kids on bike

The proliferation of mobile, location-aware technologies is opening new opportunities for youth to learn about analyzing data as well as influence the shape of their communities.

Katie Headrick Taylor, assistant professor of learning sciences and human development in the University of Washington College of Education, presented her research with inner-city youth living in mobility deserts — neighborhoods cut off from other areas by foot or bicycle, making young people dependent upon cars — at the American Educational Research Association’s 2016 annual meeting.

In her research, Taylor equipped youth with GPS devices and head cameras as they rode bicycles through their neighborhoods. These place-based technologies enabled young people to counter-map their neighborhood and share ideas with urban planners and other local stakeholders.

“Youth were not only learning how to collect data, but also thinking about and analyzing the patterns that they saw in it,” Taylor said. “They thought about how this data reflected built infrastructure issues that were constraining their daily lives.”

The research and advocacy of the young people involved in the project led the city to create a new bike lane and make other changes to the neighborhood’s infrastructure that improved young people’s ability to move around the city.

Taylor said her research points to the opportunities for using mobile technologies to engage young people in issues that are relevant to their daily lives and foreground their personal experiences to public officials.

“I believe in the idea that the learning that young people and all people do should contribute to the social and ecological well being of themselves and their communities,” Taylor said. “This work is an example of how processes of learning can teach the city something about youth voice, youth perspective and youth lived experienced that would otherwise be invisible.”

In the future, Taylor is interested in exploring how Seattle youth are impacted by the opening of new light rail stations as well as the tools and technologies that young people want to engage with in their lives.

“Organizing experiences for youth to actually feel like their perspectives are being heard and having data to back up their arguments is an empowering opportunity,” Taylor said. “We can give youth voice to speak to issues happening in their community.”


Katie Headrick Taylor, Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development

Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications