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Delivering, Accessing; Creating, Designing

Last Thursday, The New York Times hosted SchoolsForTomorrow, an all-day event featuring a variety of speakers sharing their vision for “bringing technology into the classroom.” The conference leaned toward corporate (Skype, Pearson, Scholastic, Intel, Cisco, etc.), or at least it felt that way. Conference symbiosis is always a delicate balance, though. And Yes, some teachers and administrators were there, but a student panel or two would have offered a useful contrast with the corporate discourse. Youth sometimes provides a healthy reality check (crucible?) for the ideas adults espouse.

The panels were too crowded—eight people (plus moderator)—but they generally uncovered some worthwhile ideas on the current state of affairs in education and technology. Keynote (Harvard University president emeritus) Larry Summers stated emphatically (paraphrased): 1. technology is dramatically transforming education, and 2. the mobile phone is central to that transformation.  And on a broader level, one of the more important ideas of the day was that the event happened, that The New York Times gathered these groups to share ideas with a broader audience. A good sign, I hope.

Mitch Resnick (Scratch), in the K-12 panel covering The Student, noted something revealing. Most of today’s discussions, he remarked, were about delivering and consuming, not making and creating. While delivering/accessing information is important, new technology can also broaden they way we create and design things…to be full citizens in society, said Resnick. Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT Media Lab states:  “We develop new technologies that, in the spirit of the blocks and fingerpaint of kindergarten, expand the range of what people can design, create, and learn.” I could see Nichole Pinkard (Digital Youth Network, Remix World) and Esther Wojcicki (Palo Alto High School, Creative Commons) nodding in agreement as Resnick spoke. I did, too.

Herein also lies a problem, I fear. Are most of the efforts to transform learning with technology merely duplicating old (ineffectual) models? Delivering and consuming, instead of designing and creating?

At the end of the day, I stopped by one of the new edtech showcases. As I  watched the black box theater and chatted with the rep, a hologram of Nicholas Negroponte (OLPC) emerged from the darkness to present a lecture.

Badges liberate mobile learning?

I just listened to the HASTAC / MacArthur/ Mozilla Foundation announcement on the DML Competition and badges.

Digital Media & Learning CompetitionI wrote to a colleague but decided to include some of the thoughts here, as well:

Badges as assessment/proof-of-accomplishment tools are especially intriguing in that they could liberate the inquiry-based mobile learner to pursue his/her questions more freely, flexibly. Mobiles, I believe, open up new learning possibilities in that they offer the power of the Internet in the student pocket (“anytime, anywhere” or “anyhow, anyway”) while untethering the learner from the traditional institutional strictures (class periods, school buildings, etc.). This move into new learning environments is often unmappable to state/federal standards. Badges, then, hopefully, might address new assessment needs that arise from mobile learning.

This of course is just the start of a long conversation regarding mobile learning and assessment.

Mobiles in Museum Context

nu colossus - nari wardI have been working at MASS MoCA for the last six months, helping them among other things raise capital for their educational and artist programs. MASS MoCA is a fascinating place—frugal, efficient, innovative, caring, supportive, and often sometimes exploring beyond boundaries. They are a making museum, one where the artists (and sometimes the entire staff) create installations/art on premises, real time. Most recently, for instance, we helped Jamaican born artist Nari Ward construct a  massive 60′ basket-woven fish trap ensnaring a 30′ fishing boat that Nari had found at a local garage.

This August, though, I will be doing some work with MASS MoCA’s KidsSpace and local B-HIP interns, discussing how mobiles (and digital media) can be leveraged for learning and curatorial opportunities in the museum context. (B-HIP is an intensive arts management internship program in the Berkshires.) Given MASS MoCA’s unusual circumstances, what is context when the museum is a 13-acre campus with 25+ buildings offering hundreds of thousand of square feet? This campus was the home, for example, of the Solid Sound Festival, a Wilco-curated arts festival spreading out into every nook and cranny of  the massive campus.

What, also, is context in terms of art that is yet to be created? And what is context when the mobile phone by definition liberates the participant from a fixed context to a more discursive, untethered experience.

I’m just thinking through some questions. If you have ideas on mobiles in museums, please send me a note; richard AT . I’d love to hear what you’re doing.

