Kids follow content across different platforms
March 4th, 2009

The current Bulletin of The Information Society for the Information Age includes a summary of a talk about children by the MacArthur Foundation’s Connie Yowell. The summary touches on several aspects of how young people are using the web, including the following noting the rising role of content:

. . . For young people, it’s about the content, which they follow across different platforms. Sam doesn’t distinguish much among working on a computer, drawing a comic or writing a story: It’s all about Pokémon to him.

[Yowell] showed a slide of the communities a 14-year-old girl shares. As she starts at home, goes to school, proceeds to after-school activities and eventually goes home again, there’s ongoing engagement in online activities. She’s using YouTube, MySpace, Pokémon, Galaxy Zoo and Wikipedia, and she is an active member of a Harry Potter fan fiction site. She’s interacting with others all along the way, connecting across local and global communities. Researchers concluded that schools are now just one more node on young people’s networks – they’re no longer the primary learning site for them.

What’s new about all this? First, there’s a rich array of learning opportunities. Second, there are low barriers to participation and production. Third, there’s easy access to expertise and communities of peers. And fourth, there’s the ability to take on different identities, to get beyond some of the labels we had in high school. Now you can be a jock and a nerd at the same time. There’s not as much social fallout in experimenting with interests in the online world. . . .

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