Promises and Challenges of After-school Programs in the Digital Age: The Case of the Cinematic Arts Project and Latino/Hispanic Youth in Austin, Texas

Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research conducted at Freeway High School, a large, ethnically diverse, low-performing, and economically disadvantaged public school in Austin, Texas, I elaborate a case study of the Cinematic Arts Project (CAP), an after-school program focused on digital filmmaking. Specifically, I examine how a group of working-class Latino/Hispanic immigrant teens gained new media literacy skills, developed creative voices, and articulated a particular kind of citizenship as they became engaged in a range of media production activities over the course of six months. Through the case study of the CAP, I provide a grounded analysis of the limitations and opportunities that after-school programs face as they try to offer opportunities to minority youths while struggling to meet multiple social demands.

Introduction

At the end of their senior year and about to graduate from high school, Antonio and Sergio, two Latino/Hispanic youths from low-income working class families, dreamed about following a creative career pathway and becoming filmmakers. “Digital filmmaking is what I like to do more than anything else,” Antonio told me a week before his high school commencement ceremony. Likewise, Sergio explained to me that he wanted to go to the University of Southern California or New York University to study film and become a director. Both had participated in the Cinematic Arts Project (CAP), an after-school program at Freeway High School, a low performing, majority-minority, and economically disadvantaged public school located in the Austin metropolitan area.

With an emphasis on workforce preparation and digital filmmaking, the CAP intended to educate “the next generation of emerging artists to be productive citizens, creative individuals, and active participants in shaping our communities in the 21st century.”1 This program was innovative, ambitious, and structured around the production of several digital media texts with a strict schedule and deadlines. During the program’s second iteration, the CAP included a group of five adult supervisors, five alumni mentors, and forty high school students from the district. Working together as a media production studio, students worked toward several goals, including producing a narrative digital film (Paul’s Memories), raising sufficient funds to sustain the program, creating a transmedia narrative about the CAP, and attending a prestigious international film festival in Europe.

A case study of the CAP reveals some of the paradoxes that after-school programs serving minority and less-advantaged youth confront in the contemporary United States as they try to cope with the pressures of meeting public agendas and bridge multiple social divides. How do the demands of the knowledge society and neoliberal economy shape the goals and learning environments of after-school programs? What kind of youth voice and citizenship are after-school programs supporting as they try to meet such demands?

Methods

I draw on data from a longitudinal ethnography I helped conduct between 2011 and 2012 at Freeway High School as part of the Digital Edge, a project funded by the MacArthur Foundation and part of the Connected Learning Research Network. The aim of the Digital Edge Project was to understand the media ecologies and new media practices among low-income and minority youths. As a member of this project, together with a team of six researchers, I spent the 2011-12 academic year inside Freeway High School and continued during the following year to do follow-up interviews with some of the study participants. Our team centered its interactions and observations on four spaces with digital technology orientations: two after-school programs —the CAP and the Digital Media Club— and two elective classrooms —a video production class and a videogame design class. We spent approximately 150 total hours in each classroom, and 70 hours in the after-school programs doing participant observations. Each member of our team was matched with two to five students, ranging from 14-18 years old. We followed a total of eighteen students panning all high school grades for one year and performed an estimated twelve interviews with each. We also conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with teachers of elective classes, supervisors and mentors from the after-school programs, and students’ parents through home visits.

For this article, I draw mainly on interviews with Sergio and Antonio, the two Latino/Hispanic students from low-income working-class families I most closely followed during the academic year, as well as those with Mr. Lopez, the Latino/Hispanic video technology teacher and main supervisor of the CAP. Moreover, I rely on participant observations I conducted at the CAP, the field notes I wrote, as well as several informal interviews with the after-school adult mentors. Furthermore, I draw on content analysis of the media texts created by CAP participants, including short digital films, web episodes, photographs, and web pages.

