Without a doubt, your 15-year-old daughter can text one-handed while holding her phone under her desk. Your 11-year-old brother leads his own World of Warcraft guild. Your fellow college students are Googling you during the first class you have together. And if you are the professor, you know that your lectures are now competing against the entire Web for your students' attention. Without a doubt, today's youth are tech-savvy. That doesn't mean, however, that their proficiencies automatically grow into literacies, that they appreciate the lasting social implications of an inappropriate photo on Facebook, know how to use a blog as an e-portfolio or a platform for advocacy, understand how to evaluate the validity of what they find when they use a search engine. As a parent, a teacher, an avid user of digital media and participant in networked publics, I am one of those who feels strongly that educators and educational institutions should help young people understand the consequences of their social media practices in their own lives. Although pioneering teachers and librarians like Diana Rhoten, Will Richardson, Buffy J. Hamilton, and Meredith Stewart are igniting enthusiasm and guiding their students' explorations of participatory media for classroom learning, youth adoption of new media has happened too quickly for institutions to react en-masse.
This month I had the pleasure to spend time in Sweden, hosted by Patrik Svensson, Director of the HUMlab at Umea University in northern Sweden, and then with Göran Blomqvist, CEO of Riksbankens Jubileumsfond as well as Arne Jarrick, a prominent historian as well as the Secretary General for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Swedish Research Council. It was a fascinating trip but it was especially exciting to talk with these leaders in the world of academe and philanthropy about digital media and learning. Most interesting to the DMLcentral community were discussions about the Swedish response to its own economic downturn.
A few weeks ago, just before the 2010 THATCAMP, a well-known technology and humanities “unconference,” got underway at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the center’s director, Dan Cohen, and his colleague and co-director, Tom Scheinfeldt, made a radical proposal. In a blog posting called “One Week, One Book: Hacking the Academy," Cohen proposed that conference participants and others following the discussion on Twitter and in the academic blogosphere should assemble a book about digital media and higher education. The mandate was to do the project quickly – in only one week by “crowd sourcing” content – and to create a publishable work that could be mass produced by an established academic publisher while also remaining on the Web in open access form.