Why do youth new literacy practices outside of school matter?

In June, Fartousa, Hodan, Kayf and I traveled to Philadelphia to screen a rough cut of our documentary at the Annual Conference of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. Our collaborative research looks into their processes of making and sharing videos on YouTube and how these practices constitute their sense of identity. I theorize their videos as a critical digital literacy practice and they consider their work to be media activism. The affordances of YouTube provide a public cultural space where these youth have been able to express their seldom-heard perspectives as Somali-Canadian Muslim female youth.

In addition to representing our co-constructed knowledge in traditional print text form, we are hope to reach more audiences multimodally with this documentary designed to bring the story of their DIY media making experiences to educators, youth, and community audiences. As we shift from a print to a video culture, educators and researchers need to take up new literacy practices, themselves. Working collaboratively with these youth to produce educational videos represents my own efforts to do so.

We are editing a final cut with assistance from documentary filmmaker, Peter Biesterfeld. It will soon be posted on this website in the hope it will be widely shared by teachers, youth, and anyone interested in the possibilities of youth media production within and outside of schooling contexts.

Hodan, Kayf, far NAMLE panel with mics EDITED NAMLE panel far taking selfie NAMLE Far on panel

During our screening we asked audience members to reflect on reasons educators and researchers should pay attention to the new literacies practices youth are engaging with outside school on cultural sites such as YouTube. Following are some of the responses we received:

  1. Many reasons. A simple one: to connect life and school.
  1. Your work is inspirational – empowering youth and adults to confront stereotypes in themselves and the world around them. When students “don’t see themselves in the curriculum” it sends a message, and your work is calling attention to that and transforming the reality at the same time.
  1. Youth probably feel more comfortable expressing their true feelings and concerns outside of school as opposed to in school.
  1. Because outside of school is where it’s happening, especially when what is presented in mainstream culture is so stereotyped. Great work. Keep it up!
  1. At this morning’s keynote Vivian Vasquez quoted Anne Haas Dyson: “The children show us what they need to talk about.” This applies directly to all voices that are too often overlooked or marginalized. “Young Somali-Canadian Muslim women show us what they (we) need to talk about.” Your lives and experiences reflect the lived experiences of so many, inside and out of your particular demographic. Media must not only be understood as products made for profit by multinational corporate managers. By claiming your unique collective voices you help us all know that the first media is communities speaking for and to one another.
  1. Why not? Youth experiences happen in the ‘real world.’ Youth talk to peers – the unknown peers… School = teaching & evaluation. Literacy practices out of schools = learning, non-judgemental. In other words, education is still test dominated
  1. It is a way to get to know what is important to youth. What are their passions? Provides opportunities to develop relationships on a different level.

NAMLE girls with Renee HobbesNAMLE girls after screeningNAMLE group shot girls & I