The Site

Austin Metropolitan Area

Named the eleventh most populous city in 2013 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Austin metropolitan area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Besides being known as the “live music capital of the world” and being recognized for its independent film and videogame scenes, the city has also come to be known as one of the most unequal and segregated urban centers in the United States.2 In the last twenty-five years, Austin has exploded as a major destination not only for foreign immigrants but also for Americans —largely millennial youths.3 Moreover, following a national demographic shift, the Latino/Hispanic population has consistently grown over the past two decades in the Austin metro area, from 23% in 1990 to 31% in 2000, and again to 35% in 2010. According to a recent report, Austin was ranked the twentieth largest area of Hispanic population in the country.4

Freeway High School

Freeway High School is a large-scale public school located at the edge of the city, close to what is considered the urban fringe. The campus is huge and surrounded by empty lands, big retail stores, and highways.  The school serves a community that is racially and economically diverse and lives in suburbs with little public transportation. A majority of the school’s population are minorities (88.2%) and economically disadvantaged (61.7%). In 2011-12, Latino/Hispanics comprised 47.5%% of a total of 2,061 students, while whites accounted for 11.2%, Asians for 13.3%, and African Americans for 24.2%. The school provides few high-quality educational programs like Advanced Placement and advanced math and science classes. While few students are registered in the gifted and talented program (7.3%), many are enrolled in the career and technical education program (83.7%).5

The Cinematic Arts Project

Originally created in 2010 as a partnership between Mr. Lopez and the two directors from a small local film postproduction company, the CAP was a joint enterprise with a mission of teaching the art of filmmaking and digital storytelling to high school students. The CAP was a structured program, directed by adults and organized according to the film production phases of development, preproduction, production, and postproduction. Its goals were clear and included projects like the creation of short digital videos, the maintenance of social media channels on Vimeo, Twiter, Flickr, and Tumblr, and the creation of a complete multimedia website. CAP participants worked in five different teams—Narrative, Making-of, Web Episodes, Publicity, and Documentary—that had specialized departments (e.g., Production Management, Sound, Art, Costume & Wardrobe, Hair & Makeup) and specific roles for each student (e.g., director, manager, camera operator, grip, cinematographer).

Because during the first iteration of the CAP (2010-2011) the program was able to achieve the goal of finishing a short narrative digital film that was accepted in a prestigious international film festival in Europe, it rapidly gained the attention of the local community. Due to its early success, the pressures from the Freeway High board of directors, and the vision of the co-founders, the program grew rapidly in both its scope and goals. At the time of our fieldwork in 2011-2012, just one year after its creation, the CAP had become a non-profit organization with several local businesses as sponsors and included students not only from Freeway but also two other district high schools. It expanded from a group of eleven students to a group of forty, and became more diverse in terms of gender, with twenty-four girls and sixteen boys, and race/ethnicity, with seventeen Latino/Hispanics, six Whites, thirteen African Americans, and four Asians.

From November 2011 to April 2012, CAP participants met every day in Mr. Lopez’s computer lab, although sometimes, especially during the production process, the activities moved to other locations suited for shooting scenes, rehearsing, casting, or presenting the work in public. Most of the time, the computer lab served as the everyday headquarters for the project. Designed by Mr. Lopez, the lab embedded some of the principles of the “computer clubhouse.”6 For instance, the space had “the feel of a creative design studio” and facilitated youths working together in “an environment of trust and respect.” With regards to technology, the lab was equipped with twenty-four iMac desktop computers organized in three rows next to the walls. The computers ran the latest OS-X operating system, were connected to high-speed Internet, and possessed webcams, internal microphones, headphones, and several media production software applications such as iMovie, Garage Band, Keynote, and Adobe Suite. The lab also had an equipment room with lighting kits, green screens, tripods, microphones, boom poles, sound recorders, midi keyboards, headphones, laptops, and several HD video and DSLR photography cameras.

After-School Programs in the US and the Pressure to Bridge Multiple Gaps

The origins of after-school programs can be traced back to the turn of the nineteenth century during a time of rapid industrialization and urbanization that transformed the nature of work and the everyday activities of young people and their families. The disappearance of child labor, the rise of maternal employment, the creation of universal and compulsory education, and the increasing availability of leisure time for students created a need for after-school programs.7 Focusing initially on safety, health, and child protection, after-school programs in the twentieth century evolved into institutions that helped to develop social and academic skills outside home and school, keeping children away from the streets. As part of a larger system of formal and informal learning institutions, after-school programs have remained under pressure to meet specific social and economic demands, articulating different rationales and objectives according to particular sources of public anxiety.8 The lack of stable purpose has made these programs “unable to resist pressures to promise to compensate for the perceived limitations of other institutions.”9

In the contemporary United States educational context of standardized testing and educational inequalities, after-school programs have been under pressure to elicit positive academic outcomes. In order to meet federal achievement standards, reduce school drop-out rates, and support youth considered at risk (i.e. low-income and minorities), after-school advocates have made the case that extracurricular programs “can partially compensate for the inequities that plague our nation’s schools and play a role in efforts to narrow gaps in achievement between more and less advantaged students.”10 Particularly for Latino/Hispanic youth, closing the “achievement gap” has become a major concern for educators and policymakers. According to statistical data, Latino/Hispanic youth appear to continuously lag behind other youth on test scores, high school graduation rates, and college readiness.11

