Groups – Newton_Street_Study_Group


Newton Street collaborates with organizations to design and manage custom, interest-based programming, networking opportunities and trainings.

Case Study: 

Digital = Journalism​

A journey towards the frontier of newspaper journalism


In 2014, Newton Street launched Digital = Journalism. We partnered with local school journalism teams, local and national associations and the MacArthur Foundation’s DML (Digital Media & Learning) online platform, Pursuitry to offer networking opportunities, information and training support for digital journalism.


Digital = Journalism offers an introduction to the community, tools and ideas shaping news media today. We are not interested in long lectures on computer science. We want to play. We want to experiment. We want to create news.

Conversations with Journalists who Code. Lightning lectures. Mentor support. A digital media skills program for collaborating student journalists.


Digital media has transformed the way journalists present and share news. The power to create and manage digital presentations gives every journalist more opportunities: opportunities to engage readers, to capture jobs and to tell better stories.


Online and in person. Professional journalists, academics, technology and media professionals and Tableau Public came forward with time and instructional support. Most of our interactions were digital. Additionally, we leveraged the incredible wealth of tutorial and online classroom instruction available to digital journalists. We created a website, a blog, a twitter feed and a letter writing campaign that garnered support and encouragement locally and as far away as Spain. Young journalists started creating their own data sets and scraping data from the web. High school students made requests for data from academic researchers. Best of all, fascinating interactive data stories appeared on the web. 

From the Digital = Journalism files

What guides our programming?

The Power of Play

Scot Osterweil @MIT suggests that there is powerful link between play and learning. When we take the play-like aspects out of learning, we make it more difficult for students to learn.

• Play is not frivolous.

•  As we play, we develop models of the world, prepare for and develop deeper levels of understanding through our play.

• It is in play that we, like all animals learn how to interact and and how to make decisions.


1. Freedom to experiment
No one says this is how you should play with the blocks.
2. Freedom to fail
No one says, “Don’t let blocks fall down!” Play would not be fun if you weren’t allow to mess up.
3. Freedom to try out identities
We are allowed to play out all kinds of roles: good guys and bad guys, authority figures and aliens. 

4. Freedom to act with or without effort
We Once you HAVE to do it, it isn’t really play!

The power of critical thinking and metacognitive skills 

Thinking skills are the essential ground guiding all our work. 

Research at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Mimi Ito’s work for MacArthur Digital Media and Learning suggests young people lack the skills to find and coordinate resources into a meaningful learning pathways. 

Both studies conclude that young people’s search is “chaotic, socially driven and messy.” More importantly, these studies suggest that young people’s ability to evaluate the quality of the information they do find is similarly poor with consequences that reach outward to the societal level.

The ability to adequately deal with the multifaceted information quality challenge is not a youth-specific issue that resolves itself once an individual reaches adulthood. Rather, the relevant skills, or the lack thereof, will significantly shape the ability to navigate cyberspace throughout a user’s life”
Youth and Digital Media: From Credibility to Information Quality (February 16, 2012). Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2012-1

Search and evaluation are skills that once mastered, allow learners to move seamlessly from opportunity to opportunity.

The Power of Pull

We organize our programs to respond to student questions and interests using the Power of Pull. 

What is that?

“John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and the director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) often talks about “The Power of Pull”—how instead of stocking assets and resources, we should pull them, as we need them. Instead of pushing intelligence, orders and “stuff” from the center, one should create a context where we can pull them from our networks. Instead of planning every detail, one could embrace serendipity and chart a general trajectory, pulling the things together in a highly contextual and agile way.” From the blog of  Joi Ito, director of the Media Lab @MIT 

How you learn

Take a moment to think about the last thing you learned. How did you learn it?

Overwhelmingly learners report, learning doesn’t happen in lectures.

And pedagogical research bears this out. Humans learn more effectively through action than by passive reception. We need to talk to people. We need to try things out.

We do to learn.​

Learning is Participatory:

When you interact as you learn

1. you have to explain
2. defend a position
3. model what you know.

These activities are the very engines of learning.

Peers are great teachers. If you’ve only recently learned something, you still know where the difficulties to comprehension lie; it’s not that long ago that you were hung up on those issues. It’s hard for experts and teachers to remember what those stumbling blocks to understanding are. They  can no longer access the experience of finding a problem difficult.

The stereotype we have about thinking as a solitary activity doesn’t turn out to be so valid. Teams working creatively can make better progress towards stated goals. 

Peer Instruction for Active Learning - Eric Mazur

What’s the evidence? Participatory learning research suggests that when peers team together to solve problems around common interests they are more likely to learn. We believe that when learners reach out to extend their social net as a part of learning, they become more confident and autonomous. Read more about Eric Mazur’s work at Harvard.

Henry Jenkins @USC and Learning Lives in the UK have done great work to establish the basis for these claims. They also have contributed a clear set of guidelines:

The power to motivate and facilitate learning lies not in the technological tools themselves, but in the social interactions they afford. According to Jenkins (2006), the key characteristics of participatory cultures enabled by new media are low barriers to individual expression and engagement, strong support for creativity and sharing one’s creations, and informal mentorship of less experienced participants. In successful cultures of participation, individuals believe their contributions matter and care about how their creations are viewed by others.  The Digital Youth Network website

  1. Heightened motivation and new forms of engagement through meaningful play and experimentation
  2. Learning that feels relevant to students’ identities and interests
  3. Opportunities for creating and solving problems using a variety media, tools and practices
  4. Co-configured expertise where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the tasks of teaching and learning
  5. An integrated learning system where connections between home, school, community and world are enabled and encouraged