ASIS&T 2008: Plenary

Closing Plenary Session: Digital Media and Learning
Connie Yowell, director of education grantmaking at the MacArthur Foundation

-“We’re the ones that give out the Genius awards every year.” Come visit in Chicago next Tuesday!
-Give out about $300 million a year. Grants in over 60 countries. Offices all over the world.
-Initiative on digital media & learning. $50 million/5 years. Whether or not digital media is affecting how young people learn & think. Will edu & learning look the same in the future? How do they use digital media?
-Kids do the usual activities but favorite is playing Pokemon or doing some other online or video game thing. Explanation of Pokemon.
-Ubiquity of digital media in lives of young ppl. Worked on civic engagement study with Pew Internet & American Life Project. 97% of all young people have played video games.
-What are they doing with this digital media and what are the implications for how we need to think about learning & role of institutions.
-3-yr ethnographic study on youth & media in US. 700+ participants & 25 researchers. Analyzed 10,000+ profiles (high school kids). Released in 3 weeks or so.
-Distinction between friendship-based & interest-driven participation. Media pays most attention to first. (MySpace, etc.)
-Friendship-based: What they’re doing online in this case looks like what they do offline. Few adults involved. Not a place for strangers – kids aren’t engaging with strangers online in social networking. (Same as real world.)
-Interest-driven: highly social. Pursuing things they are deeply interested in. This stuff is not socially isolating, generally speaking. Extended interaction (f2f or virtual).  Individual-based interactions – clear on who is good at what in the game. Play as a group but getting individual feedback on skills. Highly participatory & production-based. Play the game, but make comics, stories, blogs, etc. Peer-based (peers because common interest) – inter-generational, ‘peer’ is about participation, not age.
-Media is converging – not losing old media, bringing together with new. Kids: it’s about the content, not the technology/platform. Follow interest across different media (convergence).
-Learning is networked. Involved in set of f2f activities but at the same time involved in online activities. School is no longer the primary site of learning – a node on a learning network now.
-Rich array of learning opps, low barriers to participation. Easy access to expertise. Multiple identities. Easy to share what you make & get feedback.
-Implications for how we support that learning in the future.
-Digital media is a tool like pencil & paper.
-Kids can find support for negative activities as well as positive. (Pro-anorexia online communities, for example.)
-Creating high quality media & understanding what you want to do & how to do it is a new set of skills that we aren’t helping kids develop. Unequal access to learning the skills. Parents uncomfortable with digital media & schools can’t all provide.
-Up to the kid to make sense of what’s going on as they navigate between parts of their world. Kids are having rich but fragmented experiences.
-What are the 21st century skills? “New Media Literacies” Henry Jenkins paper.
-11 core literacies in addition to traditional. play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence [not fast enough to get the rest down]
-performance: adopt identities for improv & discovery.
-We teach students about things – digital media allows them to participate & experience.
-appropriation: meaningfully sample & remix. (fogeys = plagiarism/copyright violation)
-collective intelligence: pool knowledge/compare notes. defining feature of participation. assume everyone knows something, but no one knows everything. skill: tap community to get info when you need it.
-transmedia navigation: follow flow of info across platforms.
-Where are kids going to pick these skills up?
-Schools ban use of most of these tools. Parents don’t necessarily have the skills.
-Libraries & museums are poised to take advantage of the gap and help build new literacies.
-possible for libs to become center of social & creative learning. [awesome!]
-Just beginning to explore the ideas with the grants. Emerging projects.
ThinkeringSpace – possible to create physical space where young people can tinker with content of books through digital media. come in, pop up content of a book on a screen, now they can comment, remix, add stuff. young people taking book themes and putting to musical styles. mash up interest in music with stuff in school helps demo learning to teacher. [really fantastic] content goes beyond library walls via social networks.
-Never have to explain why what they do with something interesting is relevant or engaging. (unlike school) addictiveness of engaging your interest & getting better.
-I Dig Tanzania – field museum & after school program in NYC (works with them in Teen Second Life). high schoolers. way to participate in dig in Tanzania with paleontologists? built a replica in TSL. (showed video on project on youtube) Did lots via TSL – with researchers on dig in Tanzania, too – and then at end got to meet in Chicago.


Q: Disagree with provision of physical spaces in library – his kids don’t go there. TSL is a better idea. Guides for teachers & parents.
A: Agree, but on other hand if it becomes a digital, interactive place, they’ll go. [I agree.] Harder to connect to friends out of school – not that they are always dying to be online. Need safe spaces to connect F2F and with digital tools. Remember kids don’t want you in the friendship-driven stuff – guidance stays in interest-driven areas. Teachers don’t have time – if kids can pick up skills elsewhere & bring into classroom teachers will take advantage of competencies.

Comment: Transinstitutional navigation as well as transmedia. Drop northern/western perspective – not all can provide things at home. New opportunities.

Q: Is there a comparison ethographic study from a previous era that we can use to say this is new, or this is just in a new environment?
A: Don’t idealize/romanticize digital world. As world becomes more designed, it becomes more opaque. No opp for kids to tinker – can’t take things apart anymore. Can’t take apart an iMac as easily; illegal to take apart an engine in most states. Creat opps for tinkering!

Comments: School Library Media program director – don’t forget us! Curriculum is key issue, not just content but structure. Bloom’s taxonomy [this came up at another session]. These ideas let us focus on the highest level – create – curriculums are stuck on bottom levels of learn/remember.
A: Grantees toying with notion that disciplines are heuristic devices that are not so useful anymore. Rethink how we organize curriculm [yes – show connections and help integrate things]

Q: Info on how big initiative is organized. Results are anecdotal [?]. Are peopel reinventing the research wheel? Finding ways in which kids learn that are applicable to your initiative?
A: New field emerging? Intersection of variety of disciplines/practices/for-profit sector. We are using things created for commercial purposes as learning environments (ex Second Life). How do you deal with that? MIT Press series of books [something about MacArthur series on digital media & learning]. Difficult to get academics to work on these books in a shared, collaborative way.  [Will this change in a couple of decades as new media people come into academia?] Int’l journal of learning & media – new coming out in Feb. We have to rethink peer review. Slowness of academia is a problem. Findings from this study will come out in 2010 in a book!!! Not a sustainable model.

Comment: Emphasis on technical excitement & learning. My kid’s life is dominated by commercial enterprises. Please look at consequnces of this!

[I had to leave to check out of the hotel – Q&A was still going.]