DML 2012

I am writing this post for the Instructional Technology Team blog at my school, but I wanted to cross-post it here as well. It’s a longer post than I’d typically write, but I wanted to capture some thoughts related to each of the sessions I attended.

This week I attended the Digital Media and Learning Conference in San Francisco. It was a fantastic opportunity to (re)connect with folks and to spend some time thinking about some of the big ideas related to teaching and learning. The conference had a more research focus (although they made purposeful attempts to include K-12 teachers this year) than some others I’ve attended, and I was grateful to “get about the clouds” of particular tools and specific classroom applications and think more broadly.

For the first session, I hopped around a bit due to some overcrowded rooms and a session that wasn’t what I expected. I was able to catch the Q & A of the Democratizing Learning Innovation session. Gever Tully, founder of Tinkering School and Brightworks, was one of the panelists. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at NAIS last year, and I am impressed by the way in which his programs create spaces for students to make, learn, and reflect.

In Design Thinking + Digital Media: A Model for Creating Meaningful Learning Experiences in the 21st Century Museum, educational directors and digital outreach coordinators at several different museums spoke about the ways in which they incorporate design thinking and digital media in their programs for youth. (Bud Hunt also blogged his thoughts about the panel.) It was interesting to hear from those outside some of the constraints of the typical expectations/requirements of school and bound by others.

Similar to schools, museum educators described trying to assess the proper balance between teaching students enough content so that their exhibits/apps/products could be useful and accurate, but not cramming in so much content that there wasn’t time for the work and play of design and exploration. I was impressed by the way in which they have created opportunities for students to become part of designing exhibits/apps/products that will become pieces of exhibits on equal footing with those designed by adults. Perhaps because of lack of imagination or other constraints, this is an area in which I see museums out in front of many schools, where, even if students create products or exhibits, they lack any tie to work bigger than themselves.

In a session on the Multiplicity of Composition, Peter Kittle said he asks the following of his students when they’ve completed a multimedia project (although the questions could apply to many kinds of work)….

What was your vision? How did it differ from what you produced?

These struck me as really useful questions. When I ask students to reflect, I typically ask, among other questions, What would you have done differently? or What do you think are the weaknesses of your final project? Students’ answers to my questions and to Peter’s might be similar, but I really like the way that Peter’s questions ask students to articulate a vision and then assess how their final product varied from that.

The final panel I attended was titled The Paradox of Inclusion. It sought to wrestle with the challenges that face educators and social advocates around issues of equity, access, and valuation of skills and practices.

(I’ll admit to a little personal geeking out as this panel featured Dr. danah boyd and Antero Garcia, who I think are doing some of the most interesting work and thinking about these issues. danah is a fellow at the Berkman Center on Internet and Society (among other appointments) and a researcher who studies teen interaction with technology, and Antero is a teacher in South Central LA who is finishing (finished?) his PhD at UCLA.)

You can access audio from danah’s portion of the panel here

danah highlighted the ways in which power was important theme in each of the panelist’s presentations. Male-female flirtation online and face to face, power of parents to determine what norms should be in schools in terms of student behavior, and power struggles related to what access students are allowed to have to technology they own (primarily cell phones) in schools were all addressed.

danah challenged the notion that we can live in boundary-less world. Even “efforts to actually get to an inclusive space end up reworking new kinds of dominance” and “certain groups that become more or less recognized with each new power play that we see.” She noted that it’s the tech skills of privileged communities often become the ones written into curriculum and valued by schools. And left us with questions like:

As we talk about participatory learning, what kinds of participation do we include?

If you’re interested in more about the conference, John Seely Brown’s conference keynote is available online.

Chad Sansing, a middle school teacher, has written an important post of challenge and questions related to the conference that’s worth your consideration.

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