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How do kids learn to use new media?  A leading researcher in the field, Mimi Ito, has proposed three levels of participation: Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out.  Her work (alongside numerous researchers experimenting with this inquiry based learning model) has inspired the new movement of libraries and community centers to create HOMAGO Labs.

I am working with Jean Barsotti of the Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls to apply for a grant to install a HOMAGO Lab in a local library.

The Carnegie Library in Allegheny County has opened “The Labs” in its Oakland site and several satellites.  The Labs are four free spaces across the city of Pittsburgh for teenagers to geek out with digital media. They have drop by hours when teens can learn from one of our Labs mentors, experts in various forms of digital media and expression, or just mess around with the equipment and learn on your own terms. They also host free teaching programs; for example, QuickFlix: Teens Making Videos @ the Library, HEAR ME, and Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K.

Chicago Public Library has opened YouMedia Labs which includes an in-house recording studio featuring keyboards, turntables, and a mixing board.  YouMedia sponsors an online environment to share and collaborate with friends, mentors, librarians, and media experts. Much of their technology is dedicated to the arts; music, video, graphic design, and photographs. They sponsor Project Groups that produce a magazine, recordings, and specialized youth driven social entrepreneurship movements. Workshops include Digital Music Production, Digital Video Production, Radio + Podcasting, Graphic Design, Spoken Word, and Gaming and Blogging.  My personal favorite is their bookclub projects that include writing fan fiction, creating a soundtrack for the book, performing spoken word inspired by the book, and using video and photo documentaries to capture the themes.  This is not the library I grew up with!

It is not just libraries getting on board.  Our local museum is offering Oh Snap!a collaborative photography project. They are featuring 13 works recently added to their photography collection and are asking for people (and kids) to take picture inspired by the ones in their collection. Every day, they are  printing out photos submitted and hanging them alongside their inspirations.

Here’s my idea!  Are there parents out there that want to open a Grow a Gen lab in their home – a space where your child (and possibly his or her friends) can gather once or twice a week and explore online with a mentor and other kids from around the globe a particular new media creation tool?  Let’s try it out this summer.  Let me know your child’s age and interest… Scratch programming, Mindstorm robots, SAM Animation (stop motion movie making, a photo scavenger hunt?), and I’ll design a trial for 3 weeks in June!  Send me a note or leave a comment!

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