Recently, TV producer and educator Kit Laybourne
Posing for some goofy “selfies” was part of the day’s activities, and Laybourne was an enthusiastic participant. “Statistics show kids are watching screens for the better part of nine hours every day,” he said, “but they’re only doing creative stuff about 3 percent of the time. We want to show them there’s a better way to use these incredibly powerful devices.”
Thirteen-year-old Jameel Richardson said he was having a lot of fun experimenting with self-portraits. “Definitely, selfies can be art,” he said.
Laybourne, husband of Vassar Trustee Geraldine Laybourne ’69, is part of a team that also includes Vassar students, faculty and alums who hatched the idea for the camp this spring. He took part in a spring semester class at Vassar on teens’ use of smartphones taught by Sociology Prof. William Hoynes and Psychological Science Prof. Abigail Baird. Vassar alum Mary Ellen Iatropoulos ’05, director of
Iatropoulos says the training the students are receiving is unique. “As far as we know, this is the only program of its kind in the country,” she says. “In a traditional model of teaching, I’d give the students and lecture and then give them some exercises to perform based on what I’d told them. Under this new method, we give the kids these devices up front and let them begin to figure out what they can do.”
Each day of the camp had a different theme. Topics included using YouTube, making movie trailers, Internet security and how to detect “fake news.”
Three Vassar students who took the spring semester class with Hoynes and Baird are acting as counselors at the camp. Laura Zapien ’20,
John Bradley, director of Vassar’s Urban Education Initiative, said he was confident that the discoveries the students were making would change the way they use their smartphones. “We have entered an age where mobile technology is changing our everyday lives,” Bradley said. “We hope through the Digital Literacy Camp, we can educate the campers about using technology for a positive force in their lives.”