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Media Arts Connect: An Online Mentorship Platform for Young Media Makers

Media Arts Connect:  An Online Mentorship Platform for Young Media Makers

Muhlenberg College / Youth Media Reporter

Program Summary

How do today's promising youth media makers become tomorrow’s up and coming media arts and technology professionals? Teens (ages 13 – 19) in Allentown’s HYPE youth media program and professional media arts / technology mentors are ready to explore the possibilities. They will spend a week designing and building a prototype online platform where young people connect with mentors who can support them with anywhere-anytime mentoring that translates their passion for making digital media into educational and career possibilities.

Decisions about details will be youth-driven, but we envision a website where youth connect safely, collaborate purposefully, and network effectively with media arts / technology mentors. Online film screenings and Google + Hangouts with filmmakers, monthly Twitter chats and bi-monthly one-on-ones with professionals are among the possible structured, online interactions we will explore.

The respective strengths of three collaborating institutions are leveraged here: the online Youth Media Reporter (YMR), serving the youth media field since 2005; the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC), building media arts and culture for more than 3 decades; and HYPE, a 2012 Connected Learning Research Network Survey Competition Winner and Youth Ethnography Site.

This platform will be open for all but is particularly valuable for youth living beyond “innovation hubs” (Moretti 2012) like San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York. If you are a youth in Anchorage, or Allentown, for example, it can be more challenging to connect with mentors who can help usher you along pathways to college and careers in media arts and technology. We can build a better web for youth located in “the social, financial, geographical, and educational margins” (Watkins 2013). We can empower young media makers regardless of location with equitable access to mentoring, networking, support and inspiration to pursue educational and career pathways in media arts and technology.

Agenda

Young media makers and professional collaborators will meet daily Wednesday through Monday (5 days). Most days, activities will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the innovative learning environment of Muhlenberg College’s Media and Communication department, a digitally-rich space with video, radio, and multimedia production capability bursting to the rafters with spaces for informal learning, open space for collaboration, and digital labs for creative work.

Activities will balance studio workshops, roundtable discussions, hands-on learning and media production, and education and career focused mentoring from professionals. We will arrange two field trips to local non-profit media arts / technology organizations, and one longer daytrip (ideally the third day but depending on scheduling and logistics still unknown) to connect with peers in the Philadelphia Youth Media Collaborative (PYMC).

Framing our work is a shared understanding that teens won’t own the project unless they authentically create it. Our initial collaborative effort will be to co-create a mind map of the shared values, priorities and goals guiding our project. At the outset, we need to dive into conversation and listen deeply to their vision of what an online community might look like, what kinds of connecting and sharing they value, and how they define productive, egalitarian, safe, and respectful mentoring connections. The teens, mentoring artists, educators and developers will collaborate in a series of organized modules, labs and unstructured sessions addressing an array of topics:

o Mind mapping shared values: What provides a strong basis for building mentoring relationships?
o Mind mapping goals / priorities: What are the goals of the online community?
o Hacking mentorship models: What makes a mentor/mentee connection awesome?
o Hacking user experiences: How will youth and mentors use the site?
o What can you do / find on the site? (resume critique, internships, college counseling, cover letter writing, interview prep?)
o Elements of online design and programming.
o Infusing social media: Google + Hangout , Twitter chat series, archives, meet the experts, digital storytelling.
o Badge design principles for motivating / recognizing learning / achievement (badges for mentees, badges for mentors?)
o Peer to Peer Exchange: share prototype and receive feedback from PYMC.

HYPE teens are the initial makers but the platform aspires to enable new mentoring possibilities for young media makers everywhere. We aim to include a daylong exchange with peers at PYMC. Ideally Allentown teens will ride an hour by bus to Philadelphia to share the prototype with and receive feedback from youth media makers from PYMC. In Philly, they will also have an opportunity to visit PhillyCAM and meet leaders actively working in media arts. We will invite PYMC to a picnic lunch, share youth media works, and end the day with a youth media mentor (re)mixer, a chance for social networking for teens and local media arts / tech professionals. This would be an ideal day to invite the Born Brave Bus Tour so that youth from both cities can participate in its activities and learn from its modules in one very accessible location.

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