1. Who were you addressing with your design objective?
Urban public high school students. While New York City (NYC) is considered the media and technology capital of the world, the population Urban Arts Partnership (UAP) serves -- i.e. people of color living in NYC’s communities of low-income -- is underrepresented in this industry. Roughly 11% of professionals in this sector are people of color, 4% are women, and a vast majority are recruited from outside the NYC area. Furthermore, young people living in community of color and low-income often lack support, guidance and resources in school to make informed decisions about career path options. Our program was designed to serve approximately 300 students from Title I public schools - students in 9th grade through their early twenties. Through the program, students were given the opportunity to travel to our media arts facility from across NYC to develop their artistic and technical mastery, leadership, career & postsecondary readiness, life skills and ultimately, their growth as creative professionals.
We also expect the playlists to ultimately reach the full UAP community of over 10,000 students, 500 educators, families as well as our public/private partners who serve public school youth.
2. What are the three essential questions the field needs to answer to move learning playlist design and implementation forward?
I. How strong are your partnerships? Strong stakeholder partnerships are the lifeblood of any successful project, particularly in this project. UAP has enjoyed strong partnerships with public schools in the community, as well as with organizations like Vevo, New York University and Adobe, who are committed to creating meaningful college and career opportunities for the youth we serve. However, like any relationship, these partnerships demand a great deal of continuous communication about effective and ineffective strategies for meeting the needs of young people.
II. Are you willing to be brokers for youth to enter and diversify the creative industries? Empowering youth with skills alone is rarely enough. In many instances, young people look to us in the field to build the ladders and bridges to the opportunities we’re training them to succeed. Without the ladders and bridges, students from communities and schools with limited resources risk falling through the cracks despite the skills they’ve developed.
III. Can you inspire curiosity in youth beyond the playlist? In addition to providing informative learning experiences, playlists should expose students to a wider world of fascinating questions and empower them with the skills to know how to find the answers for themselves. Learning as an ongoing pursuit is often the key to success in the professional world. A key driver of continued learning is curiosity, an unquenchable desire to want to know and learn more.
3. Have the goals for your project changed at all throughout the design process?
Our goals for the design process have not changed. Through our four playlists (i.e. Video Production, Music Production, Creative Direction and Coding + Game Design), we continue to help students develop:
a) artistic mastery through a badging framework that scaffolds a series of growth skills in areas related to creation (i.e. storytelling), technical production (i.e. videography) and post-production (i.e. editing);
b) professional skill and career development through workshops and hands-on professional assignments with a corporate partner;
c) self-efficacy and leadership by developing students’ social-emotional skills -- i.e. communication, growth mindset, interpersonal skills and problem-solving.
4. What did you learn through the design process? What would you do differently if you were to start over?
As an organization, we felt it was important to be more engaged in the process of unlocking opportunities for students. This involves supporting both the students who need to be connected to opportunities, as well as our creative partners who are providing those opportunities. In a sense, UAP serves partly as the conduit through which students and creative partners find each other. If we could start over, we would ideally have an industry partner involved at the outset of the design process for each playlist. As it stands, we have some but still not enough direct involvement with industry partners.
5. What are the 3 most important things about designing your system or solution that you would share with another organization just getting started?
a) We think it is important to align your learning outcomes to current industry standards so that the skills achieved succeed in preparing students to begin their chosen career path.
b) It is important to include industry professionals in your design as possible mentoring partners. Youth responses have taught us that they appreciate that.
c) Be intentional, and think about the career paths mapped in your playlist and whether they can lead to sustainable career paths far beyond students’ experience with your organization.
6. What is left to do? What is left unanswered? What might help you continue to succeed?
As it relates to this project, UAP is restructuring its playlist-related after-school programming around game design to create the School of Interactive Arts (SIA). In this new program, students acquire industry-aligned credentials and skills through a multidisciplinary approach incorporating coding, graphic design, music production, film production and storytelling, all embedded into collaboratively created original games. This will have some implications for our playlists, largely requiring us to restructure some to align more closely with the new program structure. We expect these changes to be implemented in the summer of 2017.
7. What are the three essential questions the emerging field of connected learning playlist design needs to answer or make happen in order to move your work forward or scale it?
Urban Arts Partnership’s goal is to use connected learning playlists as post-secondary pathway learning tools - particularly in careers related to creative industries - in the extended learning time space. To this effect, our three essential questions are:
I. How can industry partners align with community-based organizations (CBOs) that provide alternative skill-building programs?
