Digital Media & Learning @ MacArthur

Amanda, Holly and attended the 2nd Digital Media and Learning Competition event in Chicago last month. This year they opened the competition to international projects. (Check out our blog post about one such project, M-Ubunto, at dml.vozmob.net.) Over the course of the day’s events, MacArthur Foundation President Jonathon Fanton and his colleagues raised the question of the ‘participation gap’—versus simply the ‘digital divide’—which is certainly a topic of concern to the Mobile Voices project. (What ‘participation’ actually entails – what counts as digital participation, and its value – would be an interesting discussion to have in more depth with other MacArthur awardees.)
Connie Yowell, Director of Education, talked about MacArthur’s focus on learning (i.e. the process) rather than the traditional focus on expert-determined educational curriculum; the learning process is what can and should be participatory. (This reminded me of some of our discussions of Freire’s critique of the ‘banking system’ of education.) MacAthur has a strong interest in research and practice that can drive innovative program design and policy; such research is being collected on the website http://www.futuresoflearning.org, created by MacArthur awardee Mimi Ito and David Theogoldberg.
Ito and Howard Rheingold spoke on a panel on “Digital Youth and Participatory Learning” responding in real time to questions and ideas twittered by the audience. Check out our moblog posts on this on the dml.vozmob.net page. Other interesting work from last year’s winners was also featured; check out Black Cloud (http://studio.berkeley.edu/bc/; http://www.dmlcompetition.net/1/winnerDetail.php?x=bc).
In a break-out session with other 2009 awardees (Global Challenge, Mumbai WAVE, M-Ubunto, and Tecno.Tzotzil) we discussed questions around the inclusion of underserved communities in digital learning: the challenges, technologies and methods of assessment. (This latter topic was discussed primarily in terms of qualitative methods.) How can we encourage and support participation? What is the value of the resulting content to various audiences? Holly raised a key question about privilege and the role of power dynamics in projects working with underserved communities. For example, one might question why, if the emphasis is on horizontal learning instead of expert knowledge, was there a privileged position given to the Principal Investigators for each project?
The MacArthur social networking site for 2009 DML winners will soon be up and running – we should contribute to this once every 4-6 weeks. (They gave us a flip camera to use for this purpose.) There will be both private and public functions on the site, to enable collaboration among awardees. Hopefully some interesting conversations and collaborations will transpire.

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