Annenberg Youth Academy Shifts Online

The Center for Third Space Thinking took our communication-based methodology online this summer during the Annenberg Youth Academy (AYA), a four-week course designed to give students a greater understanding of media, journalism, and essential competencies required for excellence in and out of the classroom.

During the Third Space Thinking workshop, a group of 26 high school students learned the  ACE-IT model for problem-solving.  Dr. Ernest Wilson introduced the students to the five Third Space attributes: adaptability, cultural competency, empathy, intellectual curiosity, and 360 degree thinking.  During this lecture, Dr. Wilson summarized the importance of developing soft skills and using the ACE-IT model by stating, “it's one thing to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic in the classroom and to learn the STEM skills, but what research shows is that, especially for those of us who come from underrepresented communities, our successes in the first year or so year or two of college do not hinge on reading/writing skills, it really hinges on our ability to adapt and to be culturally competent and to be intellectually curious when we get to the campus.”

After the lecture, the students were able to further ground their understanding of the attributes with an activity led by professor Chris Swain. The activity was a Silent Interview where students were paired off and prompted to answer a list of questions about their partners without engaging in any conversation. Some of the questions included “What kind of music does this person listen to?”, “Are they likely to take a leadership role in group activities?” and so on. Students wrote down the answers which they assumed were true for their partners and did not discuss their responses until the end. The activity’s purpose was to encourage students to become more empathetic of one another by discussing why they made the assumption that they did about one another. Asking the question “why” helped students understand each other better as well which, in turn, increased their empathy.

During the discussion following the activity, students expressed their thoughts and what they felt was most valuable about the activity. Several of the students agreed that through AYA workshops, their self-confidence had increased and they felt more prepared to talk about themselves and their accomplishments during job interviews.

Student’s reactions on the activity and lecture were largely positive:

“Before hearing the Third Space Thinking Team’s presentation, I never thought about how being curious about another person can help someone build a friendship. I used to think that asking too many questions about a person’s personal life might be seen as annoying and not appropriate, but my perspective on this definitely shifted after learning about ACE-IT.”

"I think we all have some sort of empathy for one another just because we're part of a similar group of kids and we all have similar passions and goals...but I definitely think this exercise made me more empathetic and just really helped me be more aware of everyone's differences and how we can still connect with one another."

“I am thankful to be part of AYA’s 2020 cohort and have access to the amazing resources that USC Annenberg provides. What the guest speakers have shared and taught during the program have helped me become a better leader, speaker, and journalist.”

“I do think that this is very important to have because especially our generation Now we're so invested in technology and we don't have those conversations that are like so detailed, it's always oh get right to the point. But I think this allows us to invest more into the person and learn more about the person, which can lead to deeper connections and not just like oh yeah I'm doing well, and then move on, you know"