Sharing Learning Tools for Youth Digital Life

By Sandra Cortesi, Andres Lombana, and Alexa Hasse

Over the past seven years, the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center has worked with young people, educators, researchers, and practitioners on co-designing tools that can be used to learn and teach, in both formal and informal environments, about the digital world. Currently, over 100 such tools, which include curriculum modules, videos, visualizations, and learning experiences, are available through our Digital Literacy Resource Platform (DLRP).

Today, we are happy to share the news that 18 of these open access educational resources have been included in Facebook’s new Digital Literacy Library for educators and will be translated over the coming weeks into over 40 languages, making them available to many more young people and educators around the globe.

We take this moment as an opportunity to share some background on the work the Youth and Media team has been engaged in over the last several years, including the methodology used, the areas of focus, and the platform which hosts these efforts, called the DLRP.

Addressing Multiple Areas of Life

Co-designing with youth and for youth, the Youth and Media team (with the help of internal and external experts, Youth Advisors (i.e., groups of youth from various contexts who help inform and shape Youth and Media’s efforts), summer interns, and research assistants) has produced tools covering a broad range of areas of youth life that are learner-centered, and that can be used across varying contexts of learning and teaching. From the home to the classroom to libraries and museums, our learning tools can be deployed in different spheres and used both for supporting individual and group learning. By co-designing these educational resources with youth, and embedding the principles of connected learning within them, we have been able to develop tools that incorporate youth voices and perspectives, connecting various knowledge areas related to the digital world with youth’s interests and experiences.

When we embarked on the project several years ago, we decided — based on our foundational research — to create an initial set of tools with a thematic focus on four areas of youth life connected to the digital environment: safety/cyberbullying, privacy, information quality, and creative expression. In the meantime, as digital technologies have become even more prevalent in the lives of many young people, the relevant areas and the challenges and opportunities associated with them have multiplied. A recent review and mapping of over 30 digital citizenship frameworks from around the world, for instance, reveals many additional themes and topics which can be clustered into various categories, including the digital economy, artificial intelligence, civic and political engagement, data literacy, and identity exploration and formation. In the light of these developments, the Youth and Media team — in collaboration and with the support of different institutions and organizations, as well as with the involvement of youth — has developed additional tools around contemporary and evolving areas of youth life.

To view the areas we have identified, please visit the DLRP thematic areas page.

Co-design and Collaboration

Supported by a diverse group of supporters and funders, most of our tools have been co-designed with youth through a participatory process that incorporates youth voices and perspectives and ensures that our tools are relevant and engaging. For instance, in 2016 and 2017, we worked with youth (12–16 years old) from four organizations in the greater Boston area (NuVu Studio, Phillips Academy Andover, Transformative Culture Project, and Zumix Radio) and co-designed a range of learning tools about identity formation, advocacy, licensing, and resume writing.

While youth input remains the focus of our efforts, a key part is to collaborate with adult researchers, practitioners, and experts who provide mentorship during the co-design process and help us to review the different tools we develop. The Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School, for example, worked closely with our team of co-designers, providing advice and mentorship on issues related to copyright and licensing of creative works. Currently, our team is working with Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy to develop learning experiences around information quality and news literacy.

Translation and Localization

Through the years of developing educational resources, we have consistently worked to make our tools freely available online and accessible to a wide and diverse public. As a first step, we released the tools under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license in order to make them freely available online and invite educators, parents/caregivers, and young people to use, adapt, remix, and deploy them in both formal and informal learning spaces. A follow-up step was to develop the DLRP to host all our tools on a single site and provide the infrastructure so that learners and educators could browse, find, and download the tools in a more streamlined way (the platform is currently in “beta,” and we hope to build it out further over time.)

The tools have been designed with a global audience in mind, building upon much of our international work in the space. Moving forward, our next step is to look for other organizations around the globe who are willing to help us translate the existing tools into other languages in order to make them more widely and broadly accessible. It is in this context that we are particularly grateful to Facebook for including 18 of our tools in its new Digital Literacy Library and translating these materials into over 40 languages (the translations will also be accessible via DLRP). While translation alone will substantially increase the reach of our educational resources, a key mission of this initial undertaking for us has been to involve different partners to ensure that the framing of the resources, and the examples given within them, are mindful of cultural differences and contexts (e.g., changing “grades” in school to “results” in school; adding advocacy movement hashtags from a wider array of regions around the world). In this vein, we have also made the initial set of translated educational resources more platform agnostic, an effort to ensure the information remains relevant given that young people’s social media habits vary by location and will continue to evolve over time.

Looking Ahead

We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with other educational organizations from around the world to expand the scope of materials hosted in the DLRP and work with those interested in translating our work, including our partners within the Global Network of Internet and Society Centers. We also hope to realize synergies with Youth and Media’s ongoing international engagements, including Digitally Connected (and its regional version Conectados al Sur), a collaborative initiative between UNICEF and the Berkman Klein Center building upon a multi-year partnership for analyzing digital and social media growth and trends among children and youth globally.

We hope that by providing network participants with our tools — all released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license — in their local language, they will be better equipped to adapt, remix, and build upon the content. We also hope that by offering educators additional support (e.g., step-by-step guidance in terms of how to fully engage in the different activities, background readings, additional tools), we can better address educators’ needs, experiences, and interests. We are looking forward to seeing how the tools will be used and how others will build upon the materials we have shared.

Visit the DLRP on the web. If you want to learn more about our work or collaborate with us, please contact Youth and Media at youthandmedia@cyber.harvard.edu.