STEM Media That Matters: Summative Evaluation of Youth Radio’s Innovation Lab

STEM Media That Matters: Summative Evaluation of Youth Radio’s Innovation Lab

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To explore the role and impact of Youth Radio’s NEXT: The Innovation Lab, Rockman et al, an independent research and evaluation organization, conducted an external evaluation of the project. With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, the Innovation Lab sought to develop and research a scalable, evidence-informed theory of action to engage underrepresented youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning through the collaborative creation and dissemination of original journalistic media, technology, and curriculum tools.

This report addresses key findings and questions that emerged from the evaluation and explores implications for informal STEM learning. The Innovation Lab established a mobile-first media lab to engage young people in storytelling that combines journalism, design, and code. This youth media work is grounded in three core strategies:

1. To engage youth in STEM media projects that respond to real-world, issues impacting diverse youth communities;

2. To enact “collegial pedagogy” that teams up STEM media professionals with youth to co-construct stories and technology for real audiences; and

3. To intentionally teach young people to produce media through a reiterative design-based approach that reflects science and engineering practices;

The study found ample evidence that Youth Radio’s approach has resulted in the production of relevant, high-impact multi-modal media (e.g. interactive technology and data-rich journalism) for youth and adult audiences. Youth experienced enhanced learning about, interest in, and abilities to participate in STEM media production. Thus, youth participants became technology developers, as well as critical consumers. In addition, as a public media organization, Youth Radio engages youth and adult audiences to think deeply about social, political, and scientific issues from multiple youth perspectives.

This research illustrates how youth media making can encourage emerging and professional creatives to work together and negotiate roles through reiterative processes of ideation, research, and design of journalistic technology. The Innovation Lab suggests a set of media making strategies that cross cut science and engineering practices, which have the potential to promote dynamic learning for young people from groups historically marginalized from STEM fields and to challenge dominant narratives about youth.

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2013