The Digital Youth Network (DYN) is a hybrid digital literacy program that creates opportunities for youth to engage in learning environments that span both in-school and out-of-school contexts.
The DYN model combines into one learning environment the affordances of the various contexts where youth spend their time. This environment not only develops youth’s new media literacies but also creates meaningful opportunities for them to use these new media literacies. It is a model for the construction of a new youth-serving institution that is bounded neither by walls nor time of day.
The core of the model spans the worlds of school, home, and after-school activities, and provides youth with:
- access and training in the use of new media literacy tools;
- meaningful activities where the development of new media literacies is essential for accomplishing goals; and
- a continuum of established new media mentors (high school through professionals) who develop students’ technical skills, serve as role models, and provide students access to the communities of practice surrounding technology-based careers.
The DYN model focuses heavily on the sixth- to eighth-grade experience through explicit connections to school-based curriculum, interest-based clubs that require youth to use new media literacies in order to participate, and remix competitions and “open shop” times (both virtual and place-based) where youth are supported in using new media literacies to explore their own questions and push their imaginations.
To achieve these goals, the program is structured into two components: in-school media arts classes and after-school pods. The mandatory school-day media classes ensure that all students are exposed to a broad set of literacies, while the optional after-school pods enable all students to build on the breadth of exposure received in school and identify skills of their choice to explore in-depth. The combination of in-school and out-of-school programming simultaneously provides a base of knowledge to allow in-school teachers to embed digital literacy into instruction without fear of having to teach kids how to use the new media tools.
While the middle-school component focuses on the development of youth’s ability to create and consume across multiple media, the high school component allows youth to focus their development on an individual medium. A key feature of the high school program is the junior mentorship program, the Change Society, where youth who excelled in the middle-school program are given internship opportunities to develop new media literacies while serving as mentors for middle-school students.