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


When Robots Write

Thursday, April 14, 2011 Comment 4 robots placed next to each other

Robots are always in the news, it seems. Whether they are serving as caregivers for the elderly or helping solve the Japanese nuclear crisis, robots are becoming an increasingly important part of contemporary life. Even though we all don’t yet own a personal robot assistant, there is a way in which automated processes are part of all of our lives: in the many bots that make the data structures of the Internet possible. Bots aren’t robots in the traditional sense, but rather are computer programs that scour the Net performing increasingly complex tasks. In his fascinating


“We are Meant to Pulse”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 Comment group of diverse students celebrating after presentation

Topping the new recommended resources list from Global Kids is “Gaming to Re-engage Boys in Learning,” a provocative video looking at the discrepancies in performance and achievement between boys and girls aged 3 to 13 and discussion of why school culture itself may be alienating to male students. Central to instructional designer Ali Carr-Chellman’s arguments are the lack of male representation in teaching, zero tolerance policies that disproportionately affect boys and the anti-gaming rhetoric of some schools that is hostile to youth invested in game culture. Though Carr-Chellman sidesteps the broader issue of what social factors


How Can We Help Miguel?

Friday, April 08, 2011 Comment photo of man walking in alley and sun flare

One of the hardest parts of doing fieldwork is hearing difficult, nuanced stories that break my heart.  The more complicated the story, the harder it is to tell, but I feel a responsibility to at least try.  Given how many educational reformists read this blog, I want to provide a portrait of some of the teens I’ve met who are currently being failed by the system.  My goal in doing so is to ask a hard question: how do we help these specific teens?  Let me start with Miguel. Miguel is 17 and in the 10th


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


School, Work and Play: Decoding Digital Age Shifts

Friday, April 01, 2011 Comment man giving spoken word performance during DML

Learning with digital media is often articulated through an affective vocabulary of play, informality, enjoyment, and creativity, as opposed to the formality, standards and routines of conventional schooling. This difference in the language of learning corresponds with changing patterns in work. Employers now claim they want to hire more playful and creative recruits with portfolios of experience in social networking and online virtual worlds.  The 21st Century Workforce Mindset The links between schooling, culture, and employment are now changing as the growth of an “interactive economy” places new demands on youth both as potential consumers of


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


Cyberbullying: An International Perspective

Thursday, March 24, 2011 Comment artistic blurry photograph of person

A viral video of an Australian boy retaliating against a bully at school has sharply ratcheted up offline and online discussions of cyberbullying. On websites in numerous countries, young and old alike have recounted their own bullying problems and there’s a sense that this is an universal phenomena. In Brazil, it has become increasingly common for kids to suffer from bullying not only in schools, but also on social networking sites. Many aggressive incidents are recorded by cell phones and posted on sites such as Youtube. Online communities are formed to ridicule these bullied students, and


Happiness, Learning, and Technology: Why “Affective” Schools are the New “Effective” Schools

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 Comment young boy with headphones playing kids computer game

What are the connections between emotional education and digital media and learning? Faced with a global economic recession, civic unrest, and major environmental catastrophe, governments around the world are now obsessed with cheering us all up, especially kids. Measures are being designed to gauge global, national, organizational and individual levels of happiness, and well-being is being put at the heart of public policy. Ensuring children’s happiness now and in the future is therefore becoming an urgent aim for education. The State of Happiness Schools are emotional places. Everyone remembers their school days through the rhythm of


Hacking Higher Education

Friday, March 18, 2011 Comment green graphic of shot injecting brain representing hacking higher education

Times of crisis are times of change and provide an opportunity to imagine alternative educational futures. Following the UK’s winter of protests about cuts to education budgets and rising tuition fees, students and staff are raising questions about what kind of education they are fighting for. Even before tuition fees were introduced, access to higher education was exclusive, with young people from well off backgrounds disproportionately represented. With the value of higher education increasingly framed as a financial investment that pays off against future earnings, there is much about the current system that many would not


Humans, Technology and the Digital Future

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Comment group of students sitting around a table working on laptops

At the top of the must-read list this month is “How the Internet Gets Inside Us,” an article by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnick who offers an insightful overview of the range of opinions found in recent books regarding the shifting relationship between humans and technology. He categorizes books about the Internet into the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers. The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, the Better-Nevers think that we were better off without the Internet, and the Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this


Is the Virtual World Good for the ‘Real’ One?

