Digital Media & Learning

Learning from a Life in Software

Thursday, December 19, 2013 Comment black male students working at beat soundboard

In this post I want to think about our intimate relationship with various kinds of software as a way of understanding the development of skills and practices. I want to take the unusual approach of telling the story of a ‘creative life in software’ – building on Brigid Barron’s development of ‘techno-biographies’ as a way of gaining insight into learning over time and across contexts. I want us to think beyond the more self-evident fact that engaging with software is crucial in the development of all sorts of individual capabilities and competencies to how we might


Fanfiction, Capitalism and Draco in Leather Pants

Monday, December 16, 2013 Comment harry potter book collection on display

Earlier in the semester, I found myself lecturing to a class and having students in my Young Adult Literature course take notes about “Draco in Leather Pants.” Stay with me. Along with contemporary books like Gossip Girl and classics like The Outsiders and Go Ask Alice, my undergraduates at Colorado State University and I looked at how online environments in the past decade have transformed the world of teen literature. For readers of this blog, such a focus shouldn’t be very surprising. Discussions of the Harry Potter Alliance and John Green’s legions of nerdfighters highlight the


Libraries as ‘Sponsors of Literacy and Learning’: Peeling Back the Layers

Friday, December 13, 2013 Comment close up of a white onion

In my last two posts, I have reflected on a rationale for looking at the work of libraries through Deborah Brandt’s concept of sponsors of literacy as well as the philosophical and practical imperatives for libraries to examine the forces and ideologies that shape their work.  As libraries begin to examine the ways they function as sponsors of multiple forms of literacy and to consider the kinds of literate practices that are privileged and marginalized, a checklist or inventory of questions for consideration is needed as a starting point for peeling back the layers of influences.


Learning from Healthcare.gov

Thursday, December 05, 2013 Comment close up on black keyboard

“But I just want to remind everybody, we did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website.” – Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act,” Oct. 21, 2013 The disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov gives an opportunity for everyone invested in digital media and learning initiatives to reflect critically about what we do and to ask some hard questions.  Although it may be “just” a website, according to the president, the flawed federal Internet portal intended to enroll millions of consumers into a system of affordable healthcare coverage exposes a


Rethinking the ‘Race Between Education and Technology’ Thesis

Monday, December 02, 2013 Comment graphics representing education bus globe student books

This year my research team has been pouring over qualitative data that we collected over a year-and-half period from Freeway High School (previously referred to as Texas City High School in earlier posts), the site of our fieldwork in the study of ‘connected learning.’  Several themes related to young people’s adoption of digital media, the role of technology in schools, social inequality, and the future of learning have emerged from our fieldwork.  For instance, we have thought a lot about the social distribution of new forms of learning in the digital age, especially the skills and


This is Why Kids Need to Learn to Code

Thursday, November 28, 2013 Comment colorful stacked spools of thread

Proclamations like ‘kids need to learn to code!’ may be accurate but, without some context and conceptual unpacking, they can be rather unhelpful. Thankfully, fellow DMLcentral contributor Ben Williamson has done a great job of problematising the current preoccupation with coding by asking questions like: “What assumptions, practices and kinds of thinking are privileged by learning to code? Who gains from that? And who misses out?” In many ways what follows builds upon these ideas so it’s worth reading Ben’s article first if you haven’t already. Along with the landscape issues identified in Ben’s article there’s a couple of


The Crisis in the Humanities and STEM – and Why We Must Recreate Higher Education

Monday, November 25, 2013 Comment packed college lecture hall of students with laptops

Here’s the punchline: The humanities in the U.S. are in crisis for the same reason that STEM is in crisis – not because of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).  And vice versa.  The crisis comes from declining or at least stagnant numbers of students in these areas.  Faculty members are panicking and making snide, demeaning, and sometimes insulting comments about one another instead of coming to terms with the basic issue of why students today aren’t flocking to these subject areas.  To my mind, therein lies one of academe’s biggest problems.  We’re better at defensively placing


Programming Power? Does Learning to Code Empower Kids?

Thursday, November 14, 2013 Comment close up of hands working at laptop

The idea that young people should learn to code has become a global educational aspiration in the last few years. What kinds of questions should digital media and learning researchers ask about these developments? I want to suggest three approaches: first, to take a historical look at learning to code; second, to consider it in political and economic context; and third, to understand its cultural dimensions. The importance of learning to code is expressed in catchy slogans and ideas like Douglas Rushkoff’s “program or be programmed,” and the view that if you are not working on


What Counts As Learning?

Monday, November 11, 2013 Comment child taking picture with camera in crowd of adults

I have recently contributed to a new issue of the Bank Street occasional papers. The issue is called “The Other 17 Hours: Valuing Out of School Time” and explores recent attention to the meaning and nature of learning during the time not spent at school. My essay describes some of the research I am involved with as part of the Connected Learning Research Network and examines how learning is constructed and enacted in six different kinds of families in London. By showing that who defines learning in domestic contexts and on what basis, I argue that


How Does Electronic Reading Affect Comprehension?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 Comment people sitting in seats on subway

Although electronic texts have been with us for many decades, in the past few years electronic reading has become increasingly popular. The ready availability of mobile, connected devices like smartphones and tablets, along with dedicated ereaders like the Kindle and Nook, have moved electronic reading out from behind a desk into the environment. This change has brought increasing attention to the differences between reading in print and reading via digital devices. In a recent article in Scientific American, Ferris Jabr argues that “paper still has advantages over screens as a reading medium,” claiming that “most studies