Last night, Rahim and I went to The Power of Youth Voice: What Kids Learn When They Create With Digital Media, an event hosted by the MacArthur Foundation, The Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the National Writing Foundation. It was held at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

It was an excellent event, well attended, and the panel discussion afterwards was quite interesting. It was geared mostly towards the K-12 crowd (obviously, considering the title) but their explorations extend well beyond that set.

What I pulled from the event:

1. There are some absolutely amazing explorations taking place at various secondary schools throughout the country. From what I could gather, these were primarily occurring at arts and specialty high schools. I heard more than once that it was the hope that these would serve as models for the larger school systems as they worked to establish programs on their own.

2. One amazingly fascinating project was through the work of Global Kids, an interesting organization that works a lot with school districts throughout the country. Their example was called I Dig Zambia. It involved students in three locations (Chicago (via The Field Museum), New York and Zambia working together on Second Life to explore paleontology, biology, forestry, etc. IT basically involved setting up a virtual Zambian dig where students could explore the world of paleontology realistically, interact with their fellow students and report on their findings. Amazing stuff. You can learn more here about Global Kids virtual explorations.

3. It was noted that a lot of this digital media investigation is occurring outside the classroom/schools, in after-school programs, etc. One attendee seems quite passionate about the fact that this had something to do with the filtering mechanisms that schools put in place that restricts access to certain materials and sites. There seemed to be a regional divide on this issue and several advocates strongly believed in these filters and some didn’t. Inconclusive. I opt for more rather than less, but never full access to all materials.

4. Literacies, namely transliteracies, seemed to be a critical focus in digital media. What are we learning? What literacy is being promoted? It most definitely is a critical, conceptual thinking, as all creativity is an abstract take on the world. I believe, as did others, that this multimedia exploration is an augmentation of traditional literacy, an expansive literacy. It is not an either/or proposition (traditional textual literacy as opposed to multimedia literacy). There is room for more. As some admitted, however, the verdict is still out. We are not sure what are the best standards, best practices. We are still in an age of exploration.

5. Literacy led to assessment. What is assessment in this digital media context? Do we assess the learning artifact? Is it formative as opposed to summative assessment? Most seemed to lean towards formative assessment but that isn’t always encouraged by administrators or school districts who want measurable numbers.

6. Some of these projects ranged into elementary schools, which was younger than I had imagined.

All in all, a great event and I wish the MacArthur Foundation all the best in their work as this is an exciting age. My wife would be pleased to know that the MacArthur folks also sponsor PBS and NPR. How’s that for All Things Considered?

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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