The rising popularity of after-school programs since the 1990s has paralleled the dawn of the digital era and the emergence of a networked communication environment. In a context of socioeconomic transformations, the discourses of the digital divide and the participation gap became part of the struggle to provide technological infrastructure and support youth-driven media practices.12 After-school service providers rapidly adopted discourses of equal access to technology and many of their initiatives have had positive results. Computer clubhouses, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other initiatives have not only helped minority and less-advantaged youths access digital technology and social support but have also fostered the development of their technological fluencies and engagement in creative production activities.13

Furthermore, in the past decades after-school programs in the United States have also been situated as spaces where youths can develop the “work-ready skills” that business and industry leaders demand for the future workplace. Advocates of the so-called “21st-century skills” have argued that after-school programs can prepare students to be effective workers by helping them develop abilities such as communication, problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork.14 These skills, however, as some critics have pointed out, have the economic bias of a neoliberal discourse and run the risk of overemphasizing utility, production, and workplace productivity over values such as imagination, wonder, and social justice.15 That discourse or “neoliberal doctrine” is based on an over-excessive valuation of markets as the best model for social and political organization.16 By prioritizing the needs of business and focusing on preparing the future workforce, advocates of 21st-century skills privilege market logics.17

Project Based Learning and Professional Filmmaking as Positional Frames

As an executive director and main supervisor of the after-school program, Mr. Lopez played a central role in setting up the CAP learning environment, particularly its discursive and technology resources. As executive director of the CAP and supervisor of the computer lab, he made available educational frames that entailed active roles for students in their learning and that were shaped by the discourses of “work-readiness” and “access to technology.” Frames, as Hand, Penuel and Gutierrez have explained, “are symbolic and interactional roadmaps, guiding and prodding activity forwards, towards particular imaginable futures.”18 Frames are important because they provide meaning to the learning environments, setting “the scene, defining the characters, what counts as ‘rational’ action, and even the means by which people might accomplish particular purposes.”19 Participants of a learning environment use frames to organize joint activity, to position themselves in relation to each other, and to define expectations of their actions.

Enabling the frames of project-based learning and professional filmmaking at the CAP, Mr. Lopez helped to position students as active learners, creative media producers, and authors. On the one hand, the project-based learning frame relied on a pedagogy that was situated, experiential, and social, inspired by learning-by-doing and constructionism.20 This frame empowered students to learn through experience and media production activities and fostered peer-learning, collaboration, and entrepreneurship. On the other, the professional filmmaking frame positioned CAP participants as possessing technical expertise, capable of finishing a range of media texts, following deadlines, and assuming responsibilities according to roles that resembled the structure of an actual film studio. Playing specific roles allowed students to learn and practice technical abilities, and to exercise corresponding degrees of agency.

The dynamic link between the professional filmmaking and project-based learning frames at the CAP supported the active participation of students in the learning process and the creative use of digital tools. It allowed them to gain new media literacies, and communication and problem-solving skills. Furthermore, it also instructed students on how to produce and deliver media texts according to the demands of the “work-readiness” discourse. These frames positioned Antonio and Sergio as competent media makers capable of using digital software, operating professional video gear, authoring multimedia content, and understanding the film industry’s division of labor. As Antonio explained in one of our interviews:

Filmmaking gets my creative side thinking; it gets all sorts of sides of my brain thinking. Because you actually have to know math for shots sometimes. Like, the roles of thirds and other stuff. (…) Project-based learning is just not like sitting or reading a book. It’s actually getting up and involving yourself with all these situations.

At the CAP, and empowered by positional frames and multiple accesses (motivation, tools, usage, and skills), Antonio and Sergio became some of the most active participants, showing up regularly and taking on several responsibilities. They articulated filmmaker identities and acted as learners who could shift roles as the project advanced through the different production phases. Antonio successfully moved back and forth between roles such as camera operator and editor for the web episodes (his original task) and production manager for the short narrative film. Likewise, Sergio shifted from his role as a camera operator of the short narrative film to casting assistant during the pre-production phase to blogger for the CAP website during post-production.

