Meet the HASTAC Award Winners for Innovation in Digital Media and Learning


5.13.10 | A mobile-based spy school for girls to explore science mysteries, a virtual butterfly net to scoop up insects and learn about habitat, student-produced videos on community issues, which play on Los Angeles buses as they pass through featured neighborhoods—these were some of the awards for innovation in digital media and learning presented by HASTAC and the MacArthur Foundation May 12, in Washington, D.C.

Behind the Research

This year’s DML Competition was launched in collaboration with President Obama’s Educate to Innovate initiative, challenging applicants to create digital learning labs via games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds and social networks that promote building and tinkering in new and innovative ways. The $1.7 million in awards was shared among 10 winners.

The winning entries are the start of how we can coordinate the reality that kids can learn anywhere, anytime today. Learning today doesn’t stop, if it ever did, at the classroom door, and digital tools and games can help us reimagine learning in an always-on world.

Meet the 10 winners:

Conservation Connection: Using webcasting, video blogging and social networking sites, this project connects kids from Chicago’s West Side with kids in Fiji to work together to protect Fijian coral reefs.

Mobile Action Lab: Combining the expertise of social entrepreneurs and technologists and the knowledge and ideas of Oakland, Calif.-based teens, this project helps develop mobile phone applications that serve Oakland communities.

Click! The Online Spy School: Designed to encourage girls’ engagement in the sciences, Click!Online is a web-based, augmented reality game for teen girls to solve mysteries in biomedical science, environmental protection and expressive technology.

Ecobugs: An augmented reality game that creates, collects and monitors the health of virtual bugs and their habitats.

Fab@School: Introduces students to digital fabrication, mathematical modeling and engineering using a low-cost open-source system. Kids invent and design their own creations from mind’s eye to physical form.

Metrovoice: Youth write and produce videos on an issue on their block or neighborhood. The videos are geocoded and play on city buses as the bus passes through the featured neighborhood.

Nox No More: Enables kids to upload GPS-gathered data that trace their movements for a week—did they take the bus to their friend’s house or have mom drive? The data is converted to points, and kids compete to be most environmentally conscious.

Hole-in-the-Wall: Installed in small kiosks on sidewalks, these computer stations offer games in a variety of subjects and skills to kids in Bhutan, Cambodia, India and elsewhere, bringing technology to underserved areas.

Scratch: This simple programming tool allows kids up to age 8 to create their own games, stories, animations and simulations. The online network allows kids to collaborate on designs, offer suggestions to others, and learn from others as they develop as creative thinkers.

Youth AppLab: This program supplements D.C. teens’ computer science classes with an after-school opportunity to create phone apps for the Droid. Winners of the best apps are offered internships with technology startups in the D.C. area.

Connie Yowell, director of education at the MacArthur Foundation calls this an extraordinary moment in time in U.S. education. “We’re at an inflection point, where we can reimagine what learning looks like, and technology will play an important role,” she told winners at a reception in Washington.

The HASTAC winners move the discussion of technology and education to the next level. Too often we equate technology with mere efficiencies. Classroom organizers, teacher accountability tools, grading tools, even putting courses online—all are good uses of technology, but they simply make a 19th century form of education more efficient.

“Few of these technologies are really about learning,” says Yowell. “My greatest fear is that’s where the conversation will end.”  The HASTAC winners hint at the possibilities of digital media and learning in engaging kids in new ways.

The next round of winners—Game Changers—will be announced May 25 at the Games for Change festival in New York. Winners will share $25,000 for creative levels designed for either LittleBigPlanet or Spore Galactic Adventures.

Visit MacArthur Foundation for more information, or read more at HASTAC about the individual winners.

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