Co-designing Learning Resources with Local Youth

Over the last two months, the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society has been facilitating a set of co-design workshops on Digital Citizenship in collaboration with youth from the Boston metropolitan area. Using a design thinking approach, through these workshops we have been able to create, with youth, four playlists that address four broad themes: my digital self, authorship, careers, and advocacy. From identifying a potential audience to re-defining the themes and goals of each playlist (a collection of learning resources), to prototyping and playtesting learning experiences (XPs), the workshops have allowed us to engage in an agile co-design process with local youth.

Exploration of themes and defining playlist’s audience

At each of the four local youth-serving organizations that partnered with us, we co-hosted two workshops and joined forces with a motivated group of young co-designers (13-18 years old). The first workshop at each site consisted of several exercises that touched upon elements of the design thinking process, such as empathizing, defining, and ideation. More specifically, youth co-designers created empathy maps to identify the potential audience for their assigned playlist, interviewed each other using questions corresponding to their playlist theme, and brainstormed playlist-related skills they would like to learn.

The first set of workshops produced rich and diverse outcomes. Youth co-designers developed multiples ideas for playlist themes and identified several potential audiences. Since co-designers worked in groups of 2 and 3 during the workshop, we generated several empathy maps (personas/ideal audience maps) as well as different answers to questions about the broad playlist themes, related skills and interests, and ideas for learning activities. After discussing these ideas with the groups of co-designers and analyzing the data, the Youth and Media team worked on identifying patterns for re-defining the themes and describing the playlist audience

The group of co-designers from Phillips Academy Andover re-defined the theme of “my digital self” around issues of online privacy and surveillance, placing special emphasis on the relation of personal data online and one’s digital reputation. The audience for this playlist are media savvy, college-oriented high school students interested in policy and digital rights.

For the theme of “authorship,” the group of co-designers from NuVu Studio focused on issues of licensing, copyright, and best practices for digital creators. We classified the audience of this playlist as motivated young designers and makers (older than 13 years old) passionate about the digital arts.

The group of co-designers from Transformative Culture Project, formerly known as Press Pass TV, worked with us in re-defining theme of “advocacy,” and focused on raising awareness about community problems, and, more generally, how to effect social change. For the audience, we identified minority public high school students interested in music and video production, social justice, and issues of immigration.

Finally, the group of co-designers from Zumix explored the “careers” theme, and concentrated on activities centering around resume writing and job applications. The audience for this playlist are immigrant and minority youth attending public schools and interested in journalism, radio and music production, and the job application process.

Prototyping and Testing XPs and Badges

During the second set of workshops at each site, we continued the design thinking process, expanding into ideation, prototyping, and testing. However, given the limited time we had during the workshops (2 and a half hours each), our Youth and Media team had to work on preparing these second sessions at our lab immediately after we finished our first set of workshops. Using the data collected through the empathizing and defining exercises, we prepared paper prototypes of several XPs according to the re-defined playlist themes.

Although we had spent several months translating our own curricula and tools into XP prototypes, and incorporating content from external collaborators (e.g. By Any Media, Emerson Engagement Lab), not all the prototypes we had prepared fit the re-definition of themes made by the young co-designers. Thus, our team worked quickly to prepare learning experience prototypes that matched the themes of resume writing and job applications, licensing, and raising awareness about social change. For this task, we collaborated with the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic and Global Voices Advox, who provided us with support and advice in terms of existing licensing and advocacy resources. However, for the theme of resume writing and job applications, we had to rely on finding high-quality resources online, such as guides, templates, and worksheets, that we could use to draft our XP prototypes.

Our team brought several XP prototypes (6-8) in a hybrid of paper and digital format to the second set of workshops, and, in collaboration with the youth co-designers, we tweaked, tested, and remixed these learning experiences. We discussed all aspects of the XP prototypes, including goals, titles, descriptions, multimedia resources, and hands-on activities. Moreover, we also spent time designing new XPs from scratch, sketching ideas for badges, discussing the playlist narrative, and brainstorming playlist titles. Given the time constraints, we were not able to arrange a complete playlist at the workshops. We decided to to do this sequencing work at the Youth and Media lab, synthesizing all the feedback we received from the youth co-designers.

What is Next?

We are now in the process of uploading our current versions of the XPs and playlists to the LRNG platform. After the intense pace of the co-design workshops, we are now looking forward to testing the XPs and playlists in digital format, defining rubrics for assessing the evidence that learners will submit, and continuing to iterate the design of these playlists. We are also working on identifying ways to unlock more opportunities for youth upon playlist completion.

The four groups of co-designers will be the first cohort of youth to test the playlists in their digital format. With the help of teachers from each site, youth will playtest the playlist they co-designed, and provide us with feedback. In addition to our collaboration with these four sites, we are currently having conversations with other local youth-serving organizations who have expressed their interest in testing the playlists and using them as part of their in-school and after-school programs.

* This entry was published first at HASTAC.

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