Articulating a public voice

Working in teams under the supervision of alumni mentors and adult executive producers, students made a variety of media texts including a short narrative film, two documentary videos, a multimedia website, dozens of photographs, and several blog posts. As CAP members published and circulated these texts, both online and offline, they were able to amplify their acts of creative expression and articulate a public voice. This voice emerged from a structured context in which some participants had more control over the decision-making and media production process. The stories that CAP members told tended to have a collective tone shaped by members in higher positions of power, directive roles, and with advanced technical skills. Furthermore, the CAP voices did not connect with civic and political organizations, nor address social issues related to their local community such as the spread of childhood obesity, suburban poverty, and public school budget cuts. Instead, the CAP focused on telling two major stories, one a personal issue, and the other CAP’s role as a media production powerhouse.

Paul’s Memories was the end result of a fictional narrative and short digital film that CAP members produced over the course of six months and eventually submitted to a prestigious European film festival. Its production involved the work of thirty students distributed across eight different crews who played specific roles according to a film studio division of labor. Three alumni mentors and two adult executive producers acted as supervisors and were in charge of setting up the production goals and priorities. Moreover, they assigned specific roles to the students after evaluating students skills and interests through an interview process and a written application. Though students were central to the filmmaking process, engaged in peer learning with autonomy and creative freedom—especially the ones with roles such as directors, cinematographers, writers, and editors—they did not have full control of the production process. Mentors and executive producers collaborated with them, supervised their work, and pushed students to meet deadlines and keep a tight production schedule.

The story of the short narrative film was written by Peter Garcia, a senior student who submitted his original screenplay to an open call that Mr. Lopez made at the beginning of the academic year. Executive producers, alumni mentors, and students selected Paul’s Memories among a pool of seven screenplays after reading all of them and voting for their favorite. After the screenplay received the most votes, CAP members agreed to use it for their major media text, a short digital film they would submit to a famous international festival. Although some students like Antonio and Sergio, who also submitted original screenplays to the open call, thought Paul’s Memories was a “weird” fiction, they believed that its unusual structure and genre (psychological drama) primed it as an “artistic” film.

Paul’s Memories is a story about an old white middle-class man with Alzheimer’s disease who, lying in bed, confronts hallucinations about his past and discovers a disturbing secret about the loss of one of his sons. The events are structured in a non-linear way through several flashbacks to different moments of the protagonist’s life. The film was shot in familiar locations such as the Freeway High School building, a neighborhood restaurant, and a student house. All the actors, except for one student who played the role of a teenager, were adult professionals recruited from the local indie scene. Regarding its audience, the short film was not targeted at youths, but to a broadly defined public. In our conversations, Antonio and Sergio explained that although they expected that people of all ages could watch the film, given its thematic, genre, and characters, Paul’s Memories was better suited for adults. At local screenings at the high school theaters, audience members included parents, family members, and peers. At the international festival, they imagined a predominantly adult and specialized audience. Sergio, for instance, told me at the end of the postproduction phase that “film people, directors, critics, and other attendees to the film festival” were going to watch the short narrative in Europe.

However, more important in relation to the articulation of a public voice was the narrative that CAP members told about themselves as a media production studio and their efforts to become young filmmakers. This story had a transmedia approach. That is, it was told across multiple media platforms, using several modes of expression, and leveraging different systems of representation.21 All CAP participants collaborated in the production and circulation of a variety of texts that, although dispersed across multiple media channels, were part of the same story. These media creations included two documentary-style videos—The History of the CAP and The Making of Paul’s Memories—a multimedia website (including profile pages for each participant), 179 photographs in Flickr, short online videos in Vimeo (three web episodes and one sponsor video), a dedicated blog in Tumblr with multiple entries (10 at the end of the program), a microblog on Twitter (with 187 tweets), and three promotional paper fliers.

A public voice, as Levine reminds us, “is always one that can persuade other people—beyond one’s closest friends and family—to take action on shared issues.”22 By engaging themselves in an active process of audiovisual documentation of all the CAP activities and creating a transmedia story about their work as productive filmmakers, students developed a distinct public voice with a collective tone. Few media texts, such as the students profiles on the website and a couple of blog posts, had a personal perspective and were authored by a single student. In contrast, most acts of expression emphasized the collective effort of students, mentors, and executive producers. For instance, in the two documentaries, tweets, and online videos, the plural first person (“we”) was always the preferred narrative voice. Such collective tone allowed CAP members to publicly recognize the work of all participants as a whole and acknowledge the sense of community and spirit of collaboration that existed within the after-school program.23

