Children's passion for hi-tech turned into learning

Posted February 20, 2011 12:49 p.m. EST

Project Education: Edutopia, a partnership between WRAL-TV and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, profiles educators who are turning students' love for video games into practical and creative skills.

The Digital Youth Network is a seven-year-old program that teaches sixth through 12th graders to use new media technologies.

"Through Digital Youth Network and the presence of DYN classes inside the school day, our students are gaining access to software and skills that really push the envelope," said Jared Washington, director of Carter G. Woodson Middle School in Chicago.

During the school day, DYN staff teach mandatory media arts classes, where students acquire basic tech literacy skills that allow teachers to integrate digital tools into their curriculum.

After school, students can pursue their passions in a variety of DYN classes, such as digital storytelling, digital video production and game design.

"DYN is just like one the awesome-ist, sickest programs ever," a student named Jalen said. "It's just like all these awesome, sick programs, like gaming all the way to poetry."

The new-media technology classes give children both practical learning skills and the chance to express themselves creatively, Washington said.

"We know that the world is shifting and that there are a number of new ways of thinking, new ways of learning and working and socializing that won't go away," he said. "Our kids need the ability to use technology in their personal development and in their learning."