Danah Boyd on Trends in Teen Media Use

This written talk by Danah Boyd caught my eye and is worth a break from How Children Succeed. Her talk forecasts the nature of future organizations based on trends in start up culture and teen media use. She argues that today is about the development of the individual through their social networks. Organizations are a means of implementing and realizing, but they are not the primary focus. I love her productive cross-generational comparison. I’ll reflect on the teen learning topics of her talk here and will save start up reflections for a separate organizational strategy discussion. Boyd explores how social media demonstrates three aspects of teen development: identity experimentation, navigating public/private boundaries and building relationships and networks.

Identity Experimentation

A feedback book at a public library is filled with more expressions of personal identity than comments on the library.

A feedback book at a public library is filled with more expressions of personal identity than comments on the library.

Boyd makes a similar argument as Sherry Turkle in Alone Together: teen years are crowded with responsibilities and expectations that give them little opportunity to experiment with who they are and who they want to be. Social media serves as an interstitial realm that they can control: “it becomes a training ground for independence, creativity, and personal self-expression.”

How can we support this experimentation in learning environments? How can we connect them to the social media realm for safe experimentation? And help them carry the fruits of that experimentation into the physical realm? How can we create a physical realm that similarly supports experimentation?

Reflections on How Children Succeed: Behavior Goals for an Organization



As we at The Third Teacher+  structure our designs to be as human-centered as possible, we identify the student behaviors that our design should enable, if done correctly. Paul Tough illuminates research that can help schools design their human-centered organization. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification by psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson classifies and measures widely valued positive traits. This resource can serve as a glossary and menu of options for schools to choose their behavior goals. KIPP uses seven of them: grit, self control, zest, social Intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity.

While the authors frame their traits as universal and objective - intellectual rather than moral - I would argue that each community is different. There’s a great community-building opportunity in defining a school’s specific, personal set of goals. An ethnographic fieldwork process can gather the perspectives of students, parents, teachers and administrators to identify the community’s shared values and facilitate consensus-building conversations.

Imagine a strategic planning session that explores: Who are our students and who do we want them to become? What psychological, emotional, academic and spatial pathways must we construct to get them there? How do we align and deploy our organization to accomplish these goals?

And imagine an evaluation session that asks: Are our students practicing the behaviors and traits we laid out? Are they practicing them more frequently than last year?

It’s exciting to think of how research can empower a behavior-based organizational strategy and value-based definition of success.

Reflections on How Children Succeed: Culture Creation in Schools

There’s another way of viewing our education crisis: it’s a culture crisis. How many schools have taken a mirror and clearly articulated the shared values that unite their community, how they define success in a graduate (in terms of mindset, not test scores) and how they specifically approach learning? Let’s consider each school to be the community center that it is. We need to bring administrators, teachers, parents and students together to co-create their culture and value set. This will give them the clarity and purpose for their pedagogy that is necessary to move forward with unified pride and confidence.

Paul Tough describes KIPP’s attention to culture to give students an identity and sense of belonging.


Psychologist, Angela Duckworth explains:

“KIPP’s approach to group identity is a central part of what makes the schools effective: ‘What KIPP does is create a social role shift, so that a child will suddenly switch into a totally different mindset.’”

Cultural values are stated both explicitly with messaging posted everywhere and implicitly, woven into the DNA of how the school functions. This ethos and set of mantras help communicate a positive and opportunistic message: that intelligence is malleable and success is achievable for all.

We all need something to believe in. Culture doesn’t mean religiosity or exclusivity. It means finding a story that gives us motivation and a clear way to feel successful.

Photos from: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Teaching-Character/5537699