Another Round of Interesting Grants for Digital Learning Outside the Classroom

You can't deny the confluence of technology and education. Today, more than ever, students, teachers, artists and scientists are using social media and the Internet to connect the classroom to real life. And in New York, one of the biggest backers of technology in education is the New York Community Trust’s Digital Media Learning Fund, a partnership of foundations and nonprofit organizations such as museums, libraries, code clubs, advocacy groups, higher education institutions, afterschool programs and tech start-ups that, together, invest in innovative education technologies.

Started in 2011 by the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation and the New York Community Trust, the Digital Media Learning Fund is designed to sponsor new and exciting ways to learn, create, and participate beyond the classroom.  

In its four-year existence, some of its grantees have included Parsons The New School for Design ($150,000 for two years), to expand on gadgITERATION, a program that teaches computer engineering and design thinking as students refurbish and add electronic components to found objects like teddy bears; Bank Street College of Education, ($50,000) for Civil Rights Remix, a youth-produced multimedia exhibition connecting contemporary and historic civil rights events in New York City; and Global Kids, ($25,000) for teens involved with the Brooklyn Public Library to create an outdoor treasure hunt that uses GPS-enabled devices to get their peers involved in neighborhood issues.

What’s the thinking behind these types of grants? Well according to Kerry McCarthy, New York Community Trust program officer and manager of the Hive Fund, it’s to take after-school programming to the next level by providing fun, hands-on programs that connect what young people are passionate about—skateboarding, fashion, music, social media, and gaming—with science, technology, engineering, and math.

And its latest round of grants proves just that.    

This year, the fund has announced more than $400,000 in grants that includes a $35,000 grant to Beam Center, to help high school students from the Afro-Caribbean community in Flatbush, Brooklyn make and play steel drums and develop digital sensors and circuits on their instruments to manipulate and remix their music. The New York City Writing Project received $39,200 in funding to bring students and teachers together to improve their digital skills through writing blogs, producing TV shows for the BronxNET youth channel, creating videos with Mozilla's Popcorn Maker, and designing and earning digital badges.

“Hive member organizations have created opportunities for hundreds of students to discover and explore new interests,” said Michael Preston, senior director of digital learning, NYC Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Readiness. “Furthermore, they have helped us demonstrate how partnerships between schools and youth-serving organizations can support interest-driven learning experiences both in and out of school.”

The fund has also made some other interesting grants this year, including to WNYC’s Radio Rookies program, which will produce and distribute a do-it-yourself video series focused on storytelling, and templates for educators to create their own videos. 

For a full list of grants check out the Fund’s website here.