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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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Michael Wesch

May 12, 2017

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Mike 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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Watchworthy Wednesday: How AI Will Transform Medical Practice

April 19, 2017

Armed with reams of data, a patient’s father convinced Dr. Anthony C. Chang, his daughter’s pediatric cardiologist, to proceed with her surgery. “A data scientist, the father of one of my congenital heart defect patients, really wanted to give me more data than we typically get so he tabulated the pulse oximetry readings on his daughter and plotted it out for me and convinced me that we needed to push ahead with surgery,” Chang said. The chief intelligence and innovation officer and medical director of the Heart Failure Program at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC),

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Critical Literacy, Civic Engagement and Connected Learning in the Classroom

April 17, 2017

I am on a personal crusade to make civic education the responsibility of every teacher regardless of subject area, despite the fact that it is consistently assumed to be the concern of social studies teachers alone. I believe that the way to accomplish this paradigm shift is to move away from a focus on discrete civic learning opportunities that engage students in particular projects geared only toward formal politics and instead turn toward the idea that what takes place in classrooms on an everyday basis — what we study, how we talk to each other, what we

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Share your knowledge at DML2017

April 14, 2017

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Turning Bullies Into Leaders Through Writing

April 13, 2017

When their writing is read and praised by others, “bullies become class leaders — they want attention, acknowledgement, appreciation. In this case, appreciation of creative risk.” Journalist-turned educator Geoffrey Gevalt is speaking of the Young Writers Project, an online writing magazine and community by and for more than 3,000 young people: “This site is a community that provides peer, mentor and professional support through reactions to individual posts, projects (youth-led, artist-supported initiatives) and, formal learning Playlists — offered for a small fee (or free if you can’t afford it.) This community has only one rule — RESPECT

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Watchworthy Wednesday: UCI Dreamers Take a Stand, Help Each Other

April 12, 2017

As a junior computer science major at the University of California, Irvine, he felt “hopeless” watching fellow classmates landing scholarships, federal financial aid and paid internships. “I could not do the same things due to my status,” the student noted. Undocumented students are not eligible for most scholarships because they require U.S. citizenship or residency status. But, thanks to a fundraising effort, created and organized by UCI’s undocumented students themselves, they are raising money and awareness to help each other get through school successfully. With the support of the campus community and generous donors, the students

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Diversity Makes Design Sense

April 10, 2017

The 2017 NCES report “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering” notes that the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities (WMPD) in science and engineering fields does not match their proportion of the population. While the report provides many reasons to be optimistic. For more than two decades, women have earned about half the bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, although they overrepresented in some fields (70% of psychology degrees) and underrepresented in others (women are only 18% of computer science degree-holders). It also shows that we have some ways to

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Screen Time for Kids: Getting the Balance Right

April 6, 2017

From digital homework platforms to extended video chats with friends, from remote working to family WhatsApp groups, there are infinite ways that digital media are becoming integrated into both children’s and parents’ lives. Despite parents reporting how they benefit in their personal, professional and parenting lives from digital media, it is remarkable that so many in this generation of parents are still anxiously watching the “screen time” clock. “Screen time” is not “good” or “bad” in and of itself, but is rather a shorthand (though fairly out-dated) way of talking about millions of different ways of

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Watchworthy Wednesday: How You Could Win $250,000 for Being Disobedient

April 5, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words — “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” — open MIT’s Media Lab video, inviting nominations for its Rewarding Disobedience Award. The award, which comes with a no-strings-attached $250,000 cash prize, will go to a living individual or group engaged in “an extraordinary example of disobedience for the benefit of society.” From the award description: The MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award seeks to highlight effective, responsible, ethical disobedience across disciplines, and around the world. Disobedience Award objectives are to build awareness and support of disobedience-robust work being done, and

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Coding for What?

April 3, 2017

The most recent series of the popular conspiracy drama “Homeland” features a shadow intelligence agency dedicated to producing and circulating fake news and computational propaganda via fake social media user accounts. Run by a TV shock-jock whose authority seems to surpass that even of the CIA, and who bears obvious resemblance to Steve Bannon, the agency is primarily staffed by young coders and programmers, who have been tasked with waging a secret information war against an incoming President-elect. This part of the plot of “Homeland” dramatizes quite well troubling current events whereby computer coding is now understood

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