Smart Schools in Sentient Cities


What makes a city “smart?” And, in a “smart city,” what makes a “smart school?” Designers, researchers and commercial technology companies are increasingly concerned with the development of “smarter cities,” “programmable cities”  and “sentient cities” that are augmented with big data, sensor networks, and other computationally programmable processes  and software-supported practices. The smart city is an urban environment with a computational “nervous system.” It appears to have some form of awareness, intelligence, and thoughtfulness, along with some ability to learn and to transform itself. In many smart city programs, themes such as “smarter education” are emerging as important

All About That Badge


I often hear people say, “It’s not about the badge. It’s about the learning.” Well, yes. It is always good to bring the focus back to what we value. But, what if it really is about the badge? What if, by insisting on the learning, we miss something even more social, more fundamental than what is being learned. Before I get booed off the stage for saying this, let me explain. In 2013, each of the 30 Badges for Lifelong Learning projects responded to a series of questions about their first year of badge system design.

Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society


If you’re anything like hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world, one of the first things you do in the morning is check your social media feeds. These are online spaces where we find out what’s happening in our friends’ lives, from engagements to baby photos. Increasingly, however, they’re the places where we first find out about the news of the day. It’s no secret that sales of daily newspapers have been declining rapidly. Apart from the free, tabloid, advertising-supported, “news-lite” papers picked up by commuters on their way to work, we

Connecting Learners Through Hashtags, Focal Points


Like others who have become important co-learners in my personal learning network, I met Dr. Maha Bali, associate professor of practice of the Center for Learning and Teaching at American University in Cairo, through a hashtag. I can’t remember whether it was #ds106 or #etmooc or #clmooc, but it was one of those Twitter conversations that can serve as doorways into new communities of practice. (Hashtags, like the clock in Grand Central Station or Hachiko’s statue outside Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, are what sociologist Thomas Schelling called “focal points” that can help coordinate and introduce strangers in

Rethinking the Web as Picture Book and Soundscape


I have a dear friend who entered graduate studies in my department a bit after I’d started. I will call him Sam. Sam was different. He was one of the few other people who was not white in my program. He was not American. He was not straight. And his home country was a place where all of these things together posed a risk for him, which is why he’d come to the United States in the first place. He and I formed a coalition of brown people, and would spend lots of time talking about

From Courses to Communities


I remember vividly when I received my first account on a UNIX computer that was connected to the Internet. In the early 90s, the Internet in Germany was still in its infancy and only academic institutions and large corporations had reliable access. As a student at the time, I was mostly interested in making films, and I didn’t even own a computer, but things took a different turn. A small black terminal window with some white text and a blinking cursor became my window to a whole new world. A world where people communicated in IRC

Potential and Pitfalls of Digital Reading Platforms for Connected Learning


At the recent Tech for Schools Summit hosted by EdSurge at the USC Rossier School of Education, organizers promised that the event was designed “for educators by educators” and that attendees would “gain exposure to cutting edge tech tools.” I arrived with an interest in learning more about the ways that education technology tools are marketed to teachers and the extent to which these tools offered teachers opportunities to customize Connected Learning experiences for their students. While the daylong event included a keynote address, a student presentation, and 3-minute pitches from some of the start-ups in

The Disappearing Selfie, Part 3


This is the third and last of a three-blog series exploring the selfie as a digital object and the ways in which it posits challenges for us to understand and analyse it as embedded in everyday cultural practices and analysis. While I still await, with bated breath, for Peter Jackson to turn it into a movie so that you don’t have to read the first two posts and can just watch a movie generated entirely of crowdsourced selfes (like the “Selfie anthem,” for instance), here is a very brief summary of what you missed. In the

Reflections on Reading, Learning via Electronic Literature


I am currently teaching “Writing Electronic Literature” and I admit it is one of my favorite classes to teach these days. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps the first is that I have discovered a new found passion for works of literature that originate within digital environments and require digital computation to be read. In the world of electronic literature, the consideration of what might be “literary” is pushed to new frontiers. This is due to both the affordances and constraints of a dynamic computational environment which is harnessed to shape narrative in innovative ways.