The voice of CAP participants in the transmedia story was both expressive and influential, as it aimed to persuade a local audience about the need to financially support their after-school program.24 Antonio, for instance, explained to me that the goal of the web episodes was to “inform the public” about all the activities of the CAP and to help potential sponsors to see the students’ hard work. The third web episode he shot and edited was a one-minute video montage of moving images that show students working in teams at the computer lab and Freeway High halls. In the video, while the images flash quickly on the screen, the voice of Antonio, with a collective tone, narrates the filmmaking practices in the following way:

The past few months have been dedicated to prepare everything for this day. We have gone through script writing, storyboarding, auditions, set-preparation, and read-throughs. All to make filming goes smooth. Everyone is excited and ready to jump right in and hit the ground rolling as production begins this Saturday and last all through this month of January. (emphasis added)

Outcomes from the CAP

Despite the intense media production, hard work, and learning that happened at the CAP, the outcomes of the program were ambivalent. The results of teaching “the art of digital storytelling” through a large-scale media production project, overemphasizing “work-readiness,” and setting ambitious goals were both positive and negative.

On the one hand, the objectives and program structure allowed students like Antonio and Sergio to become highly motivated by challenges they rarely experienced in the general track curriculum classes and to develop career aspirations as filmmakers. Goals such as creating and circulating digital media texts, producing a short digital film and submitting it to a prestigious international film festival in Europe, making a website, and raising money created a context that motivated students to achieve. In such a context, and using the frames of project-based learning and filmmaking professionalism, participants found opportunities to learn, practice new media literacies (e.g., transmedia storytelling), and develop 21st-century skills (e.g., communication). Throughout several interviews, Antonio and Sergio spoke about skills they acquired such as public speaking and problem-solving due to their participation in the CAP.

“I think these skills would help out in the future by having me well-prepared to identify how to solve a problem as fast as I can without having to stop production,” Sergio told me, while explaining how he wanted to continue a creative career and apply to well-known film schools.

On the other hand, the CAP’s ambitious goals created extra pressures for all the participants of the program, including adults and youths, forcing them to carry more of a burden than it was realistic for them to achieve. The hard work and commitment required of the CAP members, both to tell the fictional story of Paul’s Memories and the transmedia story on their media production studio, required an investment in time and energy. The demands wore out many of the participants, especially those who assumed major responsibilities such as editing and managing. The amount of work during the last month of postproduction required some Freeway High students like Antonio to spend long hours at night working at the computer lab, unable to attend regular school classes or complete their college applications. After finishing the program, several CAP members expressed their feelings of tiredness and stress due to the amount of work required to deliver all the media texts on time. Those feelings were magnified by frustration upon learning that the film festival’s jury did not select Paul’s Memories, and that the money they raised was not enough sustain the large-scale program for another year.

Unfortunately, the bias of the CAP towards “work-readiness” and professionalism also limited the kind of connections Antonio and Sergio made and the type of citizenship they embraced. The “productive citizenship” that the CAP promoted as part of its mission had an economic bias that overstressed economic demands. By privileging ties with local business and media companies, CAP members missed the opportunity to establish relationships with civic and political organizations and to address social issues that affected their local community. Although the business connections opened opportunities in the way of temporary jobs, public presentations, and collaborations, they were not sustainable in the long term. After the program ended and students no longer had access to professional media gear or an institutional affiliation, these opportunities quickly disappeared.

Furthermore, as many of the CAP participants finished high school and tried to move ahead with their lives and transition to adulthood, the outcomes of the program, particularly in terms of 21st-century skills acquisition, did not translate into opportunities. Latino/Hispanic low-income youths like Antonio and Sergio, for instance, were not able to follow the creative career pathways they imagined despite having gained “work-ready” skills at the CAP, produced multiple media texts, and exercised a public voice. As Antonio explained in one of our follow-up interviews, he couldn’t translate what he learned at the CAP into economic opportunity. He said,

I can’t find a job. I’m calling Target, Wal-Mart, stuff like that. I don’t want to work at Wal-Mart though. I don’t want to work in fast food either…. I don’t have any other job experience, except for video editing, and the only thing that really counts out of that is the communication part, for any other job. So, for me it’s kind of hard, since I don’t have previous job experience.

