BART Curates Berkshire Museum

We wanted to see what students would do if they were given the chance to curate a local museum and share their experiences with peers back at school. Karin Stack, local charter school art and digital teacher at Berkshire Arts and Technology School (BART), agreed to bring several teams of middle school students to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA.

Museum staff—Craig and Maria—were amazing, and led a “sprint introduction” to a number of content areas students could use as jumping off points for their own tours—aquariums, Alexander Calder toys, Egyptian mummies, weapons, Hudson School artists, and much, much more.

Students chose areas they liked, and that they thought their peers would like, and then spent an hour doing a deeper dive into their content area, researching, discussing, joking around, outlining, and prepping.

Students had behind-the-scenes access….

Less than an hour later the first team started their live video stream, sharing their findings with their friends and peers, interacting with them, and fielding questions.

Creating the tours was fascinating. While there were of course some bumps along the way, as a first pilot, the session worked quite well. Students harnessed diverse resources to produce something they could share with a meaningful audience. They interviewed museum professionals, researched on the web, and photo-documented museum archives. And they went behind the scenes into the archives.

We’ll have more extensive data and feedback to report in the near future!

We used to do our livestream.

From Oldivai to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Posting from the Mount Greylock DML Lab:

Instead of downloading and printing another Tardis from Thingiverse, we’re shaking it up a bit and exploring some of the affordances unique to the 3D printer. While making our own creations is a top priority for the DML Lab, we’ve also discovered some amazingly cool items that have been captured/rendered for educational use.

On the left is a skull of Homo habilis, discovered by Kamoya Kimeu (1973), and excavated by Richard and Meave Leakey. Estimated age: 1.9 million years.

We also printed some tools (1:1) made by homo erectus from the Lake Turkana region in East Africa. Thanks to for offering all this valuable data and 3D files to us.

Also pictured on the far right is the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on which the European Space Agency landed a probe several months ago. Rosetta spacecraft launched in 2004 and arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014.

These items are fascinating. In less than two hours, we printed a tool that was had been discovered and unearthed from the historic grounds of Olduvai. And thanks to the European Spaces Agency (ESA), we discovered the data for and printed a representation of the comet scientists set out to explore over ten years ago, and some 6.4 billion kilometers travel distance from earth.  Now, in our humble DML Lab, we sit, holding a hand ax, musing and asking questions. Why is this a tool and not just a chipped piece of rock? Who was this being who made this ax? What did they do with it? And How did the ESA compute the spacecraft’s  trajectory to land a probe on a moving comet?

We’ve teleported objects from history and from outer space. What next?

This work was helped by funding through the National Writing Project / MacArthur’s Educator Innovator initiative. at UNESCO

We were honored to have been invited to UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week. According to UNESCO, there were “more than 700 participants from over 60 countries” for the third annual conference in Paris. There were hands-on demonstrations of mobile learning content and technology in the Walking Gallery, around 80 breakout presentations and 30+ exhibitions by NGOs, governments and corporations. A fascinating mix of stakeholders.

While I heard some thoughtful speakers both on main stage and in breakout sessions, I found the most value in conversations with delegates from Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, South Korea, China, Egypt, Norway, and many, many other countries. I had naively been considering OpenPath in terms of US audiences, and because of our work with US Ignite / Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund projects in gig cities such as Kansas City and Chattanooga, we have been thinking about the sharing of learning paths through low-latency gigabit-speed networks. In describing our work to UNESCO delegates, though, another possibility emerged. These international representatives responded powerfully to the simplicity and ease of the proposal, its democratizing potential. OpenPath is easily accessible, and it gives learners the power to create and share paths immediately. As result of these conversations, we’re already in discussion with UK and EU partners. I’d like to connect these groups to our partners in Kansas City and Chattanooga. Kansas City shares a path with a Nigerian classroom! Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum shares part of its collection with Egypt.

As one might expect, MLW2014 delegates were focused predominantly on ways to extend learning to populations that have little or no access to opportunities. As the recent UNESCO Global Monitoring Report indicates, “250 million students worldwide cannot read, write or count, even after four years of school. Close to 775 million adults – 64% of whom are women – still lack reading and writing skills, with the lowest rates in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia.” In light of this powerful research, we’re forced to reconsider learning. What are the fundamental ways to open access to educational resources to more people? It follows then that at MWL2014 many of the pilots and demonstrations concerned content delivery, skills development and instruction—language acquisition, literacy, numeracy. In many ways, this makes good sense, despite a similarity to old-school student-as-container models. How do we develop the basic literacy skills that are the foundation from which learning grows? While these “fundamentals” are critically important, there is also clearly room for resources like OpenPath to help learners construct and share knowledge in informal contexts in and throughout their own worlds.

