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mobile learning, edtech, digital media and learning

Posts Tagged ‘digital media’

DML Lab Updates 2014

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

We’ve been doing some totally fun work recently at the school DML Lab.

Digital Media and Learning Lab

Digital Media and Learning Lab

One of the senior bio classes beta tested the Gates funded STEM game Radix, MIT’s new immersive environment for genetics and biology. (Students land on an island and encounter a group called the “Curiosi, who ask them to help find solutions to some of the island’s worst problems, both environmental and societal.”)

Our machines were perhaps too slow to run the game efficiently, and it took a while to learn the game mechanics/terms before delving into the genetics content, but the overall response from the students was quite positive. They were inspired to continue the quest and learn more about the Radix world/ecosystem, plants, animals. MIT Education Arcade formal beta starts in Feb., I believe.

NWP Educator Innovator

The DML Lab received some funding from the National Writing Project for an Educator Innovator Grant. Earlier in the year, I used some of those funds to offer faculty PD sessions in Mozilla’s PopcornMaker with roughly 15+ faculty from the local high school and two elementary schools. The idea here was to use Popcorn to loosen up, relax, and play with digital media in fun ways by making presentations that draw content from the live web. This resource is ideal in that it encourages a high level of participatory engagement with the web as teachers create perpetually morphing experiences with video, location, Wikipedia, Soundcloud, Flickr, etc.

And, inspired by a student I work with, I used some of the Educator Innovator funds to purchase a PrintrBot Simple for roughly $300. The printer arrived—-unassembled—-and soon there was a bunch of students hanging out during Directed Study, building the printer and hacking various other projects. Very exciting. AutoDesk123D Catch, for example, offers a cell phone capture app we’re looking forward to using.

Hopefully we’ll soon print our first test cube. We’ve run into problems though because the PrintrBot shipped with no firmware on the card.

We’re also headed to Williams College to see the 3D printer they constructed this winter term.

Addendum: we checked out artist Lorna Barnshaw‘s work. She attempted to 3D print herself.  Seeing her work got us thinking about some of the possibilities beyond merely printing representations of geometric shapes or human forms. What, for instance, would it look like to print a spoken word?

Play, Gee

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I met James Paul Gee at Handheld Learning (HHL09) in London this fall. His keynote at HHL09 explored how gaming and immersive environments shape and/or facilitate learning. Gee has built a notable body of scholarship in this field, and his work shares common ground with scholar/thinkers such as Steven Berlin Johnson, Henry Jenkins, and Katie Salen (Institute of Play), among many, many others.

It was helpful to hear his voice, and his thinking and research on how gamers build impressive expertise and demonstrate mastery of nuanced skills, even though these very people may or may not succeed in “traditional” academic contexts.  (Of course, defining success is another discussion.)

In his essay, “Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Field, Part II: A Proposal for How to Use ‘Worked Examples’ to Move Forward,” The International Journal of Learning and Media (IJLM)), Gee describes his thinking re. “New Literacy Studies” and his efforts to build an understanding of the emerging field of Digital Media and Learning (DMAL).

Regarding the creation of this new field, Gee writes, “While within a discipline—like anthropology, for instance—people will compare and contrast different approaches in the discipline (usually a new one against an old or traditional one), people do this much less commonly across disciplines.” He suggests that we can add coherence to DMAL as an emerging field through a cross-disciplinary approach.

This makes good sense: a cross-disciplinary approach loosens strictures and broadens the resources from which the emerging field can draw, it adds new and diverse perspectives to the intellectual talent pool, and it acknowledges that there are myriad forces already gathering with/in the field.

To promote scholarly collaboration, Gee also proposes creation of “play exemplars.” While more established disciplines have had “worked examples” to use as models, teaching tools, foundational examples, etc.; DMAL, in its nascent form, would purposefully create “play exemplars,” opportunities for the community to engage with and accelerate the growth of field into discipline through the act of play. The DMAL community would hack and tinker.

So, as Gee writes, “What is important about such exemplars to an emerging field is that they focus debate in such a way that people, via that debate, come to articulate and share a common set of standards and values. These standards and values in turn form the foundation of the new field.”

This is intriguing: Gee acknowledges the field-building process, then asks a nascent, hybrid cross-disciplinary DMAL community to accelerate creation of exemplars through debate, through play. It’s as if to say, instead of waiting, instead of using olde timey measures of scholarly production, let’s build some prototypes so we can experiment and get messy, thereby discovering what works. Let’s get our hands dirty now, not later.

Beyond possible echoes of Barthes’ and Derrida’s concepts around free play (and I do think there are some productive overlaps here), this proposal mirrors Gee’s broader thinking on games. Games are meaningful contexts for learning, so why not facilitate the field’s growth through play, through “play exemplars,” through playing a game?

Gee’s essay, then, becomes an invitation, an offer to join in a playfulness. The essay is an act of play in and of itself. A dare and a risk.

And I think there is risk here, a vulnerability at stake. When we play, we reveal. We reveal thought, strengths and weaknesses, creativity, problem solving, inter/ra personal relations, emotion, and our own limits and prospects. We open ourselves to a  willingness to let lose. And this, I believe, is fertile ground.

“I propose that we pretend we are experts in a field that as of yet has none. I propose that we treat each other as students working over problems as if they are well established even if they are not, so we actually know concretely what each other think and value, as a starting point, not a finished point.”

Our understanding of learning in the 21st Century is changing and/or will change radically in the very near future. Former models of teaching, scholarship, authorship, intelligence, etc., in a digital context are coming apart and being redefined. (See EduCon, for example.) Gee’s proposal, to accelerate creation of a field of study through game, makes sense on many levels, most important being that we cannot wait any longer for the academy to catch up.

–Richard Scullin, MobileEd.org