At this point of transition into adulthood, Antonio and Sergio’s less-advantaged socioeconomic background and limited access to social, cultural, and technological resources, determined the chances of moving ahead and following a creative career. After completing high school and exiting the CAP, Antonio and Sergio struggled to find peers, adults, and role models that could help them to figure out how to pursue their dreams. For instance, their parents, who had low academic attainment and struggled with financial hardship while working in low-skill jobs, had little understanding about the filmmaking world and digital media production. Likewise, their peers, who were from similar socioeconomic background and took general curriculum track classes at Freeway High, neither continued formal post-secondary education nor worked in the creative industries. Hence, after losing their connections with the after-school program, Antonio and Sergio did not have access to social support that could provide them with information and opportunities related to digital media production. Although they still wanted to become filmmakers, one year after graduation, their creative career pathway was being replaced by a career in service positions.

Conclusion

In the twenty-first century, after-school programs remain useful for low-income and minority youth. With greater flexibility, after-school program service providers have responded rapidly to a public agenda that urges bridging multiple gaps and preparing the workforce of the future. However, as they react to particular social and economic needs and try to compensate for the limitations of other institutions, after-school programs tend to promise more than they can realistically achieve with their means. As they do so, they confront the challenges of rapid growth and unrealistic goals. Although digital media are a powerful means that can be used to achieve ambitious objectives, they also have limitations that need to be considered according to the local context and social issues that communities confront. The CAP case illustrates how the outcomes of an after-school program serving low-income minority youth can be paradoxical, both positive and negative, when goals do not correspond to the resources at hand.

After-school service providers should balance the discursive materials they use and provide in their learning environments. Although the neoliberal discourse of “work-readiness” is useful for connecting with the local media industries and businesses and for enabling the frames of project-based learning and professional filmmaking, it has an economic bias that overemphasizes market logic. Using such a discourse can create limitations in the development of a public voice because it tends to focus on issues related to productivity and professional media standards, addressing an adult audience of industry and business players. Citizenship needs to be imagined beyond neoliberal discourse. Combining the “work-readiness” discourse with other discourses that address social justice, civics, and politics can help to create richer and more balanced discursive materials. By doing so, it might be possible to diversify the kind of audience that young filmmakers address with their media texts, helping them to embrace amateur production standards, garner connections that are more sustainable, and tell stories that are more personally and socially meaningful to them. As seen in the case of the CAP, the kind of connections made during the program, based on “work-readiness” and productivity, did not last after Antonio and Sergio graduated from high school.

The paths that Antonio and Sergio navigated after finishing the CAP and high school graduation reveal the harsh reality of evolving socioeconomic and opportunity divides in the United States and the inequalities of creative cities like Austin. In a context of rapid sociotechnical change and a neoliberal economy, leveling the playing field by providing access to technology in less-advantaged communities and preparing them to be the future creative workforce turns out to be paradoxical. Although minority youth can practice new media literacies, gain 21st-century skills, articulate identities as creative workers and raise their public voices while they participate in after-school programs like the CAP, broader systemic-level disjunctures remain. In order to help bridge those divides, after-school programs should develop a networked approach in which they work in closer collaboration with a variety of private and public institutions including commercial, academic, cultural, and civic organizations. In this way, promises of social equity can be shared among several actors and a more robust and sustainable system of support can be provided for less-advantaged youth.

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Papert, Seymour, and Idit Harel. “Situating Constructionism.” In Constructionism (New York City: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1991). http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Learning for the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2003. Accessed December 11, 2015. http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/images/stories/ otherdocs/p21up_Report.pdf.

Patterson, Jean A. “21st Century Learning Initiatives as a Manifestation of Neoliberalism.” Neoliberalizing Educational Reform: America’s Quest for Profitable Market-Colonies and the Undoing of Public Good, edited by Keith M. Sturges. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2015.

Peppler, Kylie, and Yasmin Kafai. “From Supergood to Scratch: Exploring Creative Digital Media Production in Informal Learning.” Media, Learning, and Technology 32, no. 2 (2007): 149-166.

Resnick, Mitchel, Natalie Rusk, and Stina Cooke. “Computer Clubhouse: Technological Fluency in the Inner City.” In High Technology and Low-Income Communities, edited by D. Schon, B. Sanyal, and W. Mitchell. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998.

Rose, Mike. “21st Century Skills: Education’s New Cliché,” Truthdig (blog), December 8, 2009. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/21st_century_skills_educations_new_cliche_20091208.

