Platform Capitalism in the Classroom


Platform capitalism is the new global business model in an age of social media platforms, big data analytics and tech-centered venture capital investment. The big platform operators, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are all now competing for school business, while education technology investment has boomed in recent years, thanks to funding for startup companies. ClassDojo is one of the most successful recent education technology startups. It has extensive reach to millions of teachers worldwide, generous venture capital backing, and enthusiastic coverage in the business, technology and education press. As it has scaled up from a

Watchworthy Wednesday: How Video Games Amplify Learning


As a leading scholar of video games, game culture and game player behavior, Constance Steinkuehler argues that games amplify learning and academics. In fact, video games and esports “leverage and require an incredible amount of cognitive intellectual labor,” she said at last week’s University of California, Irvine eSports Symposium. “Video game play actually leads to higher problem-solving skills. And, those higher problem-solving skills actually lead to higher academic grades…. You can start to see where games, rather than being in competition for so-called intellectual pursuits or academic performances, actually are enhancers.” The UCI professor of informatics

What Do We Mean When We Talk About 21st Century Learning?


The signifier “21st century” has become ubiquitous in educational policy discourse. A glance at most local, state, and national education plans reveals reference after reference to the need for “21st century schools” focusing on “21st century skills” that prepare “21st century students.” For example, the term appears (quite appropriately) 21 times in the U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan. Authors of the Common Core State Standards in Literacy indicated that standards were adopted only when determined “essential for college and career readiness in a 21st century, globally competitive society.” The National Assessment for Education Progress

Watchworthy Wednesday: Playing with Realities


The new Bloomsbury book, “Alternate Reality Games and the Cusp of Digital Gameplay,” prompted its editors Antero Garcia and Greg Niemeyer to offer a symposium about augmented reality games and how they shape communities. Called “If You Weren’t,” the free symposium takes place May 23 at Stanford University. Details are available online. Presented by Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the symposium is a “daylong academic symposium related to alternate and augmented reality gaming as well as a series of playtests and opportunities for collaboration,” Garcia said. “Greg Niemeyer and

Turning Teaching Over to Students


Michael Wesch’s YouTube videos gave me the courage — and the ideas — to turn more and more of the responsibility for not just learning, but teaching, over to my students. Like most great educators, Wesch, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, is a great communicator. Fortunately for us, he is also a YouTube genius, so you don’t have to take my word for it — watch and hear him directly. Most of us first learned of him when his “The Machine is Us/ing Us” went viral 10 years ago, with more than 11 million views — a look

Watchworthy Wednesday: Free Online Class Features Art of Being Human


On what he thought would be a cool class lecture, Kansas State University Professor Michael Wesch set out on a 41-mile run, while at the same time, controlling a video camera in a drone above him and delivering his talk. He starts off strong, jogging at a quick pace through Manhattan’s streets and woods, saying: “We’re going to talk about what it is that makes us human. … So many people think that what makes us human is our ability to walk, our ability to talk, ability to use tools with our hands, but today, I

Learning from Brain-machine Interfaces


“Neurotechnology” is a broad field of technical research and development focused on the human brain. It includes advanced brain imaging but also new and emerging “brain stimulator” systems that may have the capacity to influence neural activity. The possibilities of neurotechnology have begun to attract educational interest, raising significant concerns about how young people’s mental states may be manipulated by brain-machine interfaces. The Neurotechnology Revolution The human brain has become the focus of intense interest across scientific, technical R&D, governmental, and commercial domains in recent years. Neuroscientific research into the brain itself has advanced significantly with the

Using Mobile VR to Convey WONDER


Last year, I was gob-smacked on a trip to D.C. by the temporary WONDER exhibit at the Renwick Gallery (and wrote about it here). Last fall, I was excited to see the Gallery release a mobile VR version of the now-closed exhibit. I reached out to Sara Snyder, the chief of the Media and Technology Office at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to learn how and why it was developed. Sara, thank you for joining us today. Why don’t we start by introducing your museum (the Smithsonian American Art Museum) and your department (the Media and

Watchworthy Wednesday: Listen to Youth to Improve Education


Christopher Emdin, associate professor of science education at Columbia University, Teachers College, opened his keynote address at this year’s SXSWedu (South by Southwest Education) Conference with a little history of the Dinka Tribe of Sudan. Ages ago, he explained, Dinka children suffered from an outbreak of tetanus, which causes “lockjaw,” so they couldn’t open their mouths to eat. As a solution, the tribe decided that tooth extraction would allow the children afflicted by the infectious disease to drink liquids even when their jaw muscles clamped shut. The practice continued, generation after generation, even after the young

Are Digital Literacies Generic or Context-specific?


I was recently asked by Sally Pewhairangi whether I thought digital literacies could be taught as generic skills, out of any particular context, and whether they would then transfer. When I was asked this question, examples of cooking and learning languages were offered (citing chef Tim Ferris). For example, could we learn the rules of cooking, then apply them to different ingredients and cuisines? Does “content” matter that much? There are three broad dimensions in my answer to this with respect to digital literacies being generic vs. context-specific: Cognitive skills aren’t like physical skills, but share