Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Engaging Youth in Underserved Communities through Digital-Mediated Arts Learning Experiences for Community Inquiry

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Engaging Youth in Underserved Communities through Digital-Mediated Arts Learning Experiences for Community Inquiry

Article excerpt

Learning for underserved youth is integral to social progress. Yet, too often, young people experience disconnects between their educational experiences and both individual and community needs. Arts can help these youth recover a unity through collective action in the community. Drawing from the experiences of a 4-year interdisciplinary research project, Youth Community Informatics (YCI), we discuss ways of engaging underserved youth through the interplay between art education and digital media. We use the theory of community inquiry, which is informed by pragmatist philosophy, especially that of John Dewey and Jane Addams. We propose a pedagogical perspective on art education that embraces this conception of community inquiry and illustrate it with practical examples from the YCI project. This view of learning supports the connectedness of individuals and community for underserved youth.

This article advocates the potential of digital technologies for community-based art education practice with underserved youth.1 Based on a 4-year interdisciplinary research project. Youth Community Informatics (YCI), we discuss ways of engaging underserved youth through the interplay between art education and digital media and what we call community inquiry, informed by Deweyan philosophy and broader pragmatism thought. We propose a pedagogical perspective on art education that embraces the concept of community inquiry. Such an approach aims to foster a vision of learning for underserved youth that emphasizes strengths rather than deficits as well as expands our understanding of what counts as youth arts practices in the changing digital terrain. This perspective incorporates John Dewey's ideas about art and sociopolitical theory, which offer an inquiry methodology that allows us to connect across art, technology, community learning, cultural difference, and education.2 We illustrate with examples from the YCI project that shows how this perspective might be realized in practice. This article is part of a body of a larger research program.3 Rather than reporting a full qualitative study, we focus here on using those examples to highlight key aspects of our perspective.

Learning and Youth in the Underserved Communities

Information and CommunicationsTechnology (ICT) and digital media have increasingly shaped the experiences of young people with lower socioeconomic status, but those experiences are not often valued by schools or society. A recent article from The New York Times, "Wasting Time is New Divide in Digital Era"(Richtel, 2012), reported on some researchers' and policy makers' observations that children of low-income families not only have access to digital media but are more attached to social media than those in middle class families, calling this phenomenon a "growing time-wasting gap" (para. 4). This perception of time-wasting overlooks lower socio-economic youths' varied uses of technology and digital media, as well as illustrating media educator David Buckingham's (2011) criticism that such groups of youth are generally seen as "a source of social problems and as somehow at risk from wider social pressures" (p. 377). Moreover, viewing underserved youth merely in terms of their deficits or problems reflects a political ideology of neo-liberalism that promotes a market-driven educational reform focusing on competitiveness, individualism, and standardized testing (Doherty, 2007; Giroux, 2009, 2011).4 This perspective identifies youth in disadvantaged communities as part of a social class outside neo-liberal values (Harvey, 2010), one that is often portrayed as "needy and problematic" (Bunyan, 2012, p. 5). This argument indicates a myopic understanding of the com- plexity of such communities and their potential for social engagement and pedagogical practices (Giroux, 2011; Williamson, Imbroscio, & Alperovitz, 2002).

Unfortunately, the gross educational inequalities for different classes and races in America have only worsened under the impact of neoliberalism. …

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