Oakland-based young people partner with pro developers and entrepreneurs to propose, develop, and market apps that stoke community engagement.
Welcome to Youth Radio's Mobile Action Lab, where young people partner with professional designers and developers to create mobile apps. Youth Radio first came up with the idea to form a program for teens to make youth-driven apps in 2010, and later that year the proposal was named one of the winners in the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning global competition.
The lab teaches young people to use App Inventor -- developed by Google and now hosted by MIT-- a tool that enables novices to create apps that run on Android devices. Members of the lab also work with graduate students and professional programmers to design web-based and iOS apps. Some of the lab's up-and-coming apps include:
AllDayPlay - AllDayPlay, better known as ADP, is an online radio streaming app for Android devices. The app links users to Youth Radio's live internet radio channel, AllDayPlay.fm, which features interviews with the best DJs in the Bay Area, fresh podcast series, and a mix of hip hop, soul, electronica, house and rock music not being played anywhere else. For more information, visit www.alldayplay.fm/ or download ADP for your Android device here.
ForageCity.com - Forage City is a free, open-source mobile app that allows people to share surplus food in their community. It is Youth Radio's first web-based app, meaning it can run on any smart phone device or desktop with web access. The app is currently in open beta. For more information, visit www.ForageCity.com.
VoxPop - VoxPop is a phone-to-radio app that lets young people listen, record and broadcast their voices to the world. The app is designed for Apple devices, including iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. We're working with field producers to record great audio into the app prior to launch, shooting for fall 2012 publication via iTunes.
Three out of four teens today say they own a cell phone (Lenhart 2012), which often translates to 24/7 access to texts, tweets and the world wide web. Rather than try to suppress this tide of information, we at Youth Radio's Mobile Action Lab members see app creation as an opportunity for young people to engage in science, math, art, design, and business. The broad appeal of mobile technology provides an alternative path to programming and hands-on technology creation for young people who might not reach for a C++ textbook in their free time. It's not just a learning experience for the youth team. Our colleagues repeatedly report that they're inspired by the fresh thinking and design sensibilities young people bring to every step of the process, from ideation through research, prototyping, testing, launch and iteration.
Mobile Action Lab builds on what Youth Radio's best known for:award-winning media stories by young people for global outlets including National Public Radio, The Huffington Post, and iTunes' Public Radio Player. Given challenges in public education and transformations in media worlds, young people need to be creating the digital tools that determine who knows what, how news travels, and what makes change possible.
The Lab's approach applies everything we've learned from working with youth to produce stories. That means young people drive the creative process, and youth-adult collaboration is key. Our partners and advisors include developers who've helped create some of the most popular apps on iTunes, a Facebook co-founder, a world-class expert on copyright and Internet law, and scholars working to promote and understand how young people learn -- and how schooling needs to change -- as a result of digital culture.
While a core youth team works intensely to build apps, the Mobile Action Lab is sponsoring events to expose larger groups of young people to app makers, their processes and products. That's what Youth Radio's Brains and Beakers series, co-developed with Boing Boing's David Pescovitz, is all about. Scientists come to Youth Radio's Downtown Oakland studios to demo their discoveries, methods, and inventions. Students interview the presenters and create media from those conversations. For this December 2010 Brains and Beakers, two of our developer-partners, Nick Kruge and Nick Bryan, showed us how they use mobile devices, failed sports equipment, and even upside-down salad bowls embedded with electronics, to create new musical instruments.
More recently, our speaker series has included tech entrepreneurs like co-founder of 955 Dreams TJ Zark and Mozilla's Ben Moskowitz. Zark explained how tailoring your app to its target audience is similar to planning a party:
Moskowitz filled us in on Mozilla’s mission to make the web “open” and to turn us all into webmakers:
Mobile Action Lab Press Coverage
Here is a selection of some of the past media coverage on our app lab:
EdWeek: App creation inspires student entrepreneurs EdWeek online: Students create apps to help communities Mercury News: Oakland’s Youth Radio uses mobile app Forage City to help residents share food CBS 5 TV: Backyard growers use Forage app to prevent produce waste Oakland Local: Share fruit tree locations for Youth Radio Forage City app DML Hub RIFFS series: Empowering youth through media production, mobile app creation