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Online Creative Networks for Kids

My colleague Justin Brow is next; he's been involved in the development of and is a researcher in the QUT Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation (iCi). He begins with a brief introduction to the economic role of the creative industries - some 140,000 people are working directly in the CI in Australia, but the focus of CI analysis is now shifting from the production of creative outputs themselves to creative industries' input into other industries; some 160,000 people in Australia work in creative occupations within other industries. A further 150,000 people work in managerial and administrative roles related to the CI, establishing a 'creative trident' of occupations and contributing some $21billion to Australian GDP (this is set to double in the coming years).

Attributes of creative practitioners are that they form communities of common interests, engage in the self-publishing of original creative work, and conduct peer-to-peer communication for skills and knowledge transfer (today, well-known examples of this include MySpace, YouTube, and DeviantART, as well as SBS's new site also ties into this, of course, and is a part of the Youth Internet Radio Network project (YIRN) in iCi, which addressed marginalised Queensland youths to link urban, regional, remote, and indigenous creative communities. It investigated how creative ecologies could influence one another, and hoped to create economic pathways for regional development and sustainability. The creative workshops which are part of this enable expression through creativity, and increase participants' self-esteem and literacy levels in the process.

There are now a number of further online creative network projects at QUT: Erica McWilliam's site for the Creative Workforce Programme in iCi, which hopes to develop a school network across Australia (involving 20 schools nationwide); Justin's own 60Sox project which looks at the pathways between training and profession in the digital content industries; Sticky 'Junior' for early childhood educators, providing learning tools and generating a cross-culture knowledge network. Overall, these networks help optimise workforce capacity in and for digitally enhanced environments, offer serious play as a means to building creative capacity, help to develop participants' expression and social skills through experimentation in safe anonymous spaces, identify common interests across age groups, transfer skills and knowledge in a shared environment, develop a knowledge of licencing and attribution models from creative commons to copyright, and build an electronic portfolio which enables kids to identify their key creative skills.

For teachers, the sites remove the top-down approach to education, facilitate students' technological engagement without teachers needing to be 'experts' in the field, and help teachers keep abreast of technological innovation and trends while also educating them about intellectual property licencing.

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