Summer digital media design camp
In collaboration with a high school teacher and a group of 16 students from the Austin Metropolitan Area, our research team from the University of Texas designed and implemented a social innovation studio at Freeway High School (FHS), the public school where we conducted ethnographic field work for an academic year. The goals of this project were influenced by our research preliminary findings, and included helping to close the enrichment gap in margnalized communities; providing opportunities for participation in design, critical thinking, and brainstorming activities; creating a learning context based on a real world problem that affected the local community (childhood obesity, food environments and the pervasiveness of sugar); and applying the principles of connected learning.
The activities of DGZiN, as the studio was named by the young designers who participated in the project, included research, ideation, design, media production, multimodal writing, interaction with experts, and field trips to different sites such as a children hospital, neighborhood groceries, and supermarkets. During the three weeks that the project lasted, a computer lab clasroom at FHS was transformed into a digital media and social design studio where participants had access to desktop and laptop computers, internet connectivity, iPads, professional media production software, digital video and audio production gear, and five adult mentors. Further, participants were equiped with mobile devices (iPods) they could use through the duration of the project, taking advantage of multimedia recording and networking capabiltities across the many settings they navigated in their everyday life. Project outcomes included publishing an iBook (interactive book for the iPad) that integrated original multimedia content, Tumblr websites that young designers mantained during the length of the project, and a public presentation. Finally, some of the major takeaways from the implementation of the studio were that making design challenges with real-world problems encourage young people to inquire, create, and discover; and that applying connected learning principles in the design of activities can be very effective for supporting robust learning pathways, deep engagement, and development of cognitive complexity.