Dr. Niall Winters (@nwin)

UNESCO’s Future of Mobile Learning

DML Lab Updates 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?

The Possibilities of Mobile

This week I will be talking with some great people who have been doing valuable work in the field of mobile learning—researching, designing, implementing, teaching, coding, and making: David Gagnon, Liz Kolb, and Jenna Blanton.  Here is the announcement from Connected Learning TV: Teachers and Students: real-life mobile implementation with learners.


Also see last week’s session, Mobile Learning: turning place into a learning space:

  • Richard Scullin – Founder,; Director of Mount Greylock Regional High School DML Lab
  • Chris Emdin – Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University; #HipHopEd
  • Jack Martin – Associate Director, Global Kids; NYC Haunts
  • Matthew Battles – Principal and Associate Director, metaLAB at Harvard
  • Steve Vosloo – Senior Project Officer in Mobile Learning, UNESCO

(ex)Citing Remixes


The DML Lab collaborates with teachers and students to integrate digital media with curriculum. Ideally the units we create are curiosity-driven, digitally connected, and reinforcing the work of the class/teacher. In Science 8 recently we wanted to demonstrate knowledge of biomes and ecosystems—flora/fauna, climate, abiotic factors, and environmental concerns such as deforestation, drilling, global warming, invasive species, etc.  In the past, students had made posters (which are still fun and cool!). This time, though, we introduced Mozilla’s PopcornMaker. We had also used Zeega in another class. Both are resources to remix the web and create media experiences that tap the Internet’s shifting data flow. The (80+) students did a good job, learning the PopcornMaker within a class period or two, researching, and creating some beautiful and at times informative pieces. See several examples in  here (works best in Chrome) or here.

Because tools like Popcorn and Zeega can tap the web (a Flickr or Twitter hashtag, a Wikipedia entry), and because those content sources change, it’s difficult to cite consistently and precisely what you’re pulling into the Popcorn project. Our students found much of their information from their Holt Science & Technology Environmental Science textbook, but I am sure other content found its way into the presentations. So the question arises: How do you cite a remix? Do you cite a remix of a remix? Creative Commons begins to address the attribution problem. And we could always use a Works Cited page at the end of the Popcorn project. But I’m not sure that adequately addresses our scholarly responsibility. Mitch Resnick and the Scratch team encourage remixing—borrowing others’ Scratch creations, using them as starting points, then modding them. Additionally, bringing outside (knowledgeable) voices into a presentation strengthens the argument. But when is appropriation alright, and how do we reconcile this act with academic research process?

Creative Commons

Thoughts on remixing the web and introducing (new) digital media into the classroom.

Rights. As I understand, users have relinquished some degree of their rights when they signed a user agreement with, say, Flickr, so if the company (Yahoo) wants to share their photos, the user may or may not have recourse. Flickr thankfully uses Creative Commons, but what’s at stake here if attribution is not required the corporate content owner?

Content. When I introduced new tools—Scratch, Zeega, Popcorn, and others—the project content was sometimes not as deep as I had hoped. Yet in one unit the Prezis students made on periodic table elements delved deep into the atomic structures and properties of various elements. Did one tool lend itself more readily to the granular tasks at hand? No doubt, there is a delicate balance to be struck among several factors: the time and brain power needed to ramp up and learn tech and the creative process and research and academic rigor.

Shininess coefficient. Sometimes with limited effort students can produce a slick presentation, but it lacks depth. We need to see through this illusion and coax students toward substance.

Zeega and Popcorn

Remarkable and powerful is the HTML5ness of PopcornMaker’s capabilities— it embraces the web and folds live portions of it directly and dynamically into the project. Students, though, habituated to a PPT or Keynote mindset, think in the linearity of slides. More experience with these tools will hopefully open up greater willingness to experiment with the live web and its branching, looping, constantly changing elements.

Grade. How do you grade a project that shifts and changes with the Internet?


