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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.

Faedra Lazar Weiss and Deborah Aubert of Girls Incorporated¹ describe how young women are using video production technology for community needs assessment and action.²

On a typical day a young woman may be confronted with messages from numerous media—radio, television, newspaper, World Wide Web, billboards—before she even gets to school. How will she process this barrage of information? To help young women acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to think critically about media messages—particularly with respect to portrayals of girls and women—Girls Incorporated has launched Girls Inc. Media Literacy. The program is a revised and expanded version of Girls Re-Cast TV, which was first implemented in 1995. The new program aims to teach young women to critique media messages creatively through experiential activities and through the use of media that they generate themselves.

Girls Inc. Media Literacy includes five age-appropriate components for girls and young women ages 6–18: Media and Me, for girls ages 6–8; Media Smarts, for girls ages 9–11; Take a Second Look, for girls ages 12–14; Girls Get the Message, for girls ages 15–18, and the program's fifth, culminating component, Girls Make the Message, for girls ages 14–18.

In this last component, young women learn digital video production skills in community action projects. As they work together to identify issues they care about, conduct research, and take action to address those issues, these young women realize their own power and affirm their rights and responsibilities as active citizens in their community. Through implementing a community action project, they expand their capacity to contribute and bring about positive change.

In the preproduction stage, small groups of participants choose to focus on one issue important both to themselves and to the local community. (The association between teen-on-teen violence and gang membership is one example.) Participants then learn and practice storyboarding, camera, audio, lighting, and interview skills before venturing out to videotape interviews with community members about the chosen issue.

In postproduction, participants learn and use digital video editing skills, such as importing footage; editing clips; adding sound effects, visual transitions, titles, and credits; and exporting work into various formats for exhibitions, including public screenings and web-based presentations. The same techniques and processes are used to craft public service announcements expressing each group's point of view about their topic. At the public screenings, groups share their persuasive community interviews and public service announcements with local notables and the general community.

Throughout the production process, the young women create relationships with interviewees, local media, and unsung as well as acknowledged community leaders. At the same time, the participants, individually and in groups, build portfolios that document changes in their knowledge, skills and confidence—both in video production and as change agents in their community. Portfolios include reflections on program activities, video journals, and certification to use a video camera—based on a comprehensive proficiency test—as well as worksheets, video clips, and similar records of work in progress.

Participants gain a lot in Girls Make the Message; we hope that the community gains even more. Publication of press releases, attendance at the screenings by public figures, ongoing media attention to the issue at hand, and above all, community action inspired by the participants' videos, are the true measures that young women are making a difference.

¹ Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be “strong, smart, and bold.” [This is Girls Incorporated's mission statement. See Girls Incorporated. (2003). Girls Inc. annual report 2003. New York: Author. Available at (Acrobat file).]
² This project is supported by a grant from the Time Warner Inc. Office of Corporate Responsibility.

Faedra Lazar Weiss
Research Associate
Girls Incorporated
National Resource Center
441 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3287
Tel: 317-634-7546 ext. 118

Deborah Aubert
Associate Director, National Programs
Girls Incorporated
National Headquarters
120 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005-3902
Tel: 212-509-2000 ext. 211

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project