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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Youth and technology are like a hand and glove—a natural fit. Inspired by conversations with Time Warner Inc. Office of Corporate Responsibility, this section offers a set of articles on how youth programs are using media and video production to engage youth in participatory evaluation, and the challenges and benefits of using technology in youth programming and other settings.

Steven Goodman, director of the Educational Video Center and author of Teaching Youth Media, describes a program that teaches media literacy and documentary production skills to youth in New York City, with an eye toward fostering civic engagement.

Four high school students walk down a midtown-Manhattan street, outfitted with a video camera and other filmmaking equipment. Each has a different role to play: interviewer, scout, sound operator, and cameraperson. On the third attempt, the designated scout succeeds in bringing a passerby over to the crew. The interviewer introduces the group, explaining that they are students making a documentary about homeless youth in New York City. The sound operator slips the headphones on and nods, signaling that everything is okay. The cameraperson flips open the viewfinder, zooms in, and pushes the record button. The tape starts rolling.

Related Resources

Butler, A., & Zaslow, E. (2004). Voice, self, and community through video production: An evaluation of the long-term impact of the Educational Video Center's youth documentary program. Unpublished manuscript.

Carini, P. F. (1987). On value in education. New York: The City College Workshop Center.

Goodman, S. (2003). Teaching youth media: A critical guide to literacy, video production and social change. New York: Teachers College Press.

Goodman, S., & Tally, B. (1993, August/September). The tape's great, but what did they learn? The Independent Film and Video Monthly, 30–33.

These students are experiencing their first shoot on the street as part of the Educational Video Center's (EVC) documentary workshop. EVC is an independent, nonprofit organization that has worked since 1984 to teach documentary production and media literacy to students while nurturing their intellectual development and civic engagement. Participants come from high schools all across the city; they spend four afternoons each week earning academic credit by collaboratively researching, shooting, and editing a documentary on a social issue of immediate importance to them.

In the 20 years EVC has been offering documentary workshops, students have investigated a broad range of public problems, including the juvenile justice system, AIDS, race relations, equity in schools, foster care, and environmental pollution. In each case, EVC's methodology has successfully engaged some of the most hard-to-reach youth. Its success derives in part from empowering youth by putting video technology into their hands and teaching them to use the visual, sound, and text languages of the media to document their world. Youth learn to operate digital video cameras, and about editing and audio technology. More important, they learn to take a critical, questioning approach to the taken-for-granted problems in their communities and engage with the individuals and grassroots organizations working to improve them. In choosing a subject they care deeply about and presenting it to public audiences, youth develop a sense of their own power as learners and cultural producers.

EVC's methodology can be described by three of its overarching principles:

  1. Students construct knowledge through sustained and collaborative social inquiry. Learning to ask questions is at the heart of the documentary-making process. Youth learn to conduct interviews and other research in their communities and make sense of their findings by editing them into a coherent story.
  2. Students present their work as a product for a public audience, with a public purpose. Students edit together all their tapes into a final, completed product that they present to the public. The school and community screenings and the question-and-answer sessions that follow are opportunities for students to present new perspectives, make marginal voices heard, change ways of thinking and even, in some cases, move audiences to action.
  3. The process of student learning is publicly assessed through portfolio roundtables. Throughout the course of their documentary project, students collect a variety of records, which help them reflect on their intellectual, social, and artistic growth. These records may include journal entries, taped interviews, edit plans, rough-cut edits, research notes, interview questions, tape logs, and phone logs. Students then present this portfolio at a roundtable comprised of members of the community, which may include parents, students, teachers, interviewees, researchers, producers, and artists.

During the roundtables, students refer to rubrics of criteria for skill development and present several drafts of their work to demonstrate their learning over time in various skill areas. Guests are asked not to assign a grade but to look carefully at the work, acknowledge the learning that is evident, and encourage deeper learning through constructive feedback.

This approach to assessment fosters an intergenerational, reflective, and democratic community committed to using media and technology for learning and social change.

To learn more about EVC's library of documentaries and publications, see their online catalog, at

Steven Goodman
Executive Director
Educational Video Center
120 West 30th Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10001

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