Shininess coefficient (PDF)

An unusual opportunity: Implement Connected Learning

Connected Learning at Mount Greylock High School

Mount Greylock Tech Ex - Connected Learning

For the past eight months we’ve been implementing a Digital Media and Learning program at Mount Greylock High School. This new role is ideal in that it allows me to listen to teachers and students, then build ways for Connected Learning to amplify and augment their work. The nascent DML Lab has been implementing ideas both through a Tech Exploratory and with individual teachers, starting the organic needs that arise from the classes. The DML Lab is great in that it combines Jim Gee and Michael Levine’s Digital Teacher Corps with MacArthur/UC Irvine-backed Connected Learning. Best of all, it starts with questions and inquiry.

Thus far, we’ve completed projects in Physics, Science 8, English, Digital Citizenship, and other fields. We’ve also played with varying and various degrees of technology: MaKey MaKey, Fold.It, Scratch,,, and Mozilla projects such as Popcorn, Thimble, and Hackasraus.

OpenPathDemo_MountGreylockTEchExAnd, we’ve done some great live demos. Our OpenPath team (Jared Lamenzo, Ilona Parkansky, Shawn Van Every, and I) recently won our second round of funding from the Mozilla Foundation  and NSF to write some code. The first iteration of OpenPath uses WebRTC for real-time communication and co-learning around location. We demoed the first product with Pat Blackman’s and my Tech Exploratory, and shared insights and vision on how location-based learning, curation, and co-creation can take place in non-institutional settings, out in the world, where questions arise naturally, fluidly, spontaneously.

We also had the good fortune to demo the metaLAB at Harvard’s Zeega, which uses HTML5 as a  web publishing and interactive storytelling tool, using social media and real-time platforms. Ahmed did a great demo for us, and driven by the student interest, we created a mash-up: Gangnam Nayan Cat.

Unbundled Learning with OpenPath

In the post, “Napster, Udacity, and the Academy,” Clay Shirky connects the current state of higher ed—rising costs, variable quality, inefficient access—with the advent of MOOCs, drawing a parallel to file sharing (Napster) and the upending of the music industry. I’ll leave it to you to read the essay; it’s timely, thoughtful, worthwhile.
Shirky writes, “The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled.” In this new, unbundled world, the mobile device can become the tool that provides access to the disparate pieces. OpenPath, our proposal for the NSF / Mozilla Ignite competition to design gigabit speed apps from the future, relies on mobile as both glue and on ramp for learners.

Imagine, for example, you come across the site of “A Great Day in Harlem,” the 1958 photo by Art Kane. There, using your mobile, you discover the documents and media that have been curated around this location and event—-jazz recordings, interviews, videos. You can also contribute your own writings, video, and artwork real-time via your mobile.

OpenPath Harlem

OpenPath affords the learner an unbundled, interest-driven, location-based experience. OpenPath offers a learning-in-the-world, where mobile acts as glue holding the experience together, and offers real-time media and collaboration. The mobile acts also as an on ramp to communities of interest, other learners who would like to pursue other learning paths created by this first experience. Shirky’s notion of unbundling, then, means that the OpenPath learner uses a tool that navigates the unbundled educational world, allowing geo-locative connections, communities, collaboration and creation. And perhaps this unbundling liberates the learner to reacquaint him/herself with inquiry.

OpenPath Tumblr

OpenPath Mozilla Ignite

Digital Citizens. Digital Footprints.

I am two months into my work with Mount Greylock Regional High School, where I am responsible for a nascent program in Digital Media and Learning. While the role is relatively uncharted at the school, I knew that I wanted to establish common ground regarding how we understood digital media and learning, and in specific, digital citizenship.

Liza Barrett teaches English at Mount Greylock and was cautiously eager to integrate technology with curriculum. Her 7th-grade classes typically do a multi-week exploration of autobiography in the fall, and we decided to fold digital citizenship into their work. Here is a sketch of our goals, process, and outcomes.

“Real” selves
Rather than simply tell students what to think, we asked them to generate ideas about themselves in a variety of contexts. First, we asked them to do a series of exercises, writings, and discussions concerning the different literal/physical/”real” contexts where they might find themselves—the classroom, the home, the playing field, hanging out with friends. The work was designed to raise their awareness of different contexts, their “self,” and how they act in those contexts. Of nearly 100 students, almost no one listed a digital context for themselves. Our work, however, suggests that they spend on average 20-25% of their waking time in some sort of digital context. (For recent data on teens and digital media, see Kristen Purcell’s presentation for Pew Research. Of note, “Some 76% of ALL teens are “social media users.“)

Digital Selves
Our next step was to investigate the digital contexts where students spend time. Across the board, these discussions were especially robust. Students shared places where they hang out with friends, where they spend time and money, and where they leave a digital footprint. Their comments were varied, from sharing ideas about applications and sites to expressing concerns about privacy, misrepresentation, and needing to unplug. We also defined citizenship and asked them to make linkages to the key concepts inherent in the definition—citizens belong to communities and groups, and they have rights and responsibilities. What then are your rights and responsibilities in a digitally connected world?

