The Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative

In 2011 the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative offered a week-long summer institute for teens on the UW campus. With the Summer Digital Literacy Institute is a 5-day intensive media production and digital literacy program, Puget Sound-area youth ages 13 to 19 had instruction that included Common Language Project journalists and Seattle-area media makers and educators‹.

This was the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative's website.
Content is from the site's 2011 archived pages and other outside sources.

Circa 2011

Perspectives: Newsletter of the College of Arts & Sciences

Crossing the Digital Divide

September 2011 issue

Since January 2011, local teens have explored these and related questions through the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative, a program that brings media experts to Seattle-area high schools and youth programs. The Initiative also offers a week-long summer institute for teens on the UW campus.

“Young people are born into a media-saturated world that is innovating at light speed, yet they are rarely given the conceptual and hands-on tools to understand and navigate today’s new media landscape,” says Sarah Stuteville, Initiative director and lecturer in the Department of Communication. “We’re teaching them both where media comes from and how to be producers of media. We want them to see it as something they can make and shape.”

The Initiative was developed by the UW Department of Communication, the UW Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM), and the Common Language Project (CLP), working in close partnership with educational, nonprofit, and private organizations.  The Initiative built on CLP’s existing relationships with local teachers—many of them working in underserved communities—and has led to more than 60 classroom visits at a dozen high schools and youth programs.


The Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative provides training for the next generation of journalists and multimedia storytellers. Programs are offered year round and open to youth ages 13-19.

Learn how to use professional media equipment to share stories in your community. Sign up for a program today!

Digital and media literacy are an ideal framework for providing students with the 21st century life skills they need: critical thinking, self-expression, technological fluency and global awareness. The Seattle region is a leader in technology, media, and online journalism, and the moment is right for this city to emerge as a leader in the increasingly vital field of digital media literacy.

The goal of the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative is to help empower youth in our region as educated consumers and critics of – and producers and participants in – today’s complex media landscape.

The Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative is a joint effort of the Common Language Project and the Department of Communication at the University of Washington.

It’s an adventurous undertaking considering the ages of the kids in the summer institute range from 13-20, but four days into it, the youth are already creating amazing work. Students from various backgrounds are using their creative eye to tell stories about themselves and their peers in non-conventional ways. Some could probably teach the professional journalists a thing or two in the process as everyone is learning from one another.

The youth are putting on a culminating showcase event of all of their work this Friday, July 1st in room 104 of the Communications Building from 2-4pm. It’s free and open to the public. The youth would love for you to stop by if you can make it


The Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative is a great program that has had deserved success as is evident by the fact that the city of Seattle is investing an impressive amount of money in it. 2011 was its initial year. My niece attended and had a blast. I drove her to the UW campus on the first day. She was both excited and nervous. I noticed that she was wearing what she refers to as her good luck rings. They are these fabulous statement rings her mother gave her on her sixteenth birthday. The designer of the rings is from Thailand, the country of our ancestors. The site's name is a play on the name for old Thailand, Siamm Patra. The jewelry is quirky, chic, but also edgy which was perfect for my niece who is developing a unique style sense that is reflected in her writing and photography that she took up during her week at the 2011 Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative Summer Institute. She has been so taken with photography that she decided to major in it at college three years later. I applaud Seattle for its continuing support of this vital initiative.

Jump ahead to 2020. The 2011 Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative Summer Institute seems like it occurred eons ago instead of just under 10 years. This past summer was so radically different from the summer 0f 2011. The Covid 19 pandemic has changed the way we live. My daughter is now living in NYC which after staggering under the enormous outbreak of Civid 19 in the early spring has re-emerged as one of the few places in the US where the pandemic is not out of control. Like many of her friends who have either lost their job or are now working from home, my daughter, as a free lance photographer, has had to make major shifts in her life. Work dried up as clients stopped spending money. The fall has been better with some clients calling her with jobs. Besides her photography work, my daughter also helps build websites with her partner for small businesses. Recently one of her new clients, a renovation contractor, asked if she could recommend any NYC based companies to help them rank in Google for "reupholstery NYC" since they were partnering with an experienced upholstery service to expand their offerings. Since she previously worked for the CEO of the premier seo agency in NYC, she was able to refer them to TNG/Earthling. Anyone who has successfully reupholstered a living room sofa or chair knows how magical the result can be - like getting brand new furniture. In addition to new fabrics, reupholstery usually involves adding padding to restore compressed seating. My daughter amazes me. It's been exciting watching her develop her artistic passions and actually be able to make a living following her dreams. In hindsight the 2011 Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative Summer Institute was a really important experience for her. I applaud Seattle and its ongoing directive by promoting and nurturing digital skills to help its citizens understand and navigate today’s new media marketplace.


