PLAYBACK: Poets, Astronauts, Rebels and the New Content Creators


10.14.11 | YouTube’s SpaceLab; Why Steve Jobs couldn’t fix your classroom; Celebrating National Day of Writing; Digital Badges 101; and listening to YouMedia’s young artists—all in this week’s Playback.

In Orbit: YouTube announced this week it is inviting teens age 14 to 18 to submit science experiments to be conducted in space. Students can submit a two-minute video about their proposed experiment in biology or physics to the YouTube SpaceLab Project. Designed to engage kids in science, entries will be judged by a panel of astronauts, scientists and educators from around the world. YouTube is partnering with Lenovo, NASA, and space agencies around the world.

There are cool prizes for the six regional winners, including a ride on a zero-gravity flight. But the two global winners will see their experiments really take off: The experiments will be put on a rocket and flown to the International Space Station, where an astronaut will carry out the students’ instructions (streamed live,  of course).

“If our competition can just play a small part in getting kids interested in science, then we’ll be very, very happy,” Zahaan Bharmal, Google’s head of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told the Washington Post. “My vision is the final live stream will be the world’s largest science classroom.”

More information on how to enter,  is available on YouTube. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 7.

Why Steve Jobs Couldn’t Fix Your Classroom: In the midst of last week’s many tributes to Apple’s Steve Jobs and the outpouring of grief online from Mac users everywhere, we didn’t want you to miss this post from John T. Spencer and Shelly Blake-Plock. Blogging at Teachpaperless, these educators present an important counterpoint to those who saw Jobs as an educational visionary who created opportunity for students to create and connect (see Christine’s report on those from last week). 

Instead, Spencer and Blake-Plock say it is not the products that have transformed education, but the power of the internet: “[I]t was only once the full force of the Internet became a mainstream staple of our culture—decades after the first Apple IIe was ever sold to an elementary school—that Jobs’ products even had an opportunity to transform education.”

Instead of Apple, authors say, we should be looking to decentralized and democratized models of technology use such as Wikipedia for possibilities for transforming education – not closed systems controlled by corporate interests.

In the end, we have to remember that Apple made and continues to make products. It’s the artists and designers and thinkers who use those products, it’s the people who make connections using those products, it’s the rebels who subvert and augment and redefine the uses of those products (think the origination of iTunes University) that defines transformation.

Plus, Agony and Ecstasy: For another important critique, see performance artist and writer Mike Daisey’s op-ed in The New York Times from last week. Daisey’s show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” now up at New York’s Public Theater, examines our obsession with these devices and takes Apple to task for its monopoly and labor practices.

In the end, Daisey writes, Jobs was a man who “failed to ‘think different,’ in the deepest way, about the human needs of both his users and his workers.” In short, not the values we want to be teaching our children.

To Keep From Going Insane: The National Day on Writing is coming up next week, on Oct. 20. The New York Times Learning Network, the National Writing Project, Edutopia, and are teaming up to collect answers to the question: “Why do you write?”

According to the National Writing Project: “Writing has been fundamental to human civilization since the first hieroglyphs, and it becomes more important everyday in our world that streams with emails, text messages, tweets, and blog posts.”, launched last year, is an online space for teens to share writing online. Teens can submit novels, short stories and poems via their computers or phones, and they can also give and receive feedback on their own work and work posted by others. 

For this celebration, Figment is asking for submissions (essays, poems, plays) from young writers that will eventually be collected in an e-book. They’ve already got a great collection going – browse and be inspired here. You can also participate in the celebration by tweeting with the hashtag #whyiwrite. Learn more about the events going on leading up to the National Day of Writing at the National Writing Project.

Plus, for more on writing in the digital age, check out my post on NWP’s book “Because Digital Writing Matters.”

Badges 101: If you’re still in the dark about what a digital badge is and how it relates to learning, the fourth annual Digital Media and Learning Competition has posted the archived version of its first badges webinar. The webinars cover the basics – what badges are and how they can work for learning. Or, if you’d like, you can register for the next webinar coming up on Oct. 17 at 3p.m. (EST). Submit your questions in advance by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and including “webinar question” in the subject line.

“A Constructive Loud”: That’s how YouMedia lead mentor Mike Hawkins describes the scene at the Chicago Public Library’s digital space for teens, where “the sounds of music, video games and conversation are everywhere.” Hawkins is quoted in this USA Today story, which showcases YouMedia’s new vision for libraries: learning spaces where kids can gain 21st-century literacy skills and learn to become critical media consumers and content creators.

“It’s really a shift from thinking of a library as a repository to a community center, a place where things actually happen,” librarian Taylor Bayless tells USA Today. 

But what I always love best are the stories of the kids themselves and how they are using the space. Raymond Abercrombie, 17, comes in seven days a week to discuss poetry and write and perform his own music. You can see students at YouMedia in action in these Spotlight videos.

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated to ensure topic relevance and generally will be posted quickly.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.