Kids' Informal Learning with Digital Media

About Digital Youth

"Kids' Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures" is a three-year collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley, the digital youth project explores how kids use digital media in their everyday lives. Read more

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Photo Credits: Ritchie Ly and Geert Allegaert.

Digital Media in an Urban Landscape

Project Staff: Katynka Martínez, Becky Herr-Stephenson, and Lisa Tripp

Gameboy GamesThe study, “Digital Media in an Urban Landscape: Neighborhood Ethnographies with LA Youth,” seeks foundational knowledge of how young people are using new media in informal learning environments. We will conduct home interviews with children and their parents, as well as participant observation in school and after-school settings, in several neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area. We aim to track family members’ attitudes toward new technology and also address the ways in which kids use digital media for identity construction. Our research aims to understand how youth’s informal or home-based use of digital media and communications is sanctioned or discouraged when brought into the context of five Los Angeles area middle schools.

This study is connected to a professional development program, the Wallis Annenberg Initiative, which aims to improve instruction through the integration of media arts and technology into standards-based curriculum (more information on the Initiative is available at

Videogame stuffOur project staff will be assisting teachers that are implementing multimedia curriculum at five middle schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and including many of these youth in the study. In the project report, the classroom studies are referred to by the title "Teaching and Learning with Multimedia."

Through interviews with middle school students and their parents we will arrive at an understanding of how L.A. urban youth are using new media both within school and outside of school. Student interviews and observations in the classroom will help us understand, from the point of view of youth, what is important and interesting about new technologies and how the child uses them both within school and out of school. Card gamesThe interviews with parents or guardians will contribute to our understanding of the integration of media and technology within the home setting. We are interested in learning from the parent or guardian whether they restrict their child from engaging in certain Internet activities or media purchases while encouraging them to engage in other uses of new media and technology. Our fieldwork will begin in the fall of 2005.