For this interview, Dr. J asked Professor Katie Davis of the University of Washington Information School about her two upcoming studies funded by federal grants. The common theme is that learning takes place in lots of places, not just in school classrooms. They have a lot of fun discussing these ideas!
One place that is a center of learning for the whole community is the public library. Accessing information is key to learning. Now that information is more often sought online than in books, libraries are reinventing themselves as places of digital learning. Katie’s grant will allow her to help librarians incorporate digital media into their work with youth so that young people’s learning at school and with peers is supported by learning they experience in libraries. She will be funded by Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
Dr. Davis wrote The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy and Imagination in a Digital World along with Howard Gardner when she was at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A project examining the issue of identity will be supported by an additional grant for five years by the National Science Foundation. To cultivate an identity that includes STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills and interests, Katie will develop and test a digital badge system in conjunction with Seattle’s science-based afterschool program. Similar to physical badges worn on a sash by members of youth groups, digital badges are a way to provide formal recognition for learning that often occurs informally in the company of peers, often working on computer-based activities. Incorporating them into the classroom would appeal to the interests, goals, and everyday technology use of students. A systematic progression of badges will provide validation of learning that can be included in applications to college or jobs. Professor Davis explains the exciting potential of such a system that would also make clear the skills required to earn a particular badge.
Dr. Katie Davis is an Assistant Professor at The University of Washington Information School, where she studies the role of digital media technologies in adolescents’ academic, social, and moral lives. She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for MTV’s digital abuse campaign, A Thin Line. Prior to joining the faculty at the UW iSchool, Katie worked with Howard Gardner and colleagues as a Project Manager at Harvard Project Zero, where she was a member of the GoodPlay Project and Developing Minds and Digital Media Project research teams. In addition to publishing and presenting her research in scholarly venues, Katie regularly shares her work with parents, teachers, business leaders, and policymakers in an effort to build connections between research and practice.
Katie is the co-author with Howard Gardner of The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World, which was published in October 2013 by Yale University Press. The book represents a synthesis of the research that Katie conducted with colleagues on the Developing Minds and Digital Media Project and the GoodPlay Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Drawing on interviews with young people, focus groups with the adults who work with them, and comparative analyses of youth’s artistic productions from 1990-2011, the book explores how today’s “digital youth” are different from the youth who grew up in a pre-digital era.