what do we know about youth? and how do we know it? let's not worry about "the youth" for a moment... let's consider our own youth, our days of adolescence under the hot summer sun, endless energy (except for the afternoons when sun poisoning knocked us out cold), and a staunch defiance of anything and everything we heard. we believed nothing unless we knew it for ourselves or could cite a credible source, even if that source was stacy's father's assistant's veterinarian. isn't that what we want from young people - a keen and sharp mind (which we - researchers, academics, educators - like to call "critical"); a penchant for evidence-based assertions (see above note about the veterinarian); a deep reserve of energy to draw from in pursuing a cause. and yet, too often in the sites for formal education that currently exist, youth (by which i mean 12-22 year olds, give or take a few years and depending on who you're talking to) are asked to routinely conform, trust, and be passive recipients of "education" - and to be critical within the dotted lines only.

enter: youth media. organizations such as MNN YouthChannel, Listen Up! Youth Media Network, Educational Video Center, and several others are creating spaces with and for youth that are focused on what young people have to say. no, these are not sites of chaos and havoc (although a little of both goes a long way), but are examples of how adults and youth can contribute something to broader common goal: hearing what youth have to say about topics of interest to them; creating experiences for youth to become adept at using technology for authentic purposes; extending conceptions of education beyond the school walls; and offering adults the opportunity to work with a new generation of creative producers, artists, poets, cinematographers, and storytellers that offer hope of change and justice.

right now there is an online film festival going on, sponsored by Media that Matters. of the 16 featured films, 4 were produced and directed by youth. each brings a new perspective to four diverse topics, but perhaps more importantly, uses visual and digital technologies to tell stories in a way that might not have been possible even 10 years ago. at the recent NCM Expo on Ethnic Media, there was a strand of presentations and discussions dedciated to youth media. at the end of a long string of presentations at the very end of the day, the person who was emceeing made the following point (which i will now paraphrase): given the increased availability of technologies, we (adults, educators, researchers, youth development staff, etc.) have the responsibility to make sure that different stories are heard. and, i would argue, that different stories are heard/told differently.

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