A Thought Experiment: Why grade? Why test? What if?

Monday, February 08, 2010 Comment outside building sign 21st century

Let’s try a thought experiment.   Let’s assume we live in a culture where all forms of educational achievement tests have been banned and no one is allowed to assign a letter or numerical grade for anything.   How would we evaluate what students are learning?  How would we decide which teachers were doing their job effectively or how they could be more effective?  Would there be objective (i.e. impartial, unbiased) ways of determining who was the smartest student and who needed help?   And why would we want or need to know that?  Without testing, would being the


Teaching, Texting, and Twittering with Obama

Monday, February 01, 2010 Comment screen shots of barack obama social media banners

With the first year of the Obama administration officially coming to a close, educators have been thinking about how the president’s online presence could be used for both civic education and media literacy purposes.  Obama came into office with the promise of delivering web-based participatory democracy or “Government 2.0” to citizens.  But I have found myself arguing that Obama’s “embrace” of online practices was actually quite limited, when it came to the messages he was promulgating.  I am also not alone in wondering if online commenting and voting really constitutes democratic engagement. Many educators have visited


“Game Changer” Competition

Friday, January 29, 2010 Comment
Reimagining Learning banner

Take a few minutes and help influence the next generation of games. The 2010 game design competition sponsored by HASTAC and the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning program is looking for help in deciding which games and designers deserve to advance. The narratives in this year’s proposals are innovative, fun, gripping and timely, including: finding a missing genius scientist, repelling invaders of human consciousness, rescuing victims of a killer earthquake, and the proper care and feeding of aliens. They all feature provocative characters, including: “Sackboy,” a Geico-like lizard named “Sal,” an invisible time traveling professor


Public by Default, Private when Necessary

Monday, January 25, 2010 Comment person shadow behind window

With Facebook systematically dismantling its revered privacy infrastructure, I think it’s important to drill down on the issue of privacy as it relates to teens. There’s an assumption that teens don’t care about privacy but this is completely inaccurate. Teens care deeply about privacy, but their conceptualization of what this means may not make sense in a setting where privacy settings are a binary.  What teens care about is the ability to control information as it flows and to have the information necessary to adjust to a situation when information flows too far or in unexpected


eBooks and Learning

Thursday, January 21, 2010 Comment Stack of Psychology books

Now that the ebook industry has set its sights on the textbook and educational markets, it’s especially important for educators to shape discussion of the benefits and potential impact of ereaders. Rather than bemoan the loss of wood pulp and glue that make up current texts, we are better served by asking how these physical objects serve learning, and what is lost (or gained) by replacing them with electronic texts. One doesn’t have to abandon a love for print books to appreciate the unique affordances of new technologies. For example: how many would prefer poring through


Educating for the Future, Not the Past

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 Comment Einstein writing on chalk board quote

Historian Robert Darnton has argued that we are currently in the fourth great Information Age in all human history.  The first information revolution came with the development of writing in 4000 B.C. Mesopotamia.  The second was facilitated by the invention of movable type (in 10th Century China and 15th Century Europe).  The third was marked by the advent of mass printing (presses, cheap ink and paper, mass distribution systems, and mass literacy) in late 18th Century Europe and America. The current Information Age is the fourth such era, marked by the development of the Internet and,


An Emerging Theory: Things Rule

Thursday, January 14, 2010 Comment pictures of presentation trash technology

The international conference on Digital Arts and Culture is often a place for previewing coming theoretical trends in digital scholarship.  Long before the formation of separate conferences for the Electronic Literature Organization and the Digital Games Research Association, DAC was at the forefront of interactive literature and game studies.  This year’s DAC conference, “After Media: Embodiment and Context,” included a prominent “Interdisciplinary Pedagogy” theme led by digital artist Cynthia Beth Rubin that tried to make connections between the cutting-edge, sophisticated theory that the conference represented and the more mundane practical challenges posed by instructional technology and


Social Networks and Civic Mobilization in Latin America

Monday, January 11, 2010 Comment christalk tweet #projectoenchentes

Translation of the Tweet: “People with more than one thousand followers: RT (Retweet) is a good way to contribute with #projetoenchentes (flood relief in Brazil).” Access to the Internet as well as social networking sites has been growing steadily and rapidly in Latin American countries, despite economic impediments. It is increasingly common to hear discussion of the growth of social network sites such as Facebook in Argentina. In one month, between October and November of 2009, the number of Facebook users in Argentina grew 10 percent, by 3.9 million users, to a total of 39.3 million,


Global Kids: Recommended Reading…Viewing…Listening

Tuesday, January 05, 2010 Comment 3 diverse global kids girls posing for photo

Global Kids’ New York City-based programs address the urgent need for young people to possess leadership skills and an understanding of complex global issues to succeed in the 21st century workplace and participate in the democratic process. Now in its ninth year, Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program (OLP) integrates a youth development approach and international and public policy issues into youth media programs that build digital literacy, foster substantive online dialogues, develop resources for educators, and promote civic participation. To keep the work connected to emerging research and practice, OLP staff feed their voracious appetite reading


The Social Media Classroom

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 Comment college classroom full of male students

The Social Media Classroom, a browser-based, free and open source environment for teaching and learning, grew directly out of the first minutes I stepped into a physical classroom and began to realize that I needed to readjust my assumptions about students, classrooms, and educational media. Five years ago, when I began to teach at Stanford and UC Berkeley, two places where I had expected web-based media to have permeated the classrooms, I was surprised to see blank looks on so many faces when I announced that students should start their personal blogging and wiki collaborations. In


