February 21st, 2014 was a rough day for Minnesota, there was a lot of snow and it was very cold; school was canceled and a lot of employers told their staff to stay home. This winter, we were used to it and while working from home sounded WONDERFUL… it was Dr. Elisabeth Soep’s presentation was at the U of M that morning. Titled Youth Productions in Digital-age Civics, there was truly no way I could miss that as it combines my love for technology and service-learning.
So after getting my car stuck, getting it pushed back in by the garbage men, learning the bus schedule real quick, I was there! I am so glad I didn’t let the bad weather stop me from going to the presentation. After an inspiring or knowledgeable speaker, meaningful experience, or life-changing event do you ever physically feel your perspective shift? Your mind starts racing with new ideas and you feel like your blinders have at least been opened up a bit more? That is how I felt after listening to Dr. Soep.
To listen to her full presentation, visit the LT Media Lab’s Livestream. For me what I particularly appreciated about Dr. Soep’s presentation is that she can speak from both a current practitioner and researcher’s perspective. I think sometimes the barrier between these two areas can cause progress to be stifled. Seeing that Dr. Soep has grounding in both areas makes her work very authentic and interesting.
As a practitioner, Dr. Soep is the Senior Producer for Youth Radio, “an award-winning media production company that trains diverse young people in digital media and technology”. If you listen to NPR you most likely have heard of Youth Radio as they serve as NPR’s official youth news desk. In this role she supports young people in creating and telling their news stories. She also worked with a young person to co-found the App Lab. As an evaluator, Dr. Soep is the Research Director for Youth Radio, “we are a youth driven organization with a research agenda”. Her 20+ years of research experience studying ‘what works’ in supporting young people through media creation and participatory politics is a resource to us all.
Throughout the presentation Dr. Soep shares mistakes and successes she has had in both of her roles and then shares concrete tactics based on research around participatory politics. As a practitioner, I found her the tactics helpful in bringing best practices to life in our programming at NYLC. After the presentation she published, Participatory Politics: Next-Generation Tactics to Remake Public Spheres. After hearing her presentation, I started reading publications and watching webinars from the Youth Participatory Politics Research Network. It is a goldmine of resources for youth workers and youth organizations whose goal is to support their youth in being active citizens.
What does this mean for my work?
The research coming from the YPP Research Network, such as Dr. Soep’s will be essential for designing and defining my organization’s programming at a national level. Educational technology and project-based learning are on the mind’s of educators and administrators everywhere. Dr. Soep’s tactics clearly explain what that can actually look like in practice and what are some of the risks.
It is our programming that defines what will we offer badges for in both face-to-face and online settings. That being said, using Dr. Soep’s and other researchers framework for designing our online network will ideally create an environment and supporting activities that allow young people create and share meaningful media. Meaningful media that is connected to real world issues that young people feel passionate about to educate and mobilize others. There are a lot of opportunities to teach digital literacies in both youth and adults so that media is not abused and calls to action are just.
As a professional in the service-learning field this research needs to be more broadly shared and I hope to bring it to our National Service-Learning Conference in April, 2014- stay tuned on a update on that.