[#HerDigitalVisions is an after-school program that supports girls in becoming digital citizens and leaders, in both on and off-line communities. #HerDigitalVisions uses digital play and media production to creatively and critically explore the virtual world. Each new round of #HerDigitalVisions helps AMES to learn from participants and re-design a better program next time. In the Spring of 2016, AMES decided to take our learning to the next level and do research on the program to evaluate effectiveness. Thanks to Mitacs, who supported this work through the Mitacs Accelerate Program. In order to hear from youth themselves, program participants became co-researchers–and their blog post below shares some of their research conclusions!]

As part of #HerDigitalVisions, we tried out participatory action research (PAR), because research is important to help us find answers. The goal of PAR is to empower research participants to take control of the research process and answer questions that are important to them, or their community, instead of just being studied. We researched how the #HerDigitalVisions program impacted participants. In our research process, we found answers and made connections. We did peer interviews and a focus group, and then analyzed the answers to get our results.

Looking at what we found, we wanted to share a few of our findings:

  1. The program felt different from school in important ways. It was fun, people weren’t bored, mentors spoke from experience and from the heart, and participants felt accepted by others rather than judged.
  1. People’s favourite sessions were when we made videos and when we learned about power, inequality, and girls’ empowerment. Favourite skills we learned were creating videos and making memes.
  1. Participants thought that the most important things we learned were that:
    • You should think before you post, because the internet is forever and you might regret it later.
    • You shouldn’t be afraid to block someone online if you feel unsafe with them.
    • You should be aware that there are some people online (who might be strangers) who might use anonymity or fake accounts to seem like people they aren’t or to trick you.
    • Power is not equal in society, and often people who have power are those who have had it historically: white, straight, rich, older men. Many people are working to share power more equally in society.
    • Today, not all people are equally represented in media and online spaces.
    • People are stereotyped by gender and given specific colours or toys to play with.
    • Violence is the opposite of respect. The violence we see in media, real life, and online are connected.

It’s important for people who teach youth, and youth themselves, to know what we’ve found. Even though this is a small program, #HerDigitalVisions can give a peek into the kind of digital education program youth want (and need).

– #HerDigitalVisions Spring 2016