Classroom Authority and Twitter

Monday, December 21, 2009 Comment rows of empty college classroom chairs

An interesting aspect of Twitter’s recent surge in popularity has been how educators have embraced the technology, not just for networking and personal communication, but also in the classroom. Many teachers have found Twitter to be a helpful tool for accessing the backchannel—the discussion students are having about what is going on in the classroom—in real time. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, Jeffrey R. Young interviewed two teachers who use Twitter in large lecture courses, projecting students’ Twitter posts in the classroom live. Experiments like these frighten many instructors. As Young puts it:


Digital Media and Learning Conference 2010

Thursday, December 17, 2009 Comment DML 2010 conference diversifying participation

Earlier this year, we issued a call for proposals for panels and presentations for the first Digital Media and Learning Conference, an annual event supported by the MacArthur Foundation and organized by the Digital Media and Learning Hub at University of California, Irvine.  I was honored to be asked to be this year’s conference chair. Our initial theme is “Diversifying Participation.” Here’s some of the language we used in formulating that theme: “A growing body of research has identified how young people’s digital media use is tied to basic social and cultural competencies needed for full


Social Games and Facebook in Brazil and Latin America

Monday, December 14, 2009 Comment farm game

A recent post from Inside Facebook has shown that Facebook is growing fast in Latin America, and a large part of this growth is happening in Brazil (33 percent each month, according to the same set of data). Interestingly, other news pieces about research from institutes such as Ibope (link is in Portuguese) have also shown that social games are increasingly popular in the country, especially among young adults. One hypothesis researchers here have is that Facebook growth has spiked partially because of the burgeoning popularity of the social network’s apps, especially the games. Social games


Reinterpreting the Digital Divide

Thursday, December 10, 2009 Comment art piece of black students learning making

digital divide: the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. The digital divide is understood to be the gap between those who use and are familiar with computers and technology and those who aren’t. I’m 17, African-American, live in a considerably urban neighborhood in Chicago, and would seemingly contradict many of the statistics about race and ethnicity and their relationship to the digital divide. I have broadband internet, I use it frequently, I know my way around the computer, and I like


On Gaming, Politics, and Reform

Tuesday, December 08, 2009 Comment educators working meeting around conference table

As the new year rolls around, like many political science professors, Kareem Crayton is thinking about the possible repercussions of next year’s 2010 census and what he calls the “opening skirmishes” of the partisan fight over “who’s going to be counted” and where the boundaries of congressional districts should be drawn for the next decade.  However, since working on the civic education website, The Redistricting Game, with a team of interactive media designers at the University of Southern California, Crayton’s attitudes about collaboration within the academy and participation in broader political conversations probably differ somewhat from


Meet Meredith Stewart: Teacher…Innovator…Collaborator

Thursday, December 03, 2009 Comment ms stewart now using twitter screen shot

This is how personal learning networks work. When I first started using Second Life for education, I was helped by a teacher there, Kevin Jarrett, who I started following on the del.icio.us social bookmarking service. I use del.icio.us for social discovery — that is, when I find someone knowledgeable about a topic that interests me, I add them to my social bookmarking network and I also look for the people whose bookmarks they often use — their del.icio.us or diigo network, another great social bookmarking service. Through Kevin, I found Bud The Teacher. I follow both


Sociality Is Learning

Monday, November 30, 2009 Comment 2 students sitting on subway texting listening to music

As adults, we take social skills for granted… until we encounter someone who lacks them.  Helping children develop social skills is viewed as a reasonable educational endeavor in elementary school, but by high school, educators switch to more “serious” subjects. Yet, youth aren’t done learning about the social world. Conversely, they are more driven to understand people and sociality during their tween and teen years than as small children.  Perhaps it’s precisely their passion for learning sociality that devalues this as learning in the eyes of adults. For, if youth LIKE the subject matter, it must


When Is an Art Museum a Workshop? A Field Report from Korea

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Comment outdoor art museum installation

Earlier this month, I participated in the Digital Natives Workshop hosted by KAIST, the MIT of Korea, and attended by researchers from the U.S. and across the Pacific Rim. My talk on adolescence and the science of attention (entitled “The Kids Are All Right”) has been recorded along with the other presentations and posted on Google Wave by Dave Sonntag, one of the organizers. I also live-blogged at www.hastac.org. After the workshop, we took the three-hour bus trip from Daejeon to Seoul where we had a field day at the Samsung D’Light interactive showcase and then,


$2 Million Competition Seeks Ideas to Transform Learning

Monday, November 23, 2009 Comment
reimagining learning logo

Today, in conjunction with an announcement by President Obama calling for new efforts to reimagine and improve education in science and math, we are announcing a $2 million open competition supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for ideas to transform learning using digital media. The competition seeks designers, inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers, and others to build digital media experiences – the learning labs of the 21st Century – that help young people interact, share, build, tinker, and explore in new and innovative ways. Supported by a grant to the University of California Humanities


Getting into College? There’s a Game for That.

Friday, November 20, 2009 Comment comic drawing of college acceptance letter opening

While One Laptop per Child and other programs to address the digital divide are important, I have come to believe it is counterproductive to couple discussions of the transformative potential of digital media in learning too closely with discussions about institutional and cultural problems plaguing public education (failing schools, illiterate graduates, students who start school with inadequate vocabularies and little home support for studying, for example). The main problem is that systemic problems can’t be fixed by technology alone, and popular narratives about computers in schools are fraught with magical thinking and moral panics. Computers won’t