NCLIA at SXSWi: mobile learning and environment

SXSWi 2011 was at SXSWi last week, moderating a panel on the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLIA) and use of mobile phones for environmental (and STEM) education. The bill, inspired by Richard Louv’s concern over children’s “nature deficit disorder,” hopes to enhance the environmental literacy of K-12 students and “foster understanding, analysis, and solutions to the major environmental challenges.” The panel brought together a thoughtful group of mobile learning researchers and practitioners:

  • Jared Lamenzo, President/Co-Founder The WildLab/Mediated Spaces Inc.
  • Rebecca Bray,  Interaction Design & Strategy, Smithsonian Institution
  • Drew Davidson, Professor and Director at ETC, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Richard Scullin, Founder,
  • S. Craig Watkins, Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin

The conversation was framed in part by a question: What would Henry David Thoreau, the quintessential American naturalist-scientist, think of mobile devices used to study Nature?

The group covered good ground in its discussion. Some notable topics/questions:

Davidson: Are people starting to lose specific skills due to their relationship with new mobile technologies (maps)—the ability to give and understand directions, for example?

Lamenzo: Could the connected mobile device alter learning, perhaps (re)creating a guild-type model for distributed learners. [I’d like to hear more about this.]

Watkins: How are mobiles altering learning in the context of digital media, equity, and diversity, particularly around the shift from the digital divide to the participation gap?

Bray: Won’t students with mobile phones just text their friends? Or provide more of a barrier between them and nature instead of less? How do know that this is engaging enough that the technology would not be a distraction?

I also enjoyed the discussion of mobiles enabling game layers over the world, and more specifically, Davidson’s reference to Jane McGonigal’s distinction between “gameification” and “gamefulness,” the latter emphasizing the positive attributes (skills, collaboration, thinking, ethos) that arise through engagement with games. See Reality is Broken for more.

Also: thanks to Omar for some good coverage in the Austin American-Statesman: Austin

Open Mobile Learning: MobileEd’s 3-minute proposal

As finalist for the MacArthur / HASTAC Digital Media and Learning Competition, we were asked to submit a 3-minute video describing our plans and partners for Open Mobile Learning, an initiative to help teachers leverage and integrate mobiles for learning. This was shot mostly on mobile phones. Thanks to all the people who helped out, especially Merli V. Guerra.

Check out also MacArthur’s Spotlight, a blog covering digital media and learning, and DML Central, for theory and praxis writings in this space.

HASTAC / MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition

MobileEd is honored to be selected as finalist for the HASTAC/ MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition.

On Monday we submitted a budget and 3-minute video for public approval. We’d love to hear your response, your critique, your thoughts.

HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation

MobileEd proposed Open Mobile Learning, a web resource for K12 teachers to integrate mobiles with curriculum—scalable mobile lessons, research, best practices, community. We have a number of great schools collaborating with us on the K12 level, and some great thinker/practitioners from our university collaborators/partners: Matt Kam (Carnegie Mellon, MILLEE), Les Rubenfeld, (RPI, CIPCE), Kurt Squire (U Wisconsin-Madison, ARIS), and Eric Klopfer (MIT).

And succinct coverage in EphBlog, the unofficial Williams College blog.


I met David Gagnon at TEDxNYED a few weeks back. He has been working with Kurt Squire at University of Wisconsin-Madison and told me about their June conference: Games+Learning+Society.  Looks like three+ days of great content, and they’ve added a mobile learning day on Wednesday, 6/9. And, they also are running the GLS Educator Symosium Saturday, 6/12. “The GLS Educator Symposium features panel presentations and round tables from noted scholars in videogames and digital media as well as hands-on workshops in game design, mobile media learning, digital storytelling, and educational videogames.”      And its $10!

Drew Davidson from Carnegie Mellon University is part of this effort and will be exploring “Worked Examples,” something I wrote on earlier, based on an essay by James Paul Gee. Have a look at the Organizers: it’s a solid gathering of some of key thinkers in the Digital Media and Learning space/field, among them, Eric Klopfer, from our mobile learning session at MacArthur Foundation’s DML 2010.