Meet the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative

Who We Are

Sarah Stuteville, Initiative Director | 206.403.3931

Sarah is a print and multimedia journalist with the Common Language Project whose work has been published by the Seattle Times, Global Post, the Seattle Weekly and KUOW. She won the 2008 Unity Award for Reporting of Economics, and has won several Independent Press Association Awards, including the 2006 award for Best Feature article, Dismantling a Dangerous Past. She has been teaching media literacy since 2006 and undergraduate journalism since 2009.



Jessica Partnow, Initiative Manager | 206.403.3932

Jessica is a radio journalist with the Common Language Project whose work has been published by NPR, KUOW, The World and the World Vision Report. She was a 2006 Knight New Media Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and her radio series Life on the Duwamish received the 2008 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for News Series. She supports administration of the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative and teaches media literacy, radio production and journalism.



Chantal Anderson, Instructor

Chantal is a student at the University of Washington and a Program Assistant at the Common Language Project. She has produced radio stories for NPR stations throughout the northwest including KUOW, KPLU, and OPB. Additionally she’s created multimedia stories on topics ranging from politics to music for the Seattle Times, the Seattle Weekly, Real Change and the China Daily in Beijing. She’s been awarded the Bob Doble Scholarship, Dick Larsen Washington News Council scholarship, Excellence in Journalism scholarship and won first place in the 2008 National College Media Spot Photo Competition. Chantal provides administrative support to the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative.



Roni Ayalla, Instructor

Roni is a technology instructor at the YMCA of Greater Seattle and a graduate student in the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media program. She helps create and facilitate an array of digital media training programs for youth and adults and is a member of the city’s Citizen’s Telecommunication and Technology Advisory Board.



Michael Bean, Instructor

Michael started working with Seattle youth through Yesler2014, a summer project designed to engage youth living in Yesler Terrace about the redevelopment process of of their home and community. He spent the summer documenting the program in close collaboration with the youth through video, blogging and multimedia presentations. More recently he has taught middle school students the fundamentals of digital storytelling and video production. Michael also does multimedia production for small businesses and organizations, and is an editor and contributing author at several sites for SB Nation, the fastest-growing sports property on the internet. He has edited two acclaimed print publications about the NFL, and his writing has been featured in the Washington Post and New York Times. Michael is a recent graduate of the Masters of Communication in Digital Media program at UW.



Alex Stonehill, Instructor

Alex is a visual journalist and cofounder of the Common Language Project whose work has been published by PBS, The Seattle Times, FRONTLINE/World and the Seattle Weekly. He won the 2008 SPJ Award for Business Reporting, First Place for the feature Bitter Harvest. He teaches photo and video journalism with the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative.






Save the Date: the 2012 Summer Institute will be July 23rd-27th.

More details and registration to come!

Arts & Culture Reporting Camp was a blast!


Saturday February 18 – Monday February 20, 2012 (Presidents Day Weekend 2012)

Over the long weekend, 20 students who love journalism, food, music, and art came together on the UW campus to meet local Arts & Culture reporters, and experience new music, art, and food through field trips around Seattle.

Each student created and published a blog post for based on their reporting.


2012 Summer Institute Update

From June 28th-July 1st, 2011, 25 students (ages 13-20) came together from all over the Puget Sound for a week of photography, audio recording, video editing, and journalism! Watch all of their projects here–you can use the arrows or the thumbnails at the bottom of the video to scroll from slideshow to slideshow.

Through a combination of reallocated City staff time, financial investments, and community partnerships, the City is investing $1.6 million on this Initiative this year, focused on the three prongs of the Action Plan: devices and technical support, skills training, and connectivity.

In the first phase of this work, the City sought input from experts and community members to draft a vision for digital equity for Seattle and to identify opportunities to take action. This included in-depth stakeholder interviews and roundtable discussions, along with engagement of an interdepartmental team and an external Digital Equity Action Committee.

Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan: Phase One - Building the Foundation, July 2015

With the Initiative’s foundation established, the City developed specific strategies based on priorities identified through that input. These were released in March 2016.

Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan: Phase Two - From Vision to Action, March 2016

As the City embarks on our efforts to bridge the digital divide, we will focus on outreach and accessibility, skills training, connectivity, devices and technical support, building community capacity, and inclusive engagement and empowerment.

2019 Update

For more information about the most current as of 2019 Digital Equity Initiative, read this report that Seattle in partnership with Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) developed as a set of Digital Equity Indicators that helps measure Seattle’s progress in meeting the initiative's goals.
Digital skill sets for diverse users
A comparison framework for curriculum and competencies