Program Description
Explore Locally, Excel Digitally (ELED) After-School Program is a 15-week series of workshops for high-school students passionate about creating and learning using media tools and popular culture in relationship to their own lives. Each session will be highly participatory, utilizing the skills and competencies of the New Media Literacies and Social and Emotional Learning. Opportunities to practice these skills will emerge organically through the activities presented each day. Participants master the primary components of digital citizenship –social and emotional competence, community awareness, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and ethical appreciation – by mapping their own communities, considering ethical issues relating to these spaces, and harnessing digital media to enrich and express their findings. Key civic engagement principles such as reciprocity and co-configured learning also figured prominently in the program. The development of individual digital portfolios will exemplify and ultimately assess students' understanding of these skills and practices.

Why mapping and ethics? Although traditionally, maps have been thought to provide definition to the “real world,” contemporary media and discourse have illuminated the fact that all maps make an argument. Moreover, members of a participatory culture routinely use and critique other people’s maps, as well as jointly create and share their own. This wide cartographical participation has rendered map-related literacy a must.
Simultaneously, attention to ethical thinking is crucial because new media environments afford young people great powers—to shape their own and others’ identities, credibility, and privacy; to create and share their own content, and remix or mash-up others’ creations; and to join and participate in a new set of communities (the size and scope of which may be unknowable). Such activities require the capacity to think carefully about one’s roles, goals, resources, and risks; to access empathy in order to imagine others’ interpretations and emotions; and to consider consequences across time (short-term and long-term) and audience (self and a larger collective, such as one’s school, community, state, nation, and world).

Various conceptual and physical tools facilitate this exploration of mapping and ethics. Conceptually, ELED respects the aforementioned characteristics of a participatory learning environment (e.g., motivation and engagement; authenticity; creativity; co-configured expertise; and learning ecosystem), with each session aiming to deepen participants’ sense of at least one of these five characteristics. Hands-on activities and rich discussions facilitate this objective. Each activity provides an opportunity to hone skills in the new media literacies (e.g., play, performance, negotiation, networking, collective intelligence, distributed cognition, multitasking, transmedia navigation, appropriation, judgment, simulation, and visualization) and in social and emotional learning (e.g., self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making). Discussions are guided by the Objective-Reflective-Interpretive-Decisional (ORID) technique, a method for scaffolding inquiry so that groups can productively engage in meaning-making and action-planning. Physically, digital media provide a cornerstone of this program. Participants interact with such hardware as mobile phones, iPod Touches, PCs, Macs, digital projectors, and external hard drives, and such interfaces/applications as Twitter, Tumblr, Vuvox, VoiceThread, YouTube, CameraZoom, Stickybits, and Hipstamatic.

During the after-school program, graduate students of Henry Jenkins’ USC New Media Literacies course applied theory to practice by presenting several lessons to the high school students. This offered high school participants access to diverse teachers and styles, an opportunity to reflect upon their own learning practice, and arena to share feedback with instructors. Engagement in these latter processes enabled the high school students participating to inform Project New Media Literacies staff’s creation of a professional development intensive institute, the Summer Sandbox.