Pop-Up University


If Rheingold U, my current experiment in cultivating wholly online, multimedia, unaccredited, for-not-much-pay learning communities, originally germinated out of fun and impulse, the next stage was more scary-serious. As soon as I took people’s money and started telling the world about my intentions, I was obligated as well as motivated to make it work – not just to deliver a rich set of learning materials, but to conjure actual social learning magic. Networked social learning is most effective and truly magical when students who don’t know one another one day start scouring the world for knowledge

What Are Digital Literacies? Let’s Ask the Students


Two weeks ago I blogged on DML Central on “Doing Better by Generation Y” and the tendency for pundits to criticize Gen Y’s absorption with new media, critique how little they know, blame their lack of attention, and castigate their inability to sustain real friendships (rather than “superficial” social networks).  I argued that, even if this point of view were correct, it neither helps young people by providing them with better ways of understanding the social imperatives of the Internet culture into which they were born, nor does it recognize the social media skills students do

Getting Serious About Reimagining Learning in the Digital Age


I want to have a conversation about what it’s going to take to turn schools around and why digital media — as it’s currently being used — isn’t yet helping. I’m going to start with a not-so-subtle secret: if we want to be innovative and if we want to make a significant impact on public schools (statistics suggest we should), we’re going to have to conduct work in schools. As broken as the current schooling system may seem, as much as we may belabor the ongoing gutting of arts, the mass-testing, and the lack of technology

When Robots Write


Robots are always in the news, it seems. Whether they are serving as caregivers for the elderly or helping solve the Japanese nuclear crisis, robots are becoming an increasingly important part of contemporary life. Even though we all don’t yet own a personal robot assistant, there is a way in which automated processes are part of all of our lives: in the many bots that make the data structures of the Internet possible. Bots aren’t robots in the traditional sense, but rather are computer programs that scour the Net performing increasingly complex tasks. In his fascinating

“We are Meant to Pulse”


Topping the new recommended resources list from Global Kids is “Gaming to Re-engage Boys in Learning,” a provocative video looking at the discrepancies in performance and achievement between boys and girls aged 3 to 13 and discussion of why school culture itself may be alienating to male students. Central to instructional designer Ali Carr-Chellman’s arguments are the lack of male representation in teaching, zero tolerance policies that disproportionately affect boys and the anti-gaming rhetoric of some schools that is hostile to youth invested in game culture. Though Carr-Chellman sidesteps the broader issue of what social factors

How Can We Help Miguel?


One of the hardest parts of doing fieldwork is hearing difficult, nuanced stories that break my heart.  The more complicated the story, the harder it is to tell, but I feel a responsibility to at least try.  Given how many educational reformists read this blog, I want to provide a portrait of some of the teens I’ve met who are currently being failed by the system.  My goal in doing so is to ask a hard question: how do we help these specific teens?  Let me start with Miguel. Miguel is 17 and in the 10th

Doing Better By Generation Y


When Lauren Sanders concentrates on her childhood memories, she can recall “the fuzzy sounds of dial-up Internet and the generic female voice cheerfully state, ‘You’ve Got Mail.’” Born in 1990, Lauren is an official member of “Generation Y,” defined by Wikipedia as “marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.” She notes that’s she’s grown up “around computers and other forms of technology” so, when she registered for my class, “This Is Your Brain on the Internet,” she was sure she “knew everything about the World Wide Web, and its use

School, Work and Play: Decoding Digital Age Shifts


Learning with digital media is often articulated through an affective vocabulary of play, informality, enjoyment, and creativity, as opposed to the formality, standards and routines of conventional schooling. This difference in the language of learning corresponds with changing patterns in work. Employers now claim they want to hire more playful and creative recruits with portfolios of experience in social networking and online virtual worlds.  The 21st Century Workforce Mindset The links between schooling, culture, and employment are now changing as the growth of an “interactive economy” places new demands on youth both as potential consumers of