The Berkman Center’s Youth and Media Lab is a highly innovative educational initiative with youth involvement that builds on the previous work of John Palfrey, Urs Gasser, and collaborators who have studied the ways in which Digital Natives are using the Internet (see project overview at http://youthandmedia.org/projects/, and selected outputs at http://youthandmedia.org/publications/). The Lab brings together young people, leading researchers and developers from the Berkman Center, and mentors from the Center’s broader network to engage creatively with the core challenges and opportunities that youth face online, including issues such as online safety, privacy, credibility/information quality and learning, civic participation, content creation, and entrepreneurship.
The Lab’s activities are divided into three main tracks: exploratory research, curriculum building, and tool development. The research track includes literature reviews, surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews to better understand youth’s usage of technology. Building upon these findings, the curriculum track aims to develop and test educational modules on important youth policy issues in collaboration with youth, designed for both formal and informal learning settings. Third, the Lab’s team seeks to develop a set of media literacy tools (“navigation aids for cyberspace”), including an application to assess news quality, a set of privacy badges, etc. In addition to the Lab’s tool development activities, the team will support related media literacy initiatives by way of serving as a think tank or “test bed.”
An important part of the Lab, which can be broadly described as an R&D lab for media literacy and digital empowerment, is the formation of a “youth technology corps,” a small but diverse group of talented and dedicated young people that engages proactively with multifaceted online challenges and opportunities. The young members of the Lab, coached by Berkman mentors, will play the role of online and offline ambassadors and will be trained to engage kids in their home towns, school districts, etc. on various online youth issues using some of the highly effective peer-learning strategies identified in previous youth-related research. The Lab is intended as a prototype for future labs around the country (as well as internationally) and seeks to increase youth involvement and promote innovation in critical youth policy areas.