Digital Media Academy encourages girls to embrace technology

Twenty girls spent two summer weeks before heading to middle school at the University of Louisville learning to tell their stories and envision their futures through digital media.
Digital Media Academy encourages girls to embrace technology

Run through the College of Arts & Sciences’ English Department, the Digital Media Academy students, who just completed fifth grade at two Jefferson County elementary schools, will spent June 15-26 learning to use software to produce videos – much like early preparation for the tech-training skills sought in the Code Louisville effort that President Barack Obama spotlighted recently.

“We view the development of girls’ digital literacy as an issue of both economic and social justice,” said UofL English Professor Mary P. Sheridan, in an article published in College Composition and Communication in June 2015. “Economically, girls could earn far more in STEM-related fields than in most other careers, but women are woefully underrepresented in fields such as engineering. According to a Stanford Study, one contributing factor is that women lack role models and have fewer ‘technical problem-solving opportunities through K-12 compared to men.’ That’s something the DMA hopes to redress.

“As far as social justice, we believe girls need to see a greater range than the pervasive sexualized and commercialized representations of women,” Sheridan went on to say. “The Digital Media Academy seeks to help girls create their own alternatives and representations.”

In its second year, the academy is designed to increase the girls’ problem-solving confidence and technological competence through digital storytelling about the communities they’ll one day help shape. Their team-produced videos will be shown at the academy’s end. Students will receive iPod Touch devices to keep, thanks to UofL’s Liberal Studies Project. The work also is intended to help combat the oft-cited summer slide in reading and writing skills. This is particularly important for those transitioning to middle school.

The English department offers the free “Design Your Community” workshops for students chosen from Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts School and Cochran Elementary School.

The camp is run by five UofL doctoral students in the Rhetoric and Composition Ph.D. program. Led by Sheridan and English professor Andrea Olinger, these graduate students will design, teach, operate and evaluate the camp, all the while learning valuable team-teaching with technology skills. They hope to publish and present their research in the coming academic year.

Camp includes a visit from the Velocity MakerMobile trailer laboratory outfitted with technological “maker” tools and a Freedom Park tour to learn about civil rights leaders.

The Digital Academy organizers’ ultimate goal is to empower these female students through education, and to create a space for them where they can see themselves as active producers of technology, not just passive consumers.

For more information, contact Sheridan at 502-852-6801 or or doctoral student Michelle Day at