By James Devitt
April 13, 2012
Recent research suggests that many students feel alienated from school activities and are at risk for low levels of educational attainment. But other studies offer more encouraging news. They indicate that complementing schooling through programs that occur in informal learning spaces or those educational experiences that cultivate youth’s specialized interests can improve educational outcomes and student attitudes towards school.
Organizations that have implemented such programs include cultural institutions and two schools—one each in New York City and Chicago—that use innovative curricula such as game design and digital learning to enhance young people’s interests and community awareness, while attempting to shape their educational outcomes.
“The schools are pioneering a systems-thinking and game design approach to learning,” says Richard Arum, director of the Institute for Human Development and Social Change, and a professor of sociology and education at New York University. “Both the schools and out-of-school programs have developed innovative ways for students to learn and hope to develop competencies, skills, and dispositions aligned with educational achievement and future success in an increasingly globalized and technology-based society.”
With this in mind, under funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Arum and his colleagues will explore how these programs are implemented and whether participation changes the behaviors and attitudes youth exhibit towards schooling and digital media use.
Among the questions the researchers will ask are: How do participants’ attitudes, behaviors, and competencies in the area of digital technology and learning change over time? How do these changes vary with respect to student characteristics? How do educators understand and implement these innovative programs?
This study will be conducted by researchers from NYU, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Irvine. It is taking place from January 2012 through July 2013, under a total grant of $828,500 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.