I downloaded the 58 page whitepaper from the MacArthur Foundation: Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. I've only browsed through it so far and it will be a good read some time in the near future.
It explores in some detail the 3 "genres of participation with new media": hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. And in the concluding section it has this: "Peer-based learning has unique properties that suggest alternatives to formal instruction." Here is what I found VERY interesting:
"In contrast to what they experience under the guidance of parents and teachers, with peer-based learning we see youth taking on more "grown-up" roles and ownership of their own self-presentation, learning, and evaluation of others." Isn't this the "mantra" of many school mission statements, that we make our students love learning and to become lifelong learners??? And yet it sounds to me like the students have figured this out without our (i.e. the schools) help!?!
And on the same page another money quote:
"In contexts of peer-based learning, adults can still have an important role to play, though it is not a conventionally authoritative one. In friendship-driven practices, direct adult participation is often unwelcome, but in interest-driven groups we found a much stronger role for more experienced participants to play. Unlike instructors in formal educational settings, however, these adults are passionate hobbyists and creators, and youth see them as experienced peers, not as people who have authority over them." Isn't this what the truly GREAT teachers are-- passionate and creative???
Download and read this report for yourself: http://www.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7BB0386CE3-8B29-4162-8098-E466FB856794%7D/DML_ETHNOG_WHITEPAPER.PDF