Mimi Ito
Mimi Ito, cultural anthropologist and associate researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, co-led a MacArthur Foundation-funded three year ethnographic study, the Digital Youth Project (DYP), which looked at how young people interact with new media at home, in after-school programs, and in online spaces-and found much to celebrate in the learning they observed.

But many adults don’t see it that way-yet. During a talk at a recent US educational conference, Ito projected an image of a newspaper article that appeared after DYP issued its first press release. The researchers reported that kids are engaging in diversified and valuable dimensions of learning online. The banner headline reporting their findings proclaimed, “Chill Out, Parents.”

“That outtake focused more on inter-generational tension than on our findings,” Ito said. “The headline assumes that parents are uptight, or should be, about kids’ online activity.”

Today’s kids are growing up in a radically different media environment than their parents-and teachers-did. They are connected 24/7 to peers, to entertainment and to information. “Visceral, interactive, immersive experiences are available when and where kids want them,” Ito said.

The availability of all that compelling entertainment and information has created a gap, Ito says, between in-school and out-of-school experience. Schools need to figure out how to leverage the power of kids’ engagement with media for learning in school as well as outside it.

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