II. How can CBOs be viewed as spaces for industry workforce development and talent resources?
III. How do we create clear value propositions for traditional public schools to prioritize industry-aligned credits in the Extended Learning Time space through playlists?
8. What parts of the playlist platform technology are working well? What limitations are you experiencing?
The user experience was very friendly and aesthetically pleasing. However, we experienced some limitations with duplicating playlists. We also had local XPs that were time sensitive and didn’t find it easy to supplement the local XPs based on when the user would start the playlists. However, many of these challenges posed workable solutions.
9. What have you done, or do you plan to do, to evaluate the efficacy of your learning playlists in your community/communities?
While we do not track the efficacy of all playlists, we have developed a means of tracking our Coding + Game Design playlist. Given that our programming will be structured around game design, and given that the other playlists will be restructured to align with SIA’s program structure -- as explained above -- we feel the Coding + Game Design playlist is an ideal place to start with regards to developing evaluation methodologies for this project.
10. What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption or scale of these learning playlists for your organization?
With the exception of restructuring the existing playlists to align with the our new program structure, we do not foresee additional challenges to widespread adoption of these learning playlists for our organization.
11. What plans are in the works, or do you plan to put in the works in order to sustain your system?
The Coding & Game Design playlist will continue to live on a new site and sync with the DML Hastac playlist site, all of which will be available both to UAP students and any students who wish to access the curricula and learning community. The other playlists are being modified to reflect a program that prioritizes interactivity within media arts, especially in game design.
12. How are you getting institutional buy-in, or adoption from your learners or other stakeholders?
One compelling aspect of our program is that it exposes all participating students to the basics of coding and game design, with additional artistic specializations -- i.e. music production, film production or storytelling. In this respect, students appear to be excited at the opportunity. With respect to institutional stakeholders, New York University is continuing their partnership with us and helping to create academic pathways that are available to all students. Adobe continues to be a committed partner of UAP, and is especially helpful in mapping career pathways and creating the hands-on work experience students crave. Buy-in from our students and other stakeholders has been supported by showcasing the results of exceptional student and alumni projects; for example, two Coding and Game Design students successfully launched Kickstarter campaigns to complete their original computer games (Kickstarter links here: http://kck.st/2rlUvPk and here: http://kck.st/2qCXHoT). As students and stakeholders recognize what is possible through these programs - including XP curricula, playlists and badging steps - we anticipate use of playlists to expand.
13. What outreach strategies will you employ to communicate and support for your playlists?
We have presented to organizational partners and potential funders as a way to introduce themselves into our programming more intimately. We are providing them with an opportunity to endorse a playlist and badge. Outreach includes developing further partnerships with RCA, UTA, Vevo, Adobe, Google, Facebook, New York University and local creative production facilities.
14. How are you going to, or did you, incorporate the feedback from the workshop into your plans going forward?
The workshops were useful in helping us realize what was unique about our playlists. Much of the feedback focused on our project’s focus not only in the creative arts, but the integration of the arts into the professional sector. Furthermore, our feedback emphasized the importance of serving marginalized communities and using the creative arts to connect students with 21st century career paths. Our intention is to develop the playlists and playlist community to improve our effectiveness
15. Have you budgeted adequately to materialize the design work you imagined?
Yes, budgeting has been adequate, though we may consider stipending teacher involvement with partner schools in the future to bolster school buy-in and connection with each school's learning priorities. This could be supportive of student recruitment and the potential for playlist usage during both in-school and out-of-school time hours.
16. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your progress?
We are grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this grant program.
Please check back with Urban Arts Partnership this summer and fall! As we mentioned, we are in the process of accreditation for our Coding & Game Design program with New York University, which could prove to be a strong gateway partnership to creative career pipelines with industry partners, beginning in NYC with an aim to include companies that have a national reach. This kind of partnership, we believe, will appeal to both school partners and students who may or currently take part in the program.
Also, we invite everyone to visit us at our new office and educational facility in Manhattan’s Flatiron District this summer and fall! You can experience firsthand what our students are creating in our media lab with the playlist-aligned pathways of coding/game design, music production, film production, and other media arts. And you can lay down an audio track in our studio - we’ll share the DML playlist steps with you to make it easier. Thank you!