tools in an unstructured way, learning new skills in a way that is self-directed, through a process of attempt, failure, and reattempt, and allows youth to be in control of the pace of learning.

Geeking Out describes the processes that youth undergo to discover new information about specific topics and areas of interest, through reaching out in very systematic ways to peers and adults across distributed networks of knowledge who possess the information they desire.  A very important point of understanding for learning is that youth value the information and authority of one another, so experts on online networks are not limited to adults; adults often serve as experts, but are also sought out for their ability to mentor given their experience they will have acquired. 

These findings have provided a foundation from which many projects are approaching teaching and learning using digital technology during in-school and out-of-school settings.

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