Connected Learning

What Are Digital Literacies? Let’s Ask the Students

Thursday, April 21, 2011 Comment student playing game on the screen of a control room

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

Monday, April 18, 2011 Comment female student sitting in glasroom

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


Doing Better By Generation Y

Monday, April 04, 2011 Comment braille graffiti on glass window

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


Einstein, YouTube, and New Media Literacies in the Connected Age

Monday, March 28, 2011 Comment small kids playing on computer games and headphones

When I started using digital media in my classroom, I began my search for mentors by inspecting Will Richardson’s social bookmarking networks on Diigo, then followed on Twitter some of the people Will paid attention, which led to Web 2.0 learning expert Steve Hargadon. When Hargadon invited me to participate in an online Elluminate session with 100 educators and librarians, it was an opportunity to learn about a subject I’m deeply interested in — the literacy of critical consumption of online information (or, as Hemingway put it more plainly, “Crap Detection“). So I told Steve I’d


Why Teach?

Monday, January 31, 2011 Comment colorful graffiti written on brick wall

There are as many reasons to teach as there are reasons to learn.  One reason item-response testing (the twentieth-century’s dominant method of testing) is so deficient is that it tends to reduce what we teach to content (especially in the human, social, and natural sciences) or calculation (in the computational sciences).  Think of the myriad ways of knowing, making, playing, imagining, and thinking that are not encompassed by content or calculation.  This semester, I’ve moved over to highly experimental, collaborative, peer-led methods in my two undergraduate classes, “This Is Your Brain on the Internet,” comprised largely


Connected They Write: The Lure of Writing on the Web

Monday, January 24, 2011 Comment young hip girl sitting outside working on laptop

The massive adoption of digital media in the everyday life of teens has reshaped social and educational practices in Latin America. A digital divide persists but youth are increasingly more connected. In Chile, for example, more than 96 percent of all students have Internet access. In Brazil, almost 80 percent of the population between 16 and 24 years and almost 70 percent of those aged 10 to 15 accessed the Internet in 2009. With that kind of penetration, digital media is creating new ways to understand literacy, learning, reading, and especially, writing. Far from hurting the


Mozilla Drumbeat: Open Web Meets Open Learning

Thursday, January 06, 2011 Comment group of adults sitting in circle in mozilla meet up

What if the same energy, ideals, organizational effectiveness, global army of volunteers and code wizardry that created the Firefox web browser could be applied to learning and education? Don’t forget that the Mozilla Foundation is all about maintaining the openness and generativity of the Web. Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, told me recently “we need to do more than make a browser” for Mozilla to advance its larger goals. I asked him why Mozilla decided to turn its attention and formidable energies to education and learning. “We looked at each other,” Surman said,


“Check-in” Learning and Social Learning Networks

Monday, January 03, 2011 Comment teacher standing at the front of classroom teaching students a lesson

At the core of all of our work at the Digital Youth Network, whether it is understanding the affordances of social learning networks or creating new learner-centered models, is the idea that learners stay engaged by identifying the pathways most interesting and relevant to them. We address this by not only providing a wide array of program options but also designing social learning networks to provide our youth a space outside of structured programming to explore their passions with the support of peers and mentors. Being able to engage our students beyond the limited time and


Disrupting Class: A New Age for Learning

Thursday, December 30, 2010 Comment
students sitting in class having conversations disrupting class

Book review: one in an occasional series on works that aspire to reimagine learning in the information age. Let’s start with the shocking news that Disrupting Class authors Clayton Christensen, Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson present a hopeful view of the world where K-12 education is utterly transformed. In their view, learner-centered teaching plus information technology will mean the end of the century-old industrialized model of public schooling. From page one, there’s an expression of “high hopes.” They debunk many of the traditional theories about why our schools are failing: funding issues, lack of


Peer Learning Isn’t Easy (But Some Days It’s Amazing)

Monday, December 20, 2010 Comment students sitting on couches working on laptops together

I’m not teaching a class this term.  I’m doing something lots harder.  I am making a collaborative, peer-led experience available to students.  There are six of them: three graduate students, two undergraduate students, and one recent alum.  There is no syllabus.  As part of HASTAC and the Digital Media and Learning Competition, my semester has been full of exciting opportunities so I wrote an open letter to Duke students inviting anyone daring enough to join me for a peer-created collaboration to build projects around these events.  I wanted to share the wealth and turn it into pedagogy.  I’ve never done anything like this before so I wanted to handpick the participants in what I call a “Tutorial in Collaborative Thinking.”  I had about two dozen inquiries; if the word “grade” or “requirements” came up in the email to me, I knew the student was wrong for this experiment in independent, self-guided group learning-by-doing.  The six who were bold enough to join have dubbed themselves FutureClass.  They created a class website and even co-created their own logo.  If you’ve never co-designed a logo with six people you don’t know, from different backgrounds, different ages, different kinds of expertise, well, let me just tell you it isn’t easy.  They pulled it off, too. Nothing about FutureClass has been easy.  To begin with, Duke doesn’t really have an institutional category for a six-person group independent study that crosses graduates and undergraduates and alums (including a doctoral student at UNC too), and in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  After an exchange of something on the order of a gazillion emails, a department chair (name omitted to protect the implicated) went out on a limb and just signed the form making this anomaly a reality.