Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Understanding the (Im)mobilities of Engaging At-Risk Youth: Through Art and Mobile Media

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Understanding the (Im)mobilities of Engaging At-Risk Youth: Through Art and Mobile Media

Article excerpt

There are many young people who drop out because they need to do this and that, by obligation, but when you have a choice In life, It feels good. (Student participant mina0593)

Mina0593 reflected on her experience using mobile media to make images with a cohort of her peers. She participated in our curricular research project, entitled MonCoin, which in French means "my corner." Many of her peers in the project had similar feelings about the importance of choice-especially as it relates to schooling. mina0593's comment was in response to a question about her engagement with school and her feelings about the MonCoin project. She identified the positive effect of having and making choices in school. When we interviewed our participants, they observed that in their experience, schools sought to monitor and control their movement. As a result, our participants felt completely disengaged with their education. The initial purpose of the MonCoin curriculum and research was to investigate the efficacy of the visual arts, civic engagement, and mobile media to re-engage at-risk youth with their education. In response to the low school attendance rate of the students we worked with, we hypothesized that mobile media had the potential to engage students with learning anytime and anywhere, and that ubiquitious and asynchronous communication would augment student engagement because they would not have to be physically present at school.

The use of mobile media prompts questions regarding when and where individuals learn (Pachler, Bachmalr, & Cook, 2010). The use of these media also elicit more subtle understandings of mobility In terms of the learner's sense of agency. In the cases presented In this article, we Illustrate how mobile media provided a means by which students could communicate to organize events and activities on their own. New experiences of mobility related to learning shifted participants' attitudes toward school. In this article, and through our ongoing research project-MonCoin-we examine the positive impact of student initiated meetings and the role of field trips on students' sense of agency. Ultimately, the purpose of this article is to present the implications of mobility in the context of visual art curricula and its relationship to the engagement of at-risk youth with their education.

Engaging At-Risk Youth

Our research project was conducted with dropout youth who were returning to an Adult Education Center (AEC) designated to help them complete their secondary degree in Quebec. In the province, there have been long-standing concerns about the persistent number of dropouts at the secondary school level. In the province of Quebec, only 63.8% of students finish secondary school within 5 years (Ministère de l'éducation, du loisir et du sport du Québec, 2014). This results In a significant portion of the young adult population that is ill equipped to contend with real world needs.

We define "at-risk'' students as those who are dealing with unstable and uncertain social, familial, and educational situations (Tourrilhes, 2008). The result of such difficulties is that these students do not progress well through secondary school or they simply do not finish. Many of these students face unique challenges to completing their secondary education (Bondu, 1998) and require varied approaches to better meet their needs (Archambault, 2006). Educational researcher Julie Marcotte's (2012) study of at-risk youth in Quebec indicated that those young adults who return to the AECs face challenges related to three issues: the construction of identity, developing a sense of agency, and feeling empowered. Further, the degree to which a student feels engaged with their teachers and school is a good predictor of timely graduation (Archambault, 2006; Archambault, Janosz, Fallu, & Pagani, 2009; Pariser, 2011).

Our definition of engagement is multidimensional (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). …

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