Education Week: research projects on digital technology's effects

The current issue of Education Week talks about the MacArthur Foundation moving to the forefront in support of research on educational technology. "Projects Probe New Media's Role in Changing the Face of Learning" is worth reading. Constance M. Yowell, the foundation's director of education, talks about investigating " that allow us to engage the social nature of learning." Quest Atlantis by Indiana University Bloomington is discussed, as is Remix World, a University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement initiative (not accessible to people outside the project). There's Global Kids for the after-school programs in New York City, and also the Institute of Play in New York City. Mizuko Ito, a researcher from University of Southern California, has a project in which postdoc and grad students observe and interview students as they interact in informal educational environments with new media.
Ito says that schools should attend to "the dynamics we see in online spaces, where kids are getting very rich and immediate feedback from their peers--that ties into a very rich and immersive learning ecology." (Trotter, Education Week, Dec.5, 2007)
(By the way, Mizuko "Mimi" Ito's blog is worth visiting, and you can check out this Wikipedia page about her, too.)

So, Edweek is featuring an article on New Media's role in education. Catching on, eh? Lots of things to think about. Powerful stuff.

Tags: 21st+century+skills, MacArthur, research

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You are tireless Connie. It's all I can do to keep up :)

I'd cautiously agree that the time for virtual worlds such as Quest Atlantis has come. Quest is a good example of solid pedagogical practices and development being incorporated into a model virtual environment to create an exceptional learning space. Of course, I also have to point out that Quest does some old media as well with trading cards and paperback novels involved.

These spaces still take so much time and know-how to develop that educational uses are lagging behind the entertainment uses. Usually, teachers hitch on to the entertainment resources in these spaces and supplement them to provide instruction. Development of the resources is still difficult to do and, thus, out of reach for your average teacher.

When talking about virtual worlds, like SecondLife and There, advocates are always brought down a peg by those who thought that MUDs and MOOs were the next big thing in education. While there were some very successful ones, I'd guess that a small percentage of the Classroom 2.0 group actually used them or even know what they are.

That's why I'm CAUTIOUSLY optimistic. However, with participatory (able to develop) spaces like SecondLife gaining in popularity and the hardware finally catching up (though I can't run it well on my year-old laptop :( I think that we have turned a corner.

Of course, I haven't even begun talking about MMORPGs like World of Warcraft (WoW) that have significantly raised the bar on what we can expect in terms of graphics, interaction, and overall killer design. These games are hugely popular and are becoming the rulers by which all virtual spaces will be judged. Unfortunately, this is a good indication that the entertainment industry will likely always have a leg up on the education industry causing us to be in a perpetual game of catch up. Doesn't bode well for an industry with little patience and less money.

Sorry. I hijacked this post by only talking about one aspect of new media. The reference to Quest Atlantis got me started and I just kept going.

Hi Dan,
If that got you started, keep going! Share some more. Your response is bringing up some great points, and it'd be great to know more. I didn't know much at all about any of these places until I looked them up because MacArthur grant money is going into investigating them.
My son plays RuneScape a lot and I've had him "tour me" through that game several times.
I'll look into Quest Atlantis more, given your recommendation.
When you say you're (cautiously) optimistic, what gives you hope? What is your best (utopian) vision of what could come for education? What if there was suddenly a massive amount of money to put into digital technology for education--where would you like to see it go?
Thanks for your thoughts!



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