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The Digital Media Program, known as DigMe, is a college-preparatory program focusing on the innovative use of emerging technologies to enhance student learning. This program is a partnership between the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development and Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. DigMe’s mission is to empower students to think critically, build meaning and demonstrate their understanding across all subjects by applying college preparatory, project based learning using digital technologies.

Persistent disparities in educational achievement and high school retention underscore the urgent need to understand settings that promote success in adolescents at risk for academic failure. Our research investigates how engagement in learning is shaped by participation in a program that features a technology-mediated curriculum within a high-poverty, urban high school. To closely examine the sociocultural contexts of learning, Activity Theory (Engeström & Cole,1997; Engeström, 1999) provides a framework for examining human activity as mediated by symbolic tools that have particular meanings and uses within activity settings. Findings will inform K12 instructional practices and identify strategies for promoting academic success for underserved youth.

New practices related to digital media provide for a new set of tools that can transform typical classroom culture by 1) engaging students in participatory learning, 2) offering new forms of classroom interaction, and 3) restructuring how communities are formed within the class. Bringing digital media into the classroom capitalizes and builds on the features of engaged learning among adolescents in non-formal, out‐of‐school contexts, including an emphasis on collaboration, media production, and identity representation (Lankshear & Knobel, 2007; Lewis & Fabos, 2005; Beach & O’Brien, 2008).

Quotes from Students

“What we’ve learned, we can take to the real world. Our teacher is 
so passionate about what she’s teaching us. We’re our own critics now.”

“In DigMe, we dig deeper into what we see on the surface and we ask 
questions. It makes you think. Think hard!


“Our teacher taught us ways to see if the information is accurate or 
not, and not to google everything because there are other sources out 
there. I will definitely take that skill to college.”


Cool in School Feature – Kare11 (February 2010):

“The Name Says DigMe – and They Do” (UMNews):

“Twittering Your Way to Better Grades” (US News and World Report):

Interview on Future Tense Program (National Public Radio):


Dockter, J., Haug, D., & Lewis, C. (2010, February). Redefining Rigor: Critical Engagement, Digital Media, and the New English/Language Arts. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 418–420.

Lewis, C., Scharber, C., & Dockter, J. (2010, April). Rigor and Relevance: Digital Media Studies in an Urban High School. LeadCast Blog. Leadscape: Online tools & resources for principals, school leaders, and educators. Arizona State University. [http://www.niusileadscape.org/bl/?p=429 ]

Scharber, C. (2010, December). Analyzing urban neighborhoods: A critical engagement project in DigMe geopgraphy. Paper presented as part of symposium session at the annual meeting of the National Reading Conference/Literacy Research Association, Fort Worth, TX.

Scharber, C., R. Beach, and C. Lewis (2010, April). Analyzing Critical Engagement in an Urban High School Digital Media Program. Symposium session at the Digital Media and Learning Conference, San Diego, CA.


This joint partnership between Roosevelt High School and the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota is supported in part by grants from the Spencer Foundation, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs @ UMN, and Guy Bond Endowment for Reading and Literacy at UMN.


Additional References

Beach, R., & O’Brien, D. G. (2008). Teaching popular culture texts in the classroom. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. Leu (Eds.), Handbook of research on new literacies (pp. 775–804). New York: Erlbaum.

Engeström, Y. (1999). Activity theory and individual and social transformation. In Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen, & R. Punamaki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 19-38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Engeström, Y., & Cole, M. (1997). Situated cognition in search of an agenda. In D. Kirshner & J. A. Whitson (Eds.), Situated cognition: Social, semiotic, and psychological perspectives (pp. 301-310). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2007). Sampling “the new” in new literacies. In M. Knobel & C. Lankshear (Eds.), A New Literacies Sampler (Vol. 29, pp. 1-24). New York: Peter Lang.

Lewis, C., & Fabos, B. (2005, October-December). Instant messaging, literacies, and social identities. Reading Research Quarterly, 40(4), 470-501.



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