The University of Chicago News Office
Oct. 19, 2006 Press Contact: William Harms
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Center for Urban School Improvement receives $1.6 million media literacy grant

The Center for Urban School Improvement at the University of Chicago has been awarded a $1.6 million John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant to work on media literacy after-school programs, the foundation announced Thursday.

Nichole Pinkard, Chief Technology Officer for the Center for Urban School Improvement, will be the principal investigator for the project.  At the Woodlawn High School and North Kenwood/Oakland campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School, she will lead the effort to enable students to use and critique new digital media.  The program will enable students to access digital media resources from anywhere at anytime.  They will learn how to produce video documentaries, podcasts, and music videos — the same kind of creative design work done by documentary filmmakers, engineers, music producers, graphic artists, and video game developers. 

“Our interest is to understand how to use technology to catalyze deeper student learning whether in school, in the community, or at home,” said Timothy Knowles, Executive Director of the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement.

The grant is part of the foundation’s plans to support the emerging field of digital media and learning by committing $50 million over five years to the effort.  The foundation will fund research and innovative projects focused on understanding the impact of the widespread use of digital media on our youth and how they learn. 

“This is the first generation to grow up digital — coming of age in a world where computers, the internet, video games, and cell phones are common, and where expressing themselves through these tools is the norm,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton.

“Given how present these technologies are in their lives, do young people act, think and learn differently today?  And what are the implications for education and for society?  MacArthur will encourage this discussion, fund research, support innovation, and engage those who can make judgments about these difficult but critical questions.” 

MacArthur’s approach is comprehensive, extending beyond the classroom to assess how digital technology may transform youth in both their formal and informal learning environments. 

The research will test the theory that digital youth are different because they use digital tools to assimilate knowledge, play, communicate, and create social networks in new and different ways.  The foundation’s efforts will connect players across a variety of academic, education, commercial, and nonprofit fields to assess implications and seed new collaborative projects.

Eighty-three percent of young people between the ages of 8 and 18 play video games regularly; nearly three-quarters use instant messaging.  On a typical day, more than half of U.S. teenagers use a computer and more than 40 percent play a video game.  Using websites like MySpace and Facebook, young people are sharing photos, videos, music, ideas, and opinions online, connecting with a large group of peers in new and sometimes unexpected ways.
Last modified at 06:31 PM CST on Sunday, February 11, 2007.

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