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December 4, 2011

Valuing Both Friendship-driven and Interest-driven Spaces

by Randy Ziegenfuss

In 2008, a study was released by the MacArthur Foundation exploring the uses of digital media by youth. The study, published in the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out, is important because it is the first to examine in detail the social and recreational uses of technology by youth.

The findings define two domains that account for youths’ participation in media:

  • Friendship-driven – hanging out behavior – participating in MySpace, Facebook, text messaging and IM
  • Interest-driven – messing around and geeking out behavior – creating YouTube videos, remixing video, creating podcasts and writing fan fiction

Additionally, findings indicate the majority of youth are more engaged in friendship-driven than in interest-driven use of media. However, both are sites of learning. Youth learn important social behaviors in the digital world while engaging in friendship-driven activities. Interest-driven activities allow youth to engage in content creation, and the development of specialized interests, technical literacy and media literacy. Both domains emphasize the importance of socialization and content creation, two activities that take on new meaning when digital technology enters the picture.

As educators and parents, our challenge is to provide the greatest opportunities for our children to engage and learn in both domains. We need to engage our children in conversations about privacy and identity in the friendship-driven domain. We also need to engage our children in opportunities to create new content in the geeking out spaces to foster the understanding of content, the value of civic engagement and the importance of following ones passions.  How involved are schools and parents in engaging children in both the friendship-driven and the interest-driven domains?

In the video below, Mimi Ito, the lead researcher in the Hanging Out… study asks two interesting questions:

  • Why do we assume that kids’ socializing and play is not a site of learning?
  • Why do we assume that schools cannot have a spirit of entertainment and play as part of what they’re doing?

Are there connections between the goals of TL2014 and the friendship-driven and interest-driven domains? While we are still in the early stages of the initiative, what can we do better in school to engage students more effectively in the two domains? What can we do better to help parents productively manage after-school time on the laptop computers? Please leave your comments!

The TL2014 initiative accelerates the process of providing our students with the knowledge and skills necessary for post-secondary success – the work force or higher education – in the 21st century. TL2014 has as its stated goals:

  • Increased learning opportunities for the development of critical 21st century skills: critical thinking and problem solving, effective oral and written communication, collaboration, creativity and curiosity, adaptability, organization, initiative and entrepreneurialism.
  • Increased opportunities for student engagement in a dynamic, technology-rich learning environment.
  • Increased opportunities for project-based and challenge-based learning, mirroring real-world work force and higher education environments.
  • Increased opportunities for differentiation and individualized instruction through the use of technology.
  • Increased opportunities for reading and writing in new formats and modes common in the 21st century.

Additional material about the Hanging Out… study is available on the Digital Youth website. The entire book, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out, is available for free online in PDF format.

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