Brigid Barron, Kimberley Gomez, Nichole Pinkard, Caitlin K. Martin

The widely held belief that all young people are equally capable of becoming innovators and entrepreneurs is the foundation of the popular image of the “digital native,” which is typically portrayed as a technologically astute and digitally empowered youngster. However, young people in low-income areas frequently do not have access to the educational opportunities, resources, and partners (at school and elsewhere) that support the development of the requisite skills in digital natives. The Digital Youth Network (DYN), an ambitious project to support economically disadvantaged middle-school students in Chicago in developing technical, creative, and analytical skills across a learning ecology that spans school, community, home, and online, is one strategy described in this book to address this disparity.

The book presents data from a groundbreaking three-year mixed-method research of DYN that examined how it fostered creative creation, proficiency with digital media tools, and a predisposition to impart these skills to others. Students could connect with one another and participate with DYN despite their many identities and interests—whether they were gamers, poets, or activists. Finally, the authors provide designers of comparable informal learning venues with generating proposals.