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Digital making with “At-Risk” youth

Janette Michelle Hughes (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Whitby, Canada)

International Journal of Information and Learning Technology

ISSN: 2056-4880

Article publication date: 6 March 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore how a small group of adolescents in an alternative care and treatment program develop digital literacy skills over time while immersed in a rich media setting. It also explores how the students use new media tools and affordances to “perform” their identities and to present themselves within their classroom community.


This ethnographic case study research involved seven students from a Canadian alternative school that provides educational programming for students from government approved care, treatment, custody and correctional facilities. Through an integrated arts-based curriculum, with a thematic focus on community and identity, the students used a variety to digital tools and media to create an “All About Me” book.


The students used inquiry-based learning and multiple modes of expression, facilitated by the multimodal, multimedia nature of digital media, including both screen-based and tangibles as essential components of knowing and communicating. The maker pedagogies employed in this intervention facilitated self-directed learning, as well as the development of perseverance and self-confidence.


In many work environments individuals are required to have knowledge of emerging technologies, and to employ this expertise in their work. Teaching students how to navigate their way through unfamiliar technology, to reflect on the process, and to communicate effectively, are important in both academics and future work environments. The authors continue to work with this group of students in the STEAM-3D Maker Lab and emphasize learning through discovery, design and the development of important skills such as perseverance, troubleshooting, resilience and collaboration.



Hughes, J.M. (2017), "Digital making with “At-Risk” youth", International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 102-113.



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