The Young and the Digital
RTF's Craig Watkins discusses digital literacy
Craig Watkins, associate professor in the Department of Radio-Television-Film in the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin, recently published a piece in the International Journal of Media and Learning titled, "Digital Divide: Navigating the Digital Edge."
In the article, Watkins found that African American and Latino youth are more connected to networked media than ever before and are just as likely as other ethnic groups to go online, manage a social networking site, and use a mobile phone.
Watkins suggests that providing increasing access to low-income and minority groups isn't enough by itself, and that one of the most urgent challenges regarding technology, diversity, and equity is the need to expand digital literacy to include how youth can use technology in a positive manner.
For example, online learning software programs, articles and tutorials could offer young people the opportunity to learn about anything from building a website to how to dress for a job interview.
"Increasingly, our work suggest that schools, especially after school and enrichment programs can be a crucial space for young people to develop the technical and social skills that will serve them well in our rapidly evolving economy," Watkins said. "The focus has been on creating access to technology but there is a growing need to think about what young people do with technology once they gain access to it."
Two students use digital media in the classroom to facilitate learning.
Watkins investigates the behavior of youth in social, mobile, and digital media platforms and plans to conduct future studies of how Latino and African American engagement with digital media may produce behaviors and learning outcomes that could impact the academic achievement gap.
"In our work we have focused not only on the development of technical skills but also on the critical design literacies and dispositions that support young people's ability to think critically in novel situations and use technology as a vehicle for greater and deeper involvement in their community," said Watkins.
In many of his studies, Watkins has collaborated with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Drug Addiction, IBM Center for Social Software, SXSW Interactive, the National School Boards Association, Smart Mixed-Signal Connectivity, the Austin Forum on Science and Technology for Society, iCivics, MacArthur Foundation, and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (NYC).
To follow more of Watkins' efforts, view his articles and blog entries at theyoungandthedigital.com.
Nick Hundley, (512) 471-7209