"Young people today use social media not only to stay connected with their real-world friends, but also to engage in self-expression and identity formation," said first author Martin Lalonde from Concordia University.
In the new book 'Youth Practices in Digital Arts and New Media', Martin Lalonde and his supervisor Juan Carlos Castro investigate how an after-school programme in Quebec is revolutionising learning for at-risk youth by using social media as a teaching tool, rather than a classroom annoyance.
Castro and Lalonde engage with students and educators at Maison Kekpart, a Montreal-area community centre for at-risk youth.
The centre offers a unique programme known as La Releve, which provides professional work experience for young people facing academic challenges.
Students ranging in age from 13 to 17 participate in an internship in multimedia production, led not by traditional teachers, but by artists, who themselves are active in those areas.
The goal: help kids become more engaged in their formal schooling by giving them the tools to use social media to build the professional, civic and social competencies that will guide them through their adult life.
"La Releve taps into that natural, social impulse and uses it to show participants that they can use those outlets to build professional skills," Lalonde said.
"Through La Releve, they learn skills that can help them express themselves more clearly, as well as land a job.
"At the same time, they start to actively understand that education can be useful to them, and that it can directly apply to their lives.
"That's an attitude that they then take back to their regular school settings," said Castro, an assistant professor of art education.