Digital Media and Learning Partnerships at DML 2012

I’m here at the DML 2012 conference attending as one of the 2012 DML Research Associates Summer Institute Fellows. It’s been a real honor to be here and to have an opportunity to meet so many smart and fascinating people. I am particularly excited to have had the opportunity to visit BAVC on Thursday through a kind invitation from Jen Gilomen. It was great to see where SF Commons happens.

I wanted to use this space to share some notes from one of the panels that I attended yesterday, titled “Case Study in Digital Media and Learning Partnerships: A Youth-Centered Design Framework in San Francisco.” The panel was particularly exciting because it focused on an amazing collaboration between the San Francisco Public Library, BAVC (Youth Media & Public Access TV), KQED (Public Media), and the California Academy of Sciences. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a total geek for community & public media collaborations and I am particularly interested in understanding new forms of collaboration among community based institutions.

San Francisco Public Library

Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian at SFPL began by explaining that free speech is a number one priority in San Francisco and all the groups involved in the collaboration are focused on promoting this work. Bourne explained that the library is focused on being a knowledge commons for all people in the city. She explained that there are over 40,000 teens in the city and a large percentage of youth in lower-income neighborhoods are not engaged in their public libraries.

The groups that participated in the panel were part of a Learning Labs grant funded through a partnership between the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. As the MacArthur Foundation’s website explains:

“Inspired by an innovative new teen space at the Chicago Public Library called YOUmedia and innovations in science and technology centers, these labs will help young people become makers and creators of content, rather than just consumers of it. These labs will be based on new research about how young people learn today.”

The funders plan to support the creation of 30 new labs in museums and libraries across the U.S. And, as Marsha Semmel, Director for Strategic Partnerships at IMLS announced during the panel, there will be another IMLS Learning Labs grant application deadline in mid-June. More details will be provided soon via the IMLS website. (In full disclosure, I should say that I am here attending the conference as an Information in Society Fellow at GSLIS with support through an IMLS grant.)


It was really great to hear about BAVC’s involvement in the project from Ingrid Dahl, Director of Next Gen (youth) programs. She explained that BAVC will support the collaboration through their following program areas: training, next gen youth programs, independent media, and video preservation. BAVC works with youth between the ages of 14-24. They have an amazing advanced filmmaking program for youth, called The Factory. BAVC also runs a record label called Bump Records. In addition, BAVC has an amazing open source training program called Digital Pathways that has received support from the National Science Foundation.

I am particularly interested in BAVC’s role in this partnership, as someone who has worked in community media. Public libraries and other community-based organizations thinking about implementing digital media and learning can learn a great deal from the traditional and emerging media practices that have evolved within public, educational, and governmental access TV centers over the past thirty years. More about that here.

California Academy of Sciences

Elizabeth Babcock, Chief Public Engagement Officer at the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) talked about how her organization is involved in supporting this partnership. She first explained that CAS is an educational organization dedicated to bringing science to the public. They help the public to understand the nature of scientific inquiry. She explained that helping to promote scientific literacy in the U.S. is a key goal of her organization. CAS is serving as a cultural institution for the partnership.

CAS is also helping to integrate both technology and academy resources with media literacy opportunities for youth. They will also provide youth and partners with access to ready to use media that are connected to mobile apps and other technology.

Primarily, as Babcock explained, CAS will serve as the STEM, sustainability, and environmental partner in this collaboration helping youth to be involved in examining and answering research questions.


Matthew Williams from KQED also joined the panel. He talked about KQED’s work focused on helping teachers think about how to use media in the classroom.  KQED also helps teachers with media literacy education. KQED has over 20,000 media assets available for media makers to use. They are also hosting a Science Youth Media Festival on June 10.

Developing a Shared Vision

Elizabeth Babcock did an excellent job talking about some of the shared goals and prerequisites that the group determined for the collaboration. She talked about the need to develop a shared vision for this type of project. Here are some of her bullet points from her slides:

  1. shared goals and a compelling need
  2. sum must be greater than the parts
  3. recognition of the 1:4 rule (for every 1 hour of joing program delivery, 4 hours of partnership management will be required)
  4. extreme transparency
  5. institutional commitment at the appropriate levels
  6. organizational self-awarness combined with open but respectful self-interest
  7. willingness to minimize competitiveness
  8. trust
  9. willingness to innovate and iterate
  10. commitment to nurturing and caring for the collaboration

Attributes of a Networked Partnership

Another slide talked about some of the key attributes of this networked partnership:

  1. clear shared goals
  2. unique skills of partner organizations leveraged
  3. mix of collaborative and solo projects
  4. pathways for participants and a a way to track them
  5. model for scaling to extend reach
  6. model for tiered involvement
  7. agreed up indicators of success at the end of a defined partnership period

Learning Lab Design Process

The Learning Lab that will be supported through this collaborative will be housed at the SF library. Trung Lee at Canon Design, an architecture design firm, joined the panel via Skype. Lee talked about how his firm worked directly with the youth and partners involved in this networked collaboration in order to understand the group’s needs in designing the space.

They held a design lab with high school students because they wanted to hear youth voice in the design process. The purpose was to see how the students interact with each other and the space and patterns. The design process also involved partners in the room.

Lee explained that there was a need to develop a clear sense of direction as well as a distinctive language that could be used to describe the space for teens. He explained that some of the key design drivers for the project were: comfort, empower, guide, equip, and showcase.

The panel was a great opportunity to hear some of the nitty-gritty details about how community-based organizations in a major U.S. city are leverage existing resources and developing new capacities in order support the IMLS Learning Labs initiative.

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  1. Special DML Edition: What’s Buzzing? 3.7.12 |

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