Thursday, March 10, 2011 Comment person sitting on the ground using flip phone

In a cartoon depicting the evolution of Good Samaritanism in the digital age, a man walks by a homeless person lying on the street and does nothing. In the next frame, he is at his computer — “What’s this?!! Sally needs a bag of fertilizer for her Farmville farm? I better get right on it!” Many are struck by the amount of time some people spend in online communities — and concerns have been raised that our attention to virtual communities may be distracting us from the tangible needs of those around us. Frankly, when it


Revolutionary New Technology + Old Teaching Methods = ?

Monday, March 07, 2011 Comment rows of empty classroom desks and seats

In a recent post on her blog, Duke’s Cathy Davidson responds to a New York Times article on the increasing popularity of iPads in schools, arguing that iPads, or any technology, aren’t a panacea for education.  To support her point, Davidson tells the story of how, when she was a Vice Provost at Duke, she helped create a program that gave iPods to incoming freshman.  However, she points out that these students weren’t simply given the new music player and expected to carry on as if everything were the same — that is, as if they


Designing Learning From “End to End”

Friday, March 04, 2011 Comment close up of a dandelion

When Tim Berners-Lee and a handful of colleagues began developing the World Wide Web, they did so without a blueprint but with something better:  a principle.  What if all the world’s knowledge could easily be transferred between us without going through a central node controlling the shape of that information?  What if my computer could abide by certain kinds of communication protocols, could send out packets of information, and then any other computer in the world set up to understand those protocols could receive it?  What if we all, the human community, could exchange our ideas


Identity, Avatars, Virtual Life – and Advancing Social Equity in the ‘Real’ World

Tuesday, March 01, 2011 Comment girl peaking over laptop only showing her eyes

This semester, MIT professor Fox Harrell is teaching an ambitious new course on “Identity Representation” that includes studying identities adopted in computer games and social network sites.  In the course description posted online, Harrell explains that he is more broadly interested in getting students to “look at how humans express multiple identities for different purposes both in the real world and online.”  As the first researcher both in MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Harrell is developing what he calls a “toolkit” for the “Advanced Identity Representation


Understanding the Rise of Social Networking in Brazil

Thursday, February 24, 2011 Comment people sitting on the ground at conference working on computers

Orkut was the first major social networking service to arrive in Brazil and it has just passed the seven-year mark. Although several other social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are growing in popularity, Orkut maintains a strong leadership position and it is still growing. It’s intriguing to explore how and why Orkut established such a strong foothold on the Internet in a country that didn’t have high Internet adoption rates when Orkut first arrived in January 2004. As soon as Google launched Orkut, it spread rapidly among technology workers and students. People quickly became interested


D.I.Y.U.: An Experiment

Monday, February 21, 2011 Comment art painting of 20 learn

Rheingold U, my current experiment in cultivating wholly online, multimedia, unaccredited, for-not-much-pay learning communities, grew out of a desire to follow the fun and act on impulse. When I impulsively tweeted  a couple of weeks ago, “Anyone willing to pay $100 for five-week Intro to Mind Amplifiers course?” I was long-practiced in the art of riding the waves of personal impulse. In fact, the most productive learning trails I’ve followed or blazed in life started with singular impulses that fulfill life-long interests but were triggered by superficial, even accidental proximate causes. I started thinking about computers


Young Black Males, Learning, and Video Games

Thursday, February 17, 2011 Comment 4 black males playing video game together

A recent report on educational achievement among young black males describes a “national catastrophe” in primary, secondary, and higher education that is reinforced by policy failures and funding shortfalls. “A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools” uses data largely from the U.S. Department of Education to paint a grim picture of an achievement gap between black and white students, reinforcing the message of recent books like Pedro Noguera’s The Trouble with Black Boys: Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education. While the Obama


On Parenting, Media, Education and Phobias

Monday, February 14, 2011 Comment kids sitting at table working on computer together

Modern cinema can teach us how youth and media are widely understood in our cultures. Cinema, like works of literature and visual art, can represent and diagnose our widespread fears and fantasies about young people and about how we, as cultures, bring them up. Back 150 years ago, for example, Charles Kingsley’s moral fable The Water-Babies challenged child labor. Today, the journal “International Research in Children’s Literature” publishes scholarly analyses of how children’s literature can both help in children’s growing up and impose on them social and moral codes from the dominant culture. Similarly, analyzing the