The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded a $3.3 million grant to the School of Information Management & Systems (SIMS) at the University of California at Berkeley and the Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California to support research to explore the effects of digital media on young people, particularly as it relates to learning and education.
SIMS Professor Peter Lyman will head the research along with two co-PI partners, Mimi Ito of the Annenberg Center at the University of Southern California (USC) and Michael Carter of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education. They plan to study how and to what effect young people use digital media. The ethnographic study, which is one of the largest to date, will involve a diverse sample of young people between the ages of 10 and 18 in four physical sites and as many as 20 virtual spaces. Researchers will examine how young people experience digital media and use digital tools in their daily lives, and document the consequences of this exposure. The findings of the study also will be used to help identify possible implications for learning.
When asked how they came up with the idea for the research project, Professor Lyman said, "In observing kids using mobile phones, computers and game devices we noticed what seemed to be important changes in the life of youth. The scope of the social life of kids seems to be growing; the Internet and mobile phones are a medium for building and sustaining much wider social networks, and new genres such as instant messages and blogs are media for kids to communicate in new ways." He added, "gaming has become an important part of kids' social life, both as the source of entertainment but perhaps also as a new mode of learning how to use technology and how to work collaboratively with each other."
"Technology is changing all our lives, but it may be revolutionizing the way that young people think, learn, and experience education," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “Common sense suggests the exposure to digital media affects young people in formative ways, reflected in their judgment, their sense of self, how they express their independence and creativity, and in their ability to think systematically. So far, there is little empirical evidence to back this up. Findings from this research will contribute to new thinking about education and the structure of teaching and learning.”
MacArthur’s support for work at the intersection of technology and education is part of the Foundation’s larger strategy to improve the performance of students in urban school systems by improving the quality of instruction they receive. These grants, which will examine young people’s learning outside the school environment, are the first in MacArthur’s exploration of possible funding in the area of digital learning.
For more information regarding this ongoing research, see the official project site.