Rusk, Natalie, Mitchel Resnick, and Stina Cooke. “Origins and Guiding Principles of the Computer Clubhouse.” In The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities, edited by Y. Kafai, K. Peppler, and R. Chapman. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009.

Sefton-Green, Julian. Learning at Not-School. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.

Sullivan, Tricia, Vander Leest, and Andrew Gordon. Work and Play in the Information Age: Technology Utilization in Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Seattle: University of Washington, 2008.

Texas Education Agency. 2012-2013 Texas Performance Reporting System (TPRS). Austin: Texas Education Agency, 2013. Accessed June 2, 2013. http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/tprs/2013/index.html.

Time, Learning, and Afterschool Task Force, A New Day for Learning. Washington D.C.: Collaborative Communications Group, 2007. http://www.mott.org/news/news/2007/dayforlearning.

Notes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. As stated in the Cinematic Arts Project website home page.
  2. According to a recent study that mapped the geography of economic segregation in the United States, researchers found that Austin was one of the most economically segregated large metros in the country, according to the neighborhood composition based on income, education, and occupation. See Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander, Segregated City: The Geography of Economic Segregation in America’s Metros (Toronto: Martin Prosperity Institute, 2015), http://martinprosperity.org/content/segregated-city/.
  3. Richard Florida, “Where Millennials Are Moving Now,” CityLab (blog), March 26, 2015, http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/03/where-millennials-are-moving-now/388748/.
  4. See Anna Brown, and Mark Hugo Lopez, Mapping the Latino Population, by State, County and City (Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, 2013).
  5. Texas Education Agency, 2012-2013 Texas Performance Reporting System (TPRS) (Austin: Texas Education Agency, 2013), accessed June 2, 2013, http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/tprs/2013/index.html.
  6. Natalie Rusk, Mitchel Resnick, and Stina Cooke, “Origins and Guiding Principles of the Computer Clubhouse,” The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities, ed. Yasmin Kafai, Kylue Peppler, and R. Chapman (New York:  Teachers College Press, 2009).
  7. See Robert Halpern, “A Different Kind of Child Development Institution: The History of After-School Programs for Low-Income Children,” Teachers College Record 104, no. 2 (2002): 178-21; Douglas Kleiber and G. Powell, “Historical Changes in Leisure Activities During After-School Hours,” in Organized Activities as Contexts of Development: Extracurricular Activities, After-School, and Community Programs, ed. Joseph Mahoney, R.W. Larson and J.S. Eccles (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2005); Joseph Mahoney, M.E. Parente, and E.F. Zigler, “Afterschool Programs in America: Origins, Growth, Popularity, and Politics,” Journal of Youth Development 4, no. 3, (2009).
  8. See Robert Halpern, Confronting the Big Lie: The Need to Reframe Expectations of After- School Programs (Chicago: Erikson Institute, 2006); Margo Gardner, Jodie Roth, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, “Can After-School Programs Help Level the Playing Field for Disadvantaged Youth?,” Equity Matters: Research Review No. 4 (New York: The Campaign for Educational Equity, 2009); Becky Herr-Stephenson et al., Digital Media and Technology in Afterschool Programs, Libraries, and Museums (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2011); Julian Sefton-Green, Learning at Not-School (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).
  9. Halpern, “A Different Kind of Child Development Institution.”
  10. Gardner, Roth, Brooks-Gunn, “Can After-School Programs Help Level the Playing Field for Disadvantaged Youth?”
  11. See Grace Kena et al., The Condition of Education 2014 (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics, 2014); Mark Hugo Lopez, Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap (Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2009); Center for Education Policy Analysis, The Educational Opportunity Monitoring Project: Racial and Ethnic Achievement Gaps (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University, 2013), http://cepa.stanford.edu/educational-opportunity-monitoring-project/achievement-gaps/race/
  12. Becky Herr-Stephenson et al., Digital Media and Technology in Afterschool Programs, Libraries, and Museums (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).
  13. See Brigid Barron, “Interest and Self-Sustained Learning as Catalysts of Development: A Learning Ecology Perspective,” Human Development, 49 (2006): 193-224; Kylie Peppler and Yasmin Kafai, “From Supergood to Scratch: Exploring Creative Digital Media Production in Informal Learning,” Media, Learning, and Technology 32, no. 2 (2007): 149–166; Mitchel Resnick, Natalie Rusk, and Stina Cooke, “Computer Clubhouse: Technological Fluency in the Inner City,” High Technology and Low-Income Communities, ed. D. Schon, B. Sanyal, and W. Mitchell (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998); Mark Girod, Joseph Martineau, and Yonc Zhao, “After-School Computer Clubhouses and At-Risk Teens,” American Secondary Education 32, no. 3 (2004): 63-76; Tricia Sullivan, Vander Leest, and Andrew Gordon, Work and Play in the Information Age: Technology Utilization in Boys & Girls Clubs of America (Seattle: University of Washington, 2008); Rebecca London, Manuel Pastor, and Rachel Rosner, “How Technology-Enriched Afterschool Programs Help Immigrant Youth Find a Voice, a Place, and a Future,” Afterschool Matters 7 (2008): 1-11; Andres Lombana-Bermudez, Networked and Disconnected: Latino/Hispanic Immigrant Youths, Digital Media, and Assimilation into the U.S. (PhD. diss., University of Texas, 2015), https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/31666.
