PLAYBACK: Preparing Students for Learning in the Digital Age


2.4.11 | Early childhood advocates explore digital media; a teacher responds to the State of the Union; PBS documentary examines 21st-century learners; report on technology and learning in afterschool spaces, museums and libraries; and digital learning expands in D.C.

Transmedia for 2-year-olds?: Last week we reported on Michael Levine’s call for more research on digital media and preschool age children. Lisa Guernsey, writing at the New American Foundation’s Early Ed Watch blog, says the tide may be turning.

Guernsey, director of New America’s Early Education Initiative and the author of “Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age 5,” says she’s seeing new interest among those in child development circles around media to support children’s learning.

In the old world, children’s media – namely television – was usually something to be passively absorbed at home.  But today children are gaining access to media that encourages – no, requires – some interaction on their part. Couldn’t that interaction bring with it the potential for harnessing that media to enrich children’s learning in many promising ways, in and out of school?

As evidence, she points to a new position paper on technology from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and a recent roundtable discussion at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. Guernsey is also optimistic about the new awards in the federal Ready to Learn Television competition that gave grants to promote educational television and “transmedia storytelling” for kids ages 2 to 8.

Plus: Listen to Guernsey’s interview with The Cooney’s Center’s Carly Shuler and Cynthia Chiong, in this podcast: Apps, iPhones and Young Kids. Shuler and Chiong are the authors of “Learning: Is There An App for That?

State of the Union, a Teacher’s POV: Antero Garcia, an English teacher at Manual Arts High School in South Central Los Angeles, a high poverty school with a dropout rate of more than 60 percent, wrote a thoughtful response to the State of the Union speech, focusing on using digital media to connect with students. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan posted it on the Huffington Post.

While applauding the president’s call to connect “every part of America to the digital age” and to make sure the country is “poised for progress,” Garcia urges policymakers not to forget his students, many of whom have learning needs not being met by traditional educational models. 

In addition to “financial compensation, non-privatized models of instruction, and increased resources for schools with the most need,” Garcia says we must embrace new ways to teach and connect with all students.

Every text message sent from behind a propped textbook, every confiscated headphone and accidental ringtone going off in class is a reminder that students are communicating and producing information in ways that traditional schooling is unprepared for.

You may remember Garcia from his work developing Digital Media and Learning Competition winner “Black Cloud,” an alternate reality game that teaches environmental literacy. Garcia is also a teaching ambassador fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.

New Learners Documentary: For ideas on how to engage today’s kids through technology, make sure to watch a new PBS documentary airing on Feb. 13, “Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century.” Watch the preview below:

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media - New Learners Of The 21st Century.

Plus: With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PBS has just launched the Digital Learning Object Academy (DLOA), where PBS media producers will work to develop targeted digital media content for 6th-grade students.

Out-of-School Learning Counts: The newly released “Digital Media and Technology in Afterschool Programs, Libraries, and Museums,” part of the MacArthur Reports on Digital Media and Learning, examines the ways after-school programs, libraries and museums use digital media to support extracurricular learning.

Authors Becky Herr-Stephenson, Diana Rhoten, Dan Perkel and Christo Sims look at a range of programs including the long-running Computer Clubhouse movement, 826 Valenica, Youth Radio and the J. Paul Getty’s presence in to understand how these organizations are using digital media to support learning. The authors call for more research to understand the possibilities technology offers.

Plus: Whyville’s Great Books Roundhouse, a new virtual reading space for middle school students, has just opened in The first room is built around Beauty and the Beast by Madame de Villeneuve, originally published in 1740. In the Roundhouse, a partnership with the Great Books Foundation, students can discuss the book’s themes, download an abridged version, and even role-play characters in the book using avatars. More rooms devoted to different books are planned. For more read Spotlight’s “Great books, Great Games.”

On the Mall: Finally, we’ll be keeping an eye on the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and its plans to set up a new digital learning center on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hirshhorn is building a “21st-century classroom,” with support from the MacArthur Foundation, Pearson Foundation, Nokia and the Entertainment Software Association Foundation.

The project will extend its current ARTLAB+ programs, which “support a conversion from passive content consumption to active content production. Using the model of a professional design studio, students work with the Museum’s exhibitions and collection as a way to explore art in the context of contemporary ideas about technology and culture.”

The parent Smithsonian Institute is also developing a new digital space called the “Smithsonian Commons.” Read more here.

Plus, Great Minds Think Alike: As part of a workshop with the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, teens in New York City came up with their own solution to clean up the city’s transportation system: an eco-friendly bus and street-cleaning hybrid vehicle with a rooftop garden.

Monica Valente, youth programs manager at Cooper-Hewitt, was pleased to see a similarly designed bus by New York City designer Marco Antonio Castro Cosio in a post on Urban Gardens. Great minds think alike, indeed. Cooper-Hewitt is part of a new collaboration of cultural institutions working to extend learning beyond the classroom. Read more in this Spotlight feature.

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