The Digital Edge

Principal Investigators:

Associated Researchers and Staff:

A greater diversity of young people in the U.S. are using digital media than ever before. So, why do issues related to technology, diversity, and equity continue to matter today? “The Digital Edge” is designed to explore how students, teachers, and families are engaging digital media in the face of significant social, financial, educational, and familial challenges. Interdisciplinary in its scope, our team draws from a range of perspectives including digital media studies, the sociology of education, theories of social and cultural capital, learning sciences, gender studies, popular culture, race and ethnic studies, demography, design, and youth and cultural studies. Our research is based on extensive interviews, participant observations, ethnography and creative collaborations with students and teachers from a Central Texas High school. Team members are also exploring the design and implementation of digital media learning with a focus on game design and digital video production. In addition to observing students in both in-school and out-of-school learning environments, we seek to understand the many different nodes—peer, familial, online, extra-curricular—that shape their learning ecologies. Connected learning in edge communities is a central challenge in the creation of a more equitable digital future through the expansion of digital literacy, the transformation of learning, and the enrichment of the digital and mobile media practices of young people.

Blogs

Updates

Addressing Race, Inequity Issues Through Social Media Power

The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. began dominating the national headlines instantly. One of the biggest factors, as Newsweek's Elijah Wolfson points out, was the use of social media by the residents of Ferguson as well as those sympathetic to the concerns about hyper-aggressive police tactics. Speaking about Ferguson, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes told a New York Times reporter, “this story was put on the map, driven, and followed on social media more so than any story I can r

Rapid Tech Change Requires Rebranding to Recruit Talent

A few months ago, I met the city of Austin’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and we soon discovered that we had several mutual interests, especially related to young people, technology, and a rapidly evolving economy. Intrigued by our conversations, we recently convened a meeting with several leaders from the city’s Information Technology team (CITT) that included the Austin Independent School District, Austin Fire Department, Austin Public Library, financial services, and public utilities. We also in

P-Tech Schools: The Remaking of Career, Technical Education

For nearly four decades, economists have been discussing what is generally referred to as skill-biased technical change. That is, the degree to which technological transformations — computerization and automation — privileges high-skill workers over low-skill workers. Schools are under increasing pressure to design classrooms, curricula, and learning experiences that help students develop the kinds of design, engineering, and creative skills that are a better fit for innovation economies. One model of s

Rethinking the ‘Race Between Education and Technology’ Thesis

This year my research team has been pouring over qualitative data that we collected over a year-and-half period from Freeway High School (previously referred to as Texas City High School in earlier posts), the site of our fieldwork in the study of ‘connected learning.’ Several themes related to young people’s adoption of digital media, the role of technology in schools, social inequality, and the future of learning have emerged from our fieldwork. For instance, we have thought a lot about the social d

Ethnography and the Geography of Learning

When our Austin research team was initially designing “The Digital Edge” as part of the Connected Learning Research Network, we wondered: what would be the best way for us to gain a picture that was as comprehensive as possible of the daily lives and digitally-mediated learning ecologies of youth—especially youth from under-resourced minority communities? We were intrigued, for example, by Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that showed that youth of color were more likely than their white

Gender and Connected (After-School) Learning: Understanding “Can-Do” Girlhood (Part 2)

In my previous post on this topic, I introduced Michelle, a Freeway High School (FHS) student who now attends an elite private university on the east coast. In that piece, I utilized the framework of “can-do” and “at-risk” girlhood (posed by Anita Harris in Future Girl) to compare the pathways of two students I analyzed through their after-school engagement – the second case study is below.

Connected Learning: Unlocking the Potential of Every Child

One of the more interesting assertions of connected learning is the need to create new approaches to education that recognize the vitality of learning and the fact that it happens in many different ways.  There is widespread agreement among researchers from sociology, economics, and education that the academic achievement gaps in the U.S.

Life after the Digital Club: Minority Students navigating their Creative Ambitions

The Digital Edge is invested in situating digital media and learning strategies in social context, including exploring the factors that contribute to a student’s future orientation. In related blog posts, both Vivian Shaw and Alexander Cho explore this topic based on the Digital Edge team’s field work in an Austin-area high school.

 

From Theory to Design: Exploring the Power & Potential of ‘Connected Learning,’ Part Two

One of the more compelling aspects of connected learning is the opportunity for students to create personalized learning pathways that establish important links across the different nodes in their learning ecology. I had a chance to witness the power and potential of connected learning during a three-week summer digital media and design camp that we conducted with students at Texas City High School (TCHS).

Creative Ways Teens Maintain Social Privacy with Social Media

I recently read an article about teens posting random photos to Instagram so they and their friends can chat “under the radar” via the comments feature. Based on the time I’ve spent working with teens this does not surprise me at all. Teens are accustomed to their parents reading their text messages or social media, therefore they utilize different spaces that are unlikely to be discovered by adults. This certainly is not new.

From Theory to Design: Exploring the Power & Potential of ‘Connected Learning’, Part One

This summer I attended summer school…well kind of.  For three weeks in June I worked with a great team to implement a digital media and design project with high school students.  We followed that project with a two-week game design camp in July at the University of Texas with middle school students.  Both projects are what you might call ‘connected learning’ design pilots.  What exactly is that?  The goal of each project was to put into action some

What Schools are Really Blocking When They Block Social Media

The debates about schools and social media are a subject of great public and policy interests. In reality, the debate has been shaped by one key fact: the almost universal decision by school administrators to block social media. Because social media is such a big part of many students social lives, cultural identities, and informal learning networks schools actually find themselves grappling with social media everyday but often from a defensive posture—reacting to student disputes that play out over social media or policing rather than engaging student’s social media behaviors.

Network Members

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