  14. Frank Levy and Richard Murnane, “Why the Changing American Economy Calls for Twenty-First Century Learning: Answers to Educators’ Questions,” New Directions for Youth Development 110 (2006): 53-62; Richard Murnane, and Frank Levy, Teaching the New Basic Skills: Principles for Educating Children to Thrive in a Changing Economy, (New York: Free Press, 1996); Jill Casner-Lotto and Linda Barrington, Are They Really Ready to Work?: Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce (New York: The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, 2006); Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Learning for the 21st Century (Washington, D.C.: Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2003), http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/images/stories/ otherdocs/p21up_Report.pdf; Time, Learning, and Afterschool Task Force, A New Day for Learning (Washington D.C.: Collaborative Communications Group, 2007), http://www.mott.org/news/news/2007/dayforlearning.
  15. Jean A. Patterson, “21st Century Learning Initiatives as a Manifestation of Neoliberalism,” in Neoliberalizing Educational Reform: America’s Quest for Profitable Market-Colonies and the Undoing of Public Good, ed. Keith M. Sturges (Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2015); Mike Rose, “21st Century Skills: Education’s New Cliché,” Truthdig (blog), December 8, 2009, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/21st_century_skills_educations_new_cliche_20091208; a McCafferty, “Forging a ‘Neoliberal Pedagogy’: The ‘Enterprising Education’ Agenda in Schools,” Critical Social Policy 30, no. 4 (2010): 541–563.
  16. Nick Couldry, Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism (London: Sage Publications, 2010).
  17. One of the results of embracing the neoliberal discourse and focusing on “employability” is that the mission of youth media education has become more individualized and instrumental. See Sonia Livingstone and Alicia Blum-Ross’s article on this issue.
  18. Victoria Hand, William R. Penuel, and Kris D. Gutierrez, “(Re)Framing Educational Possibility: Attending to Power and Equity in Shaping Access to and within Learning Opportunities,” Human Development 55, no. 5-6 (2012): 264.
  19. Ibid., 254.
  20. Seymour Papert and Idit Harel, “Situating Constructionism,” in Constructionism (New York: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1991), http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html
  21. Henry Jenkins, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009), https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/confronting-challenges-participatory-culture.
  22.   Peter Levine, “A Public Voice for Youth: The Audience Problem in Digital Media and Civic Education,” Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth, ed. W. Lance Bennett (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 120, http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/dmal.9780262524827.119
  23. The sense of community thrived at the CAP, especially among the most engaged participants. Antonio and Sergio, for instance, referred to the CAP as a family when explaining the relationships and everyday practices they developed at the program. Positive social relationships fostered a system of support in which participants with higher levels of expertise helped other members to accomplish their tasks, and gain technical and sociocultural skills. For example, when publishing media texts online, students worked closely with Mike, an alumnus from Freeway High and the director of the publicity team, who was in charge of managing the CAP social media channels and maintaining the website.
  24. Although for its second year the CAP was able to obtain a Texas ACE/21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) grant through Freeway High, the money was not enough to cover the costs of having several adults working in the program (ten), nor the trip to Europe and attendance to the film festival that a few CAP participants (five students, two mentors, one executive producer) were able to do.
Andres Lombana-Bermudez

About Andres Lombana-Bermudez

Andres Lombana-Bermudez is a researcher and designer working at the intersection of digital technology, youth, equity, and learning. Andres holds a Ph.D. in Media Studies from UT-Austin, an M.Sc. in Comparative Media Studies from MIT, and bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Literature from Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. He is a a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a Research Associate with the Connected Learning Research Network, and a member of the Aprendiendo Juntos Council.

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