The culmination of the project presented students with a choice between two autobiographical essay assignments, both offering opportunities to include their digital “self” as a topic.  We also devised a project for collaborative group work where the kids synthesized their findings and opinions on digital citizenship to make a tri-fold mock-up/prototype pamphlet for elementary school students, presenting their Top Five Tips for being a good Digital Citizen. This project allowed students to distill their ideas, and to become teachers that share what they believe and know in an intelligent fashion.

Of note, our in-class work asked students to map out the hours of the day—asleep, awake—and then come up with an estimate of hours spent on some form of digital media (usually connected digital media: websites, games, mobiles, apps, etc.). The averages across classes suggest that 20-25% of their waking time spent with/in the digital. This specific exercise was especially powerful in that it implicitly underscored why we should investigate selfhood in a digitally connected world. It also highlighted our broader need to think about how kids are learning in these spheres and what Mount Greylock is doing to lead that process. Creating a Digital Citizenship unit that asks the entire incoming 7th grade to rigorously investigate their roles in these contexts is an amazing step toward this goal.

Resisting Answers

“Charting innovative scenarios for the future of knowledge creation and dissemination in the arts and humanities” –metaLAB


Last Thursday I visited openLAB, a showcase / open house for metaLAB at Harvard. They’re working on some fascinating ideas, projects that will have bearing on learning, inquiry, curation, and inter-disciplinary collaboration.

Some of the projects

Library Observatory: Harvard Accessions: using Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) API, this project tracks acquisition and accession of non-English items at the Harvard Library, rendering a curious and beautiful graphic representation across time, language, and events. Another piece juxtaposes accession with publication date, a swirling chronological visual narrative.

Library Observatory
Zeega: is focused on inventing new forms of interactive storytelling and documentaries, a creation tool and platform combining editorial and design tools using HTML5, with JS libraries such as Backbone and Popcorn. (See for Mozilla’s work in this area.). You can click and drag content, collaborate with and through massive collections such as vimeo and Flickr, among others, and in general, start to make video work like the web (Mozilla). I am eager to try this with students.

A Wealth of Nations: The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith’s book mapped to create a global geo-spatial representation of publication since 1776.

Digital Ecologies at Arnold Arboretum: Although just emerging in form, this initiative sounds especially promising for its embrace of a multidisciplinary approach that combines sciences, design, curation, and digital media. Project leader Kyle Parry writes, “We are asking what visitor experiences become possible when we integrate information and media ecologies into a living landscape teeming with natural and human histories.” This project, he notes, is “Conceptually situated at the intersection of nature and networks, landscape and media design, and science and aesthetics…”.

_____  _____

Throughout the evening, I participated in some great conversations, moving around the rooms, stumbling upon informal clusters of people gathered around visualizations, making observations, listening to presenters, and asking questions. Lots of good activity. One attendee seemed dismayed, though, that there weren’t enough Answers. And in truth, perhaps there were a few others who also longed for firmer conclusions, for tenable defenses. My sense is that answering questions was not the evening’s purpose, however.

Many of the openLAB projects looked at data artifacts or larger data patterns afforded by access to Library Cloud or DPLA. These works ask us to step back from the trees to see the forest. And as a result of this perspectival shift, viewers were curious. What is that contour and then sudden swirl in the Early Modern Collections visualization, and what does it say about the collecting (and funding) preferences of the institution? What is this anomaly is here, this lone instance of The Wealth of Nations in Argentina in the early 1800s? Why is it there?

These are “traces,” suggested metaLAB’s Mathew Battles. They are “bread crumbs” and paths we can follow, curate and, I would add, cultivate.

metaLAB Schnapp and Battles

I like this language and imagery. It serves metaLAB projects well. In these works we start to see the nuances of data, contours and overlaps and intersections that we never would have seen. The odd thing is that these are patterns that have always been there, in front of us, but not visible. And strangely, we sometimes need to see a big picture in order to discover a small detail.  We encounter traces, residues, anomalies and patterns, and these moments of observation and inquiry become starting points for participation and collaboration, and for more questions. Resisting the Answer, then, becomes a beginning at metaLAB, not an end.

Library Observatory and A Wealth of Nations images from metaLAB.