New for DML2016: Geek Out Day Features Hands-on Workshops

On behalf of all of us at the DML Research Hub, I’m using this blog as an open invitation to our 7th annual Digital Media and Learning Conference, taking place Oct. 5-7 at UC Irvine. New this year: “Geek Out Day,” Oct. 5, featuring three- and six-hour workshops on such topics as civic engagement, designing online courses, digital storytelling, learning analytics, using Minecraft to teach academics and building youth social capital.

Experts in their field will lead the nine workshops and participants should expect to fully immerse themselves. In fact, space is limited so seats are available on a first-come first-served basis.

The workshops’ co-organizer, Justin Reich, puts it this way: “The DML Conference Geek Out Day is going to be an incredible day of learning together. The workshops are being led by some of the leading lights in the field, and it’s going to be a great opportunity to develop new skills while forging new connections with people in a terrific community.”

The following are the workshops and what they entail:

  • Slow Meets Social Media: Digital Storytelling, Listening, and Learning Via Out of Eden,” led by Carrie James and Liz Dawes Duraisingh, of Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek.
    This course explores strategies for leveraging social media in ways that promote slow observing and slow listening, and consider the value of having such learning experiences take place within the context of diverse online communities that expose young people to a variety of perspectives. Drawing from Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk and Project Zero’s Out of Eden Learn initiative, participants will experience the activities and platform designed to promote digital storytelling, listening, and learning. Emphasis will be on the value of integrating slow, low-tech and/or offline creative activities with opportunities to connect and share with others via social media. Participants will engage with Salopek’s journalism, try out activities from the Out of Eden Learn initiative, engage with fellow participants and develop ideas for incorporating the leaders’ broad principles or specific activities into their own practice.

  • Power Brokers: Building Youth Social Capital through Connected Learning,” led by Dixie Ching, New York University doctoral candidate; DML Hub Research Director Mimi Ito; University of Washington’s Philip Bell; and Stanford’s Brigid Barron.
    The connected learning approach posits that when learning is connected across settings, it is more resilient and likely to lead to educational, civic, and economic opportunity. Research has demonstrated that many young people struggle to connect their interests and informal learning to their school-based learning and opportunities in their communities. This is particularly true for young people whose parents aren’t actively brokering these connections, and whose social networks don’t include others with high educational and economic attainment. Educators and learning institutions can play a critical role in brokering those connections. This workshop will bring together researchers, educators and designers who are studying, creating, and testing ways of brokering and connecting learning across settings. This will be a working meeting with presentations and small group discussion to hash out key frameworks, design features, and findings. Submissions from a variety of disciplinary approaches and learning organizations are welcome. Applicants to the workshop will submit short papers, and selected papers will be published in online proceedings for the workshop. Participants also will be invited to submit a longer paper to be considered for a special issue of the International Journal of Learning and Media on the workshop theme.

  • Learning Games Design Jam: Crafting Learning in Minecraft,” led by Katie Salen Tekinbaş, of Institute of Play and Connected Camps, and Greg Livingston, of Connected Camps.
    Kids love Minecraft. Its open-ended, Lego-esque quality offers flexibility and variety when it comes to the crafting of in-game experiences, be they rollercoasters, haunted houses, design jams, or games. While learning how to do things is a natural part of growing one’s expertise in the game, designing experiences with explicit learning outcomes requires some applied know-how. Crafting Learning In Minecraft explores how key principles of game-like learning can be applied to the design of learning activities for youth. In this hands-on workshop, participants will work individually or in pairs to conceive of, design, build and playtest a learning activity in Minecraft. Activities will be designed on one of ConnectedCamps’ multiplayer servers, with support from a team of in-room and in-game design and learning experts.

