How Computers Can Impede Spaces of Learning


As a technophile, I’ll be the first to admit it: sometimes computers get in the way of learning. Hopefully that can be something we all agree on, right? I’ve mentioned before that one of the main composition courses I taught last year was held in our school’s computer lab. And while my class took advantage of writing and engaging using the computers, spatially they made learning a challenge. As much as I appreciated the convenience of having all of my students logged into the same Google Docs simultaneously for live editing and commenting, or to be

Towards the Value, Purpose, and Sustainability of Out-of-School Learning


On the basis of the truism about life/success/genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration it is strange that so many initiatives in education – particularly those aimed at engaging youth who may be disenchanted with mainstream schooling or excluded from society for socio-economic reasons – pay so much attention to the initial moments of engagement rather than the long-term problem of consolidation and sustaining growth. This is a challenge for the digital media and learning field and the host of allied and associated programs, community and after-school initiatives, out-of-school and informal learning projects all around the

What “Teaching Computers” Can Tell Us about Teaching Digital Culture


In a recent piece at Locus, Cory Doctorow argues: Computers are the children of the human race’s mind, and as they become intimately involved in new aspects of our lives, we keep stumbling into semantic minefields, where commonly understood terms turn out to have no single, well-agreed-upon meaning across all parts of society. As an example, Doctorow gives the “real names” policies of social network sites like Facebook and Google+. Where it may seem simple for a person to use his or her legal name on a website, Doctorow uses the example of his family, immigrants

The Trouble with Testing


It’s obviously summer because my news alerts are no longer steadily reporting concerns about education, our children’s future, the problems with teachers, etc. Perhaps now, then, is the perfect time to address the issue of testing and its troubles, while a little distance might provide perspective. So, why do we test? What do we hope the tests will achieve? Last summer, Thomas Friedman suggested that parents and teachers view classroom performance as CEOs do economic performance to keep us competitive and to overcome our “education challenge.” In this light, testing helps us know where we stand

Both Sides of the Screen: Museums Seeking Balance in a Digital Age


Museums, like many public sites of informal learning, are struggling to understand the roles digital media can play within their walls. In short, are they an obstacle to engagement or a new path to knowledge? I recently saw both ideas reflected in popular media and the experience left me hoping for a third path between the two extremes. There’s a New Yorker cartoon, published this past March, that shows a mother and child in a museum, the child pointing a device towards a painting. “It’s an audio guide, sweetheart,” the mother explains, “not a remote.” The

Teaching and Learning with Minecraft: Liam O’Donnell


Playing with blocks certainly predates constructionist theories of learning by playing with “tangible manipulatives,” but the culturally universal practice is probably as old as human social learning. What is new is the ability to use simulated blocks to teach comparative religion by enabling students to construct navigable models of famous houses of worship. Or explore biology by assembling giant DNA molecules, or manifest millions of blocks by performing the proper calculations and applying appropriate logical operations. Manipulatives aren’t containers of knowledge, but can be used as “objects to think with,” as Seymour Papert noted more than thirty

‘Reclaim Open Learning’ Innovation Contest


Mark your calendars for Aug. 1! We are looking for proposals that rethink open learning in new ways. The participation of elite research universities in initiatives offering Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has generated considerable discussion within higher education, as well as mainstream and educational media, about the next generation of open learning initiatives.  The New York Times declared that 2012 was “the year of the MOOC,” and The Chronicle of Higher Education announced that it was “the year of the mega-class.”  Alternatives for the free delivery of course content have proliferated in the years since

Edu.txt: Mediating Education


Digital media are increasingly shaping how we produce, transmit and receive knowledge, but do we often pause to think about the techniques which now mediate how we think and know about education and learning? In the field of digital media and learning, the use of the web, digital devices and social media for communicating what we know about learning and education has become entirely normalized. We blog on education, we Tweet learning, we wiki about assessment, we Skype MOOCs, and so on. The stock of knowledge about digital media and learning has escaped from the analogue