Exploring How Young People Use Digital Media and Potential for Improving Learning
May 2, 2005 | Press Release | Digital Media & Learning

MacArthur has announced two grants totaling $3.8 million in support of research to explore the effects of digital media on young people, particularly as it relates to learning and education.

Technology is changing all our lives, but it may be revolutionizing the way that young people think, learn, and experience education," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. Common sense suggests the exposure to digital media affects young people in formative ways, reflected in their judgment, their sense of self, how they express their independence and creativity, and in their ability to think systematically. So far, there is little empirical evidence to back this up. Findings from this research will contribute to new thinking about education and the structure of teaching and learning.

MacArthurs support for work at the intersection of technology and education is part of the Foundations larger strategy to improve the performance of students in urban school systems by improving the quality of instruction they receive. These grants, which will examine young peoples learning outside the school environment, are the first in MacArthurs exploration of possible funding in the area of digital learning.

A grant of $3.3 million over three years was awarded to School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley and the Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California to study how and to what effect young people use digital media. The ethnographic study, which is one of the largest to date, will involve a diverse sample of young people between the ages of 10 and 18 in four physical sites and as many as 20 virtual spaces. Researchers will examine how young people experience digital media and use digital tools in their daily lives, and document the consequences of this exposure. The findings of the study also will be used to help identify possible implications for learning.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology received a grant of $500,000 over one year to develop a new approach for understanding the challenges youth face in todays constantly-evolving media environment, and identify the steps schools should take to help prepare youth to function effectivelyoften called media literacy. Grant funds will be used to survey current thinking about media literacy; to develop a new definition and conceptual framework for media literacy; to design new curriculum; and to create a website to involve a larger audience in the discussion.

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