  • Transmedia Worldbuilding for Civic Engagement,” led by USC’s Sangita Shresthova and Gabriel Peters-Lazaro.
    Transmedia worldbuilding is an approach to creative collaboration in which practitioners build on shared values to create a fantastic vision of the future. After brainstorming the large-scale contours of a future world, workshop participants will craft human-scale narratives within that shared fictional space and then reflect on the themes of the stories as pathways to understanding contemporary concerns of their home communities. In this way, imagination provides a point of entry to discussions of civic engagement and activism so that participants will be guided through the planning stages of a participatory transmedia experience that integrates storytelling and civic action across multiple platforms by any media necessary.
  • Crafting Connected Courses,” led by MIT’s Justin Reich and web mechanic Alan Levine.
    Connected courses are learning environments where participants form a networked community explore a topic of mutual interest, such as photography, digital storytelling, large-scale learning, feminist pedagogy and data analysis. They are characterized by an emphasis on student interest and agency, and they build upon ideas embedded in theories of connected learning. The technology platforms that support connected courses empower student ownership of online spaces, and they emphasize building networks over delivering content. Participants will investigate the theory and pedagogy behind connected courses, explore and experiment by participating in existing courses, and then begin to develop the technology infrastructure to facilitate their own connected courses.
  • Capturing Connected Learning When and Where it Happens: A Workshop on Program Evaluation,” led by Bill Penuel, of the University of Colorado, and Stanford’s Vera Michalchik and Nick Wilson.
    Participants in this workshop will build the foundation for evaluating programs supported by libraries, youth development sites, and other organizations that promote connected learning by creating experiences for youth who are participatory, socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational opportunity. Beginning with detailed descriptions of each program’s features and the notable and interesting ways youth engage with these features, participants will help one another articulate a “theory of change” for each program, including the types of outcomes, benefits, and influences the program’s activities are intended to produce. Aided by research on connected learning and sharing commonalities across their programs, participants will identify targets for measurement, outline a candidate evaluation plan, and map data collection approaches and identify instrument needs and possibilities for their plans. Participants will leave the workshop with increased capacity for reflective program improvement, answering their own questions about how to best serve their constituencies, and also with new tools for documenting and presenting the value of their work to funders and other stakeholders.
  • Learning Analytics in Informal Spaces,” led by Nichole Pinkard and Caitlin K. Martin, of the Digital Youth Network, and Charles Lang, of New York University.
    Today’s young people participate in multiple forms of learning across platforms and over time, which has resulted in an explosive growth of learner data. Processing and interpreting this data is a non-trivial task, and many questions about best practices and methodological conventions remain for the many stakeholders involved: learners, parents, technology vendors, educators, administrators and policy makers. The burgeoning field of learning analytics attempts to investigate this space with the express aim of better understanding learning patterns and processes. This workshop will focus on learning analytics in informal environments with an online component.
  • Designing Youth Participatory Action Research Pathways: Toward Collaborative Inquiry, Participatory Culture, and Social Justice,” led by Nicole Mirra, of the University of Texas at El Paso; Antero Garcia, of Colorado State University; and Columbia University doctoral candidate Danielle Filipiak.
    Digital media platforms allow more voices than ever before to dialogue about issues of public concern. These platforms offer particularly exciting opportunities for young people to wrestle with the most pressing issues of our time while developing identities as citizens and scholars. How can educators design digital learning experiences with, rather than for, young people, building upon the principles of connected learning and treating youth as knowledge producers oriented toward social action and justice as they navigate digital and analog environments? This workshop offers youth participatory action research (YPAR) as a framework for inquiry that pushes back on traditional models of the key actors (youth), processes (participatory), and purposes (action) of learning and research in classroom, community, and digital spaces. Participants will learn not only from the presenters, but also from educators and students in Los Angeles who use YPAR in formal and informal learning contexts. They also will explore connections between YPAR, youth organizing, and participatory politics by interacting with scholars across the educational spectrum.
  • Creating Inclusive Maker Programs and Environments,” led by Indiana University’s Kylie Peppler, and Jessica Ross, of Project Zero.
    The maker movement emphasizes learning through making. With its roots in the do-it-yourself culture, making can span low-tech activities, such as crafting and sewing, to high-tech activities such as 3D printing or laser cutting. Maker activities and programs have been used in schools, in libraries, in museums, and in a variety of other environments. This workshop focuses on how to leverage such making to be inclusive of a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. It is a hands-on workshop to design maker activities, opportunities, and environments that connect to a variety of non-dominant communities, and will explore a variety of ways that programs and spaces can be designed for inclusive learning.

The workshops are designed for in-depth exploration and selected participants will be listed on the workshop websites.  

Take it from David Theo Goldberg, executive director of the DML Research Hub and director of the University of California’s Humanities Research Institute, which houses the Hub: “The focus of the DML Conference this year is on design and making. The new workshop day is designed to bring people together to think through design principals and possibilities, and to think together about building on the basis of the best design practices. The workshops will provide a creative space for thinkers and practitioners, designers and makers to come together to imagine and make in the best tradition of connected learning.”

“Geek Out Day” will be followed by two days of dynamic discussions on digital media and learning, featuring a keynote address by Constance Steinkueler, professor in digital media at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and co-director of the Games+Learning+Society center at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery, who served as senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2011-2012.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference.