(scholarly research powered by cat naps)


How can we help design students across disciplines exchange information, peer-produce shared resources, and build a supportive and sustainable learning network?

The Digital Loft (loft.io) is a type of digital studio that supports innovation ecologies. Supported by Mozilla Foundation and an NSF Cyberlearning grant, the Loft is developing an online learning community to support design-based education in university courses and student-led clubs part of the Design For America network. For 2014-2015, I am serving as a Research Assistant for Loft.io, using a Design-Based Research approach to understand and design a community discussion and peer-production feature for the platform.


How can we support youth media makers to connect and collaborate across geographic and demographic boundaries?

Chicago Youth Voices Network’s NUF-Said 2.0 (nuf-said.org) project engages youth in a participatory design process to develop a safe, active and sustainable online space in which youth can create, share, and discuss media, build relationships, and deepen their civic engagement. As a facilitator and researcher-in-residence with this project, I draw on theories of participatory design as “infrastructuring” of social relations (Star 1996, Ehn 2008, Light & Akoma, 2014) to reflect on the complex process of working together to design youth-centered networked cultures. Through cycles of asking, listening, developing, prototyping, testing, abandoning and iterating the platform, its policies and features, we move away from the emphasis on designing things (objects, tools, platforms). Instead, we acknowledge the relational work involved in infrastructuring socio-material assemblages – collectives of humans, institutions and technologies that emerge and evolve in use. We prioritize ways these collectives can be assembled to reflect ethics of care, interdependency and social justice throughout the course of many transformations.


how can we create a school culture inspired by connected learning principles?

Much of the research documenting connected learning—a peer-supported, interest-driven approach to education that capitalizes on networked media to engage youth and bridge their formal and informal learning—has focused on after- or out-of-school sites, rather than examining how schools can support such work.  Convergence Academies is a whole school reform model developed and implemented in partnership between Columbia College and two high need, low performing public schools within Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The reform model is based on connected learning principles, consisting of two main components: on going professional learning and development for school leaders and teachers, and the design and development of a Digital Atelier space within the school that is designed to encourage play, exploration, and creativity.

My research with Convergence Academies focuses on News Convergence – a 10-week journalism unit implemented in ELA classes in middle and high school grades, in which students created community journalism pieces using networked and digital tools. The lessons were designed by teachers using the Backwards Design framework (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), with support from professional journalists, Digital Media Integration specialists and an Advisory Board of journalism, youth media and media literacy scholars. Students used laptops and iPads to research and author original articles and presentations about topics such as crime and violence, sports, dating, young adult novels and cyberterrorism. Data includes analysis of news literacy surveys, unit plans, classroom observations, teacher and expert reflections, youth produced artifacts, focus groups with students and recordings of professional development sessions with teachers and digital media mentors.


How do young people appropriate, adopt and remix semiotic tools and genre conventions in youth media texts?

Mainstream media chronically underrepresents youth engagement, resulting in myths of an apathetic generation and a self-perpetuating civic empowerment gap (Levinson, 2010). Research from the Digital Media and Learning community has demonstrated the potential of participatory technology and pedagogy to equip young people with tools to address societal issues (Kahne, Lee, & Feezell, 2011; Kligler-Vilenchik & Shresthova, 2012; Raynes-Goldie & Walker, 2007) , develop 21st century literacies (Jenkins, 2009), and experiment with social identities (boyd, 2007). However, to this day little is understood about how youth learn, adapt and transform these tools to assert their agency and voice in an adult-dominated public sphere (Rheingold, 2008; Levine, 2007). In our case study of a public access youth news show, we use multi-media discourse analysis (Baldry & Thibault, 2006; Kress, 2006; Halverson, Bass, & Woods, 2012) to look at the artifacts of youth media production themselves as constructions and confrontations of public discourse. Drawing on Bakhtinian (1973; 1986) theory of socio-linguistic voicing, we analyze how through “carnivalizing” news genre conventions and “ventriloquating” journalistic discourses, youth producers position themselves in-the-middle-of and in-responseto a polyphony of public claims about their generation and community. Adapting these theories to the youth media field in particular, we propose the concepts of genre-bending and multimodal voicing as lenses to analyze and facilitate young people’s learning to address and challenge deficit-based mainstream media narratives. Youth engage in genre-bending when they intentionally and unintentionally infuse media and social conventions with their own practices and perspectives. At the same time, they take up various semiotic affordances of multimedia genres to construct their own roles and identities within and beyond the stereotypically available possibilities.

Our findings contribute a methodology and direction for how social justice oriented youth media can be taught, produced, distributed and evaluated. Specifically, we emphasize the necessity of attending to three interacting elements in the textual and contextual learning space: 1) learners’ existing repertoires of speech and social activity, 2) rhetorical affordances of specific multimodal genres, and 3) play, “drag,” and make-believe as generative processes for learning, experimenting with, and transforming public discourse for inclusive social change.


what instructional models and strategies can best help students develop 21st century skills and civic dispositions?

What are the knowledge, skills and dispositions that students need in order to make sense of contradicting information online and to use media to further their civic goals? In order to better support young people to be effective and literate citizens in the digital era, we need models of expertise in relevant domains to help us identify naive conceptions and scaffold novice learning. We propose Civic Journalism as such a domain. We conducted a Cognitive Task Analysis with five expert journalists that have a civic orientation to ask: what are the processes, skills, terms and concepts and mental models used by expert journalists to gather, organize and present information? Our analysis produced three levels of results: 1) the process of journalism production, 2) four core constructs of journalism knowledge, and 3) implications for scaffolding journalism learning, especially with networked and digital tools.