Author Archives: admin 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

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.

Mobile STEM in the Hood

In “What Tech in Schools Really Looks Like,” Audrey Watters describes the distribution of technology in US K-12 classrooms. Watters offers some notable examples of how schools are using digital media for learning, “[b]ut stories like these don’t represent what’s happening in most of our nation’s schools,” she points out. I argued a similar point re. mobile learning at this fall: despite promising anecdotes and amazing potential, mobiles are not being leveraged for learning. The central idea for Watters, though, concerns inequity: “…the distribution of technology in our classrooms remains radically uneven. It differs by school and grade level. It differs by region. It differs in the make, model, and operating system of various computers. It differs in usage.”

There are a number of reasons why this is so, some of which I will examine in an article I am writing for IJLM, but for now I’d like to discuss a central point in Watter’s piece: BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) / mobiles. More specifically, could the mobile device be a step toward addressing the radical inequality Watters describes? While this inequality reveals itself in varied regional and socioeconomic contexts, I’d like to focus on urban youth. We know from Pew Research that mobile adoption in black and Hispanic populations has been strong. In many instances, some less advantaged socioeconomic groups have skipped landlines and laptops, and have gone directly mobile. Is this an opportunity?

Here’s where Chris Emdin comes in. Emdin is a professor at the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University. His recent work focuses on how to teach, or inspire the curiosity to learn, STEM subjects.

Emdin has a new book out, Urban Science Education for the Hip-hop Generation, one he recently discussed  in conversation with @NewBlackMan, Mark Anthony Neal.

In the interview, Emdin proposes our using the languages and culture of the “‘hood” to teach sciences. He suggests focusing on urban youth culture, a black vernacular that has been marginalized in STEM disciplines. How, Emdin asks, may hip hop culture be used as a pedagogical tool?

This makes sense: Use the forces and influences in brown and black students’ lives (what Emdin describes as “a way of knowing and being”) to connect content and skills for learning in sciences.

So, what if we were to connect the dots between Emdin’s ideas, Audrey Watters’ ideas, and mobile devices?

I can imagine an entire program designed and implemented around mobiles—the devices many students already own—to leverage mobile technology for STEM learning. Why don’t we design curricula that are mobile, using the neighborhood as the science lab? (You could easily use platforms such as And thinking about Connected Learning, I also imagine Mobile STEM for the ‘Hood as successfully embodying connected design and learning principals.

Connected Learning

Learning Principles

Academically oriented

Design Principles
Openly networked
Shared purpose

On Connected Learning

And Audrey Watters

What Tech in Schools Really Looks Like

And Chris Emdin

Open Mobile Learning badges

Open Mobile Learning Badges: Scenarios

Digital Media & Learning Competition: Badges’s proposal for Mobile Learning Badges was selected for the next stage of the Mozilla/MacArthur/HASTAC DML Competition. Here are some of the mobile learning scenarios I described in the application.

Mobile Environmental & Citizen Science

As a member of the local river and watershed organization, the Hoosic River Watershed Association (HooRWA), Tony participates in the annual flora and fauna census, collecting data and documenting the health of the local river ecosystem. Tony uses his mobile phone to geolocate, record, and contribute vital data sets to the larger study. Tony has earned two badges for his work with HooRWA—a Mobile Environmental Badge and a Mobile Citizen Science Badge.

Tony’s badges appear on his website, social media pages, and in Tony’s Learning Tree, an online dossier documenting his lifelong accomplishments in any number of activities and fields of study—both formal or informal.

Mobile Local History

Catherine, a college History major, uses her mobile phone to create several key bodies of content that the community now uses for educational and historic purposes.

For The Architectural Record, a work that documents noteworthy architectural structures and stories in her small city, Catherine uses an online map (Google, FourSquare, Layar, etc.) to geolocate and photo-document houses and buildings of historic merit. Community members use their mobile phones to tour the city, learn from the tags and audio recordings, contribute details and narratives, and view historic layers over their city.

She uses her phone to photo-document and record veteran’s narratives which become living documents on the community Veteran’s Center website. Further, students from the local elementary and high schools contribute fresh narratives each year, thereby perpetuating the growth and relevance of the veterans’ stories to community history.

Catherine received several badges for her work in this field: a Mobile Local History Badge, a Mobile Veterans’ Services Badge, and a Mobile Civic Engagement Badge.

Mobile Art

Ben is a digital and performance artist living in Pittsburgh, PA. His work concerns massive open participatory media events where disparate participants briefly form mobile art communities. Recently, Ben received a grant to implement his latest project: a mobile symphony. Ben set up seven telephone numbers, each with a different note, and another five lines that play found percussion sounds. Using trunking lines from a mobile VoIP (Voice over IP) provider, each number can be concurrently dialed and played by multiple callers. On July 14, over 85 participants gathered at Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning to create a “mobile sound wave” with their phone speakers, and with the local experimental dance collective, create a spontaneous collaborative performance. Part of the artist’s interest lay in if and how a group of strangers could gather and then self-organize to make “art.” The event was a success.

Ben earned a Mobile Art Badge and a Mobile Music Badge. Participants also earned Mobile Community Art Badges for their involvement.

Mobile Fundraising and Civics

Margaret, the first of her family to graduate college, knows from personal experience that early intervention plays a powerful role in helping reverse failing trajectories. To help her Early Childhood Literacy Center raise money for their new initiative in underserved neighborhoods, Margaret collaborated with a local friend who had expertise in advertising and graphic design. Together, the two created a simple yet successful QR and Text For Literacy campaign in the city. They postered and distributed flyers, and they placed PSA ads with various media outlets. Community members, by texting “literacy” to 54454, could contribute $10, $20, or $50. The two women also persuaded a local business to host a coffee hour, where they shared success stories of the literacy program. Attendees could text in their support immediately.

Margaret earned two important badges through her work: a Mobile Volunteer Badge and a Mobile Educator Badge.

More on Open Mobile Learning Badges

Badges for Mobile Learning just submitted a proposal for the HASTAC / Mozilla Foundation / MacArthur Digital Media & Competition on Badges for Learning. See this link for our ideas on using badges to recognize achievement in mobile learning.

An excerpt from the application:

Because these learning activities fall outside the aegis of “school,” they go unrecognized. We must acknowledge noteworthy and meaningful achievement in use of mobile phones to pursue fields of learning or civic engagement outside traditional educational structures.

To address this need, proposes creation of the Open Mobile Learning Badge program to recognize achievement using mobiles in various fields of interest—both in established learning practices and yet-to-be discovered modalities for learning that are made possible through mobile technology.

Please comment if you have insights that might be useful.