By Sara Bernard

Over the past five years, more than 27,000 students from Australia to Senegal to San Francisco have made films and other media about a wide range of subjects — from young refugees, to how to improve public education in the U.S., to environmental preservation, racial and gender discrimination, and more. They’ve produced their work in and outside of school and have taken it to festivals like Cinequest and Sundance.

The common thread with all these projects is Adobe Youth Voices (AYV), which is part of the Adobe Foundation. As a non-profit arm of a for-profit company, AYV supports  youth media and education organizations (including Listen Up!, the Bay Area Video Coalition, Reel Works, Radio Rookies, iEARN, and the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network) by providing grants, collaborative partnerships, professional development, tech tools and resources, and a worldwide network of teachers, students, and professionals making media together.

The premise behind the program: Media-making enables students to express themselves, address important global issues, and — as they’re using the latest technology to work on community-based projects, still a rare breed in most classrooms – to “bridge that gap between school and what’s going to happen when they leave school,” says AYV program manager Patricia Cogley.

The National Youth Listening Tour, for instance, is a program sponsored by the Department of Education to help reduce dropout rates and improve public education through youth input, and AYV student media will be featured in Boston, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Project VoiceScape is a new partnership between Adobe Youth Voices, the PBS Foundation, and PBS’ POV that pairs young people with award-winning documentary filmmakers to help mentor emerging artists and showcase their work at festivals nationwide.

And through a partnership with, anyone can help support specific school projects such as “What Matters Most: Kids Find Their Voice Using Technology,” a multimedia project for fourth and fifth graders in Seattle, WA.

While most of the work AYV does is through partnerships with other foundations or media organizations, interested teachers and project leaders can now access AYV Essentials: free curricula, lesson plans, student stories, and other resources that AYV staff have combed through and tagged as particularly successful.

AYV’s aim is not “to convince everyone to be media-makers,” though, says Cogley. “It’s about engagement. Young people who identify that they have a story to tell or a message to give to a community experience a real boost in self-esteem. They start to see that their opinion matters.”

(Check here for a recent round table discussion with AYV senior manager Miguel Salinas and lead educator Gregg Witkin about 21st century learning and arts education on KQED’s Forum).

  • I’m a student assistant for the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at UC Irvine. I think it’s great to see how what we strive to learn about at DML Central in regards to digital media and the role it plays today is exactly displayed here in this article. I really get the sense of how these different forms of projects that incorporate digital media are getting young children to be more active both educationally and creatively. At DML Central, one of the things we’re keen on seeing is how people are connected globally through digital media. Seeing that these students are connected to the outside world through the different projects they’re taking on is great to hear.

  • MissTeacher Shanks

    I work with students in the United Arab Emirates in a private school with over 30 countries in our student body. I am hoping to learn how I might get my own international students involved in projects like these.

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