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Watchworthy Wednesday: Girls Gain Coding Superpower with Wonder Woman

June 21, 2017

As Wonder Woman continues to dominate the big screen, girls all over the world are watching her on computer screens as they learn a 21st century superpower — coding. “Wonder Woman’s strength is more relevant today than ever, especially in the technology space, since girls are less likely than boys to be encouraged to pursue computer science and only 22 percent of gaming developers are women,” Google Play’s Mathilde Cohen Solal wrote in a blog post. Made with Code, Google’s initiative to champion the next generation of female leaders and inspire them to see coding as a

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Networked Narratives: Digital Alchemy of Storytelling

June 19, 2017

More than enough books, TED Talks, and blog posts have described the potential of storytelling. Stories often enhance our endeavors, whether in business communication or in learning, in political rhetoric or in our overall understanding of the world. The emphasis on the special essence of the story suggests an existence of a certain kind of magic. Could a story work like an elixir? For us, this notion of the magic in stories paved the way for our “digital alchemy” effort co-teaching Networked Narratives — a 2017 open course based on a digital storytelling class at Kean

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Watchworthy Wednesday: Reimagining 21st Century Learning

June 14, 2017

Reimagining Leonardo da Vinci for the 21st century is how people will be able to cultivate “a new way of knowing” and learning in the next 80 years of rapid and constant technological advances, according to John Seely Brown, former director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and the author of “A New Culture of Learning” and “The Social Life of Information.” “I think the unique power of the human imagination comes in part from its ability to integrate opposing qualities, like emotion and reason, curiosity and certainty,” he said during his keynote address at the

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The Future of Youth Mentoring

June 12, 2017

The number of Americans willing to serve as volunteer mentors has remained remarkably stable over the past decade — between 2 million and 2.5 million, or around 1% of the adult population (Raposa et al., 2016). If we assume that some of this is group mentoring, we can roughly estimate that about 3.5 million (7%) of the 45.7 million American youth between the ages of 6 and 17 receive volunteer mentoring each year. Even if this percentage somehow doubled, we’d still be around 2% of adults. These trends have interesting implications. First, we should continue to identify training

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Watchworthy Wednesday: Collaboration is Key to Learning Innovation

June 7, 2017

The importance of mentors, equity in education and how art helps us see the world differently, were the topics of the first three “Learning Innovation Conversation” series, hosted by the ExCITe (Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies) Center at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The point of the conversations, according to ExCITe’s mission statement, is to encourage an exchange of knowledge and ideas that lead to new connections, inspirations, and collaborations. “The ExCITe Center is a core component of Drexel University’s strategic plan for research innovation, pursuing a unique mission of constructive disruption of traditional aspects of the Academy:

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Building Community With Peer Mentors

June 5, 2017

“The more I give my teacher-power to students and encourage them to take more responsibility for their own learning, the more they show me how to redesign my ways of teaching.” — Howard Rheingold, “Toward Peeragogy” Howard Rheingold has been a champion of peer-to-peer learning for years. Howard’s ideas are often in my head, milling about with Lev Vygotsky and social theories of learning. When I set out to design a large writing course for college freshmen, I was particularly focused on the role more capable peers would play in our writing class. In fact, I

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Watchworthy Wednesday: Challenge Calls on Kids to Design Math Games

May 31, 2017

The objective of “Get That Pi,” a board game designed by a trio of students from a New Jersey intermediate school, is to earn money by correctly answering circumference or area questions and buy the most pie ingredients. The game is a contestant in the MIND Research Institute’s fourth annual K-12 Game-a-thon, which challenges Kindergarten through 12th-grade students to create their own math games — such as board, card, outdoor and computer or mobile app games — to solve mathematical problems. Search the hashtag  #gameathon on Twitter for ideas. “The challenge is designed to help students engage

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Platform Capitalism in the Classroom

May 29, 2017

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

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Do an Ignite Talk at DML2017

May 25, 2017

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Watchworthy Wednesday: How Video Games Amplify Learning

May 24, 2017

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

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

May 22, 2017

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

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Watchworthy Wednesday: Playing with Realities

May 17, 2017

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

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Turning Teaching Over to Students

May 15, 2017

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

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Mike Wesch

May 12, 2017

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Michael Wesch

May 12, 2017

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Watchworthy Wednesday: Free Online Class Features Art of Being Human

May 10, 2017

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

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Learning from Brain-machine Interfaces

May 8, 2017

“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

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Using Mobile VR to Convey WONDER

May 4, 2017

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

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Watchworthy Wednesday: Listen to Youth to Improve Education

May 3, 2017

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

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Are Digital Literacies Generic or Context-specific?

May 1, 2017

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

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How Can VR be Used for Learning?

April 27, 2017

The hype around virtual reality (VR) has died down a bit, though the conference keeps going. I was happy to attend the Versions conference earlier this year, though I was disappointed (but not surprised) that there wasn’t that much new stuff. Rather, it seems there is less happening than there was before as the medium continues to figure out what its best use cases are if it is to become a consumer technology. Since last year, I’ve learned that, for me personally, I prefer room scale VR to other experiences. The ability to move through space

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Watchworthy Wednesday: Apply to Present at DML2017 by May 1

April 26, 2017

Got an innovative program or research project dealing with connected learning or digital media and learning? We want to hear about it at this year’s Digital Media and Learning Conference, and the deadline to apply to be a featured speaker has been extended to May 1. The 8th annual DML Conference is an international gathering that brings together a vibrant and diverse community of innovators, thinkers, and progressive educators to delve into leading-edge topics in digital media and learning. Attendees build connections across research, design, and practice in the service of progressive, equitable, and youth-centered approaches

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Does Digital Media Have a Place in Hands-On Science Learning Space?

April 24, 2017

I reached out to Rebecca Bray, the chief of experience development at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., to learn about how the museum developed and now runs its innovative Q?rius (pronounced “curious”) space, opened in 2013 as an interactive and educational lab with microscopes, touch screens, interactive activities and a “collection zone,” housing over 6,000 different specimens and artifacts visitors can handle. In our conversation below, we explore their design process, the role of youth learners, the pros and cons of integrating digital media into a hands-on learning space, and more.

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Rescuing Student Participation Through Digital Platforms

April 20, 2017

Like many of my colleagues who think carefully about digital literacy and pedagogies, I began seriously considering the use of social media platforms in educational settings — sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr — around 2008. Despite nearly a decade of innovative uses of digital platforms in educational settings, the use of these platforms and spaces continues to be trivialized by the public and teachers alike, with cries echoing about attention spans and nostalgia for the loss of face-to-face interaction, which seem more “real.” But, to continue to dismiss digital platforms, particularly those focused on social

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