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


Wikipedia: Information Source and Knowledge Community

Thursday, February 10, 2011 Comment chalk board writing Olde Style Wiki

One of the challenges facing the digital media and learning community—in fact, all educators—is the rapid pace of technological development that makes necessary the constant evaluation and investigation of new information and communication technologies. As a writing researcher, I am fascinated by the way in which knowledge communities shape writing, and these knowledge communities are often effective means of orienting students to new information sources. One of the most fascinating of these communities is Wikipedia, and Colleen A. Reilly of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, has just written an interesting new article on how students


Wikirriculum: Curriculum in the Digital Age

Monday, February 07, 2011 Comment wiki curriculum infographic create usability and sustainability

Developing a school curriculum is a complex act of creative design. Add networked participatory media to the mix and curriculum design gets even more complicated. So, from the perspective of digital media and learning research, what kind of approaches to curriculum design should we be developing? A group of researchers and curriculum developers recently undertook some initial work on “curriculum innovation” as part of the DML working groups program. We were looking for the newest developments in curriculum design, situating what we found in a wider context of social, communications and curriculum theory, and just put


Digital Divides, Blog Bans, Games That Cause Change

Thursday, February 03, 2011 Comment students sitting in large classroom working on computers

Global Kids points us to important new resources in the digital media and learning field each month. “It’s how you play the game” (article): Followers of games and education are familiar with the opening last year in New York City of Quest to Learn (Q2L), the new 6-12 school. What is lesser known is the Ein Hayam Experimental School in Haifa, Israel, whose games-based pedagogy within this working class community of both Jews and Arabs is now five years old. While this past fall’s New York Times profile of Q2L highlights the high energy of the


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


Teaching Digital Literacy

Monday, January 17, 2011 Comment literacy word cloud surrounded by descriptive words

In literate societies, the idea of teaching someone how to read but not how to write is practically inconceivable. The dual connection between reading and writing is built into the very notion of literacy, making it a challenge to understand how someone could possibly do one without the other. It is safe to say that being able to use a medium as well as understand the processes of creation in that medium are the dual foundations of literacy in all media. This is the premise underlying the argument of media scholar Douglas Rushkoff‘s new book, Program


Social Learning, Literacies and Recommended Resources

Thursday, January 13, 2011 Comment teaching helping students with art project in classroom

Paleontologist from American Museum of Natural History shows I Dig Brazil kids images of ancient animals. Editor’s note: Global Kids does a great job each month pointing us to excellent new resources. Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan for Action (report)This report by media literacy scholar Renee Hobbs for The Aspen Institute and the Knight Foundation is a call to arms. It begins with the declaration that “the time to bring digital and media literacy into the mainstream of American communities is now.” These literacies include the ability to make responsible choices, analyze messages, create content,


UK Student Protests: Democratic Participation, Digital Age

Monday, January 10, 2011 Comment screenshot of google maps and icons representing student protest

The stereotypical characterization of young people as politically apathetic, interested only in using digital media for socializing and gaming, has been punctured by recent events in the UK. University and high school students took to the streets to protest against the tripling of tuition fees for higher education, reductions to grants for 16-18 year olds, and cuts in government university funding. During November and December, students, staff, parents and the wider public marched in London and other UK cities and many universities had buildings occupied, with University of Kent staying in occupation over the Christmas and


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


Top 5 Blog Posts on Digital Media and Learning for 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010 Comment facebook home screen reflecting in sunglasses

The DML Central blog is just over a year old, and the close of 2010 marks our first full year of publishing thought leadership from our featured bloggers and highlighting best practices in the emerging field of digital media and learning. It has been an inspiring adventure. Thanks in large part to our growing community, we have learned a great deal about collaboration, conversation, and exploration in digital media and learning in the past year — lessons we will apply in the redesign of this site and the creation of new Web resources in 2011. Meanwhile,


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.


The Joy of Writing – With Ancient Tools or New

Monday, December 13, 2010 Comment 2 men sitting at art station using painting and writing tools

The Telegraph recently published an article announcing that, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, “ancient communication technologies” like handwriting “are current like never before.” The title of the article — “How Twitter made handwriting cool” — is a little misleading in that there isn’t much in the article to suggest how Twitter has any impact on the “coolness” of handwriting. Rather, it stands in as a representative of social media, against which the handwriting “movement” establishes itself as cool by rebelling against this new fad. Besides establishing this kind of knee-jerk binary between handwriting and new


Digital Self-Harm and Other Acts of Self-Harassment

Tuesday, December 07, 2010 Comment portrait of woman with hair covering face representing self harm

Sometimes, things aren’t what they appear to be.  And, in those cases, jumping to the wrong conclusion can be a disservice to everyone.  After I first wrote about Formspring seven months ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about teens who chose to respond to vicious or harassing questions (since only responses are ever posted publicly).  Listening to teens, I had concluded that many out there were trying to prove that they were tough and could handle anything.  And I’ve continued to hear that story in the field.  But as I started looking into the negative commentary on teens’