Six Years of Coverage on Digital Media and Learning

Filed in: Spotlight News

Filed by Sarah Jackson


10.1.12 | After six years of publishing, Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning will cease blogging regularly as of today, and will halt all publication in 2013 in preparation for new work on connected learning.

When Spotlight launched in October of 2006, it was the MacArthur Foundation’s “first foray into blogging,” as then-president Jonathan Fanton wrote. At the time, there was not much of a model for how a powerful institution could use new media tools to invite discussion and create conversation.

That, thankfully, has changed quite a bit in the years we’ve been covering digital media and learning. Many major foundations and policy organizations have blogs today and have become more savvy about how to use social media to make their work more accessible and to open public dialogue about social and cultural change. [See the Gates Foundation’s Impatient Optimists for a great example.]

The digital media and learning field has grown immensely since 2006 as well. In fact, it wasn’t a field at all when we started, but a set of questions and ideas about how new media may be changing how young people learn, play, and participate in the world around them.

In 2012, acceptance that new media is changing learning, as well as everything else about our lives, is part of mainstream policy dialogues about education reform. Digital media and learning is now regularly covered by publications like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Education Week and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and on more content-specific blogs such as MindShift, EdSurge, Hack Education, Mashable, and Edutopia.

Spotlight began as a community site with many voices. In our early years, we featured writing by those who would become leading voices in this burgeoning field, including danah boyd, Jim Gee, Henry Jenkins, and Mimi Ito.

With leadership from Barbara Ray, we shifted to become more of a news source, connecting and synthesizing new research from the academe, as well as curating the growing number of articles in the press and blogosphere on how young people are using technology to learn.

As our editorial model shifted, so did our coverage. We expanded to include more in-depth, original reporting. We covered libraries’ role in promoting 21st-century skills; Ito’s research on hanging out, messing around, and geeking out; virtual worlds and augmented reality; the role of digital media in transforming students’ writing and writing itself; how to help students judge the credibility of online content; mobile learning; the future of assessment; remix and copyright—the list goes on and on.

We covered game-based learning, including the work of Katie Salen and her colleagues who started NYC’s Quest to Learn School and the follow-up, Chicago Quest. We followed winners in the first four years of the Digital Media and Learning Competition, including the most recent debate on badges for lifelong learning.

We reported on the digital divide, transliteracy, Scratch, the importance of teaching kids to code, Mozilla’s Hackasaurus project, the maker movement, iCivics, and the National Writing Project’s innovative Digital Is site.

We produced an original video series on how teens use digital media in their day-to-day lives. We partnered with teen video producers from YOUmedia, the Chicago Public Library’s digital space for teens.

We visited classrooms for case studies and interviewed thought leaders such as Cathy Davidson, Anil Dash, John Seely Brown, and Games for Change leaders Asi Burak and Michelle Byrd.

Under the guidance of media maven Christine Cupaiuolo, we widened our blog coverage and began to write the favored PLAYBACK that recapped the news of the week and drew connections across topics. Many readers came to rely on these posts as their go-to guide in this ever-changing arena. We established a presence on Twitter and started “The Week in Digital Media in Learning,” Spotlight’s weekly newsletter.

Some of my favorite pieces have been our work covering the ever-resourceful and revolutionary librarian community who, from the beginning, have been on the front lines of the fight for media literacy in schools. They are visionaries in how collaborative technology can change pedagogy. Other favorites include my work covering how early childhood educators are using new media, and Christine’s coverage of gender, stereotypes, and STEM learning.

We’re proud of the contribution our writing and reporting has made to this field.  We hope you will continue to use our work as resource. Going forward, we will work with the MacArthur Foundation to archive the information on Spotlight, and to ensure substantive objective reporting on innovation in connected learning continues in other online publications.

So while Spotlight is ending daily publication today, over the next year we’ll continue to publish reflective pieces. We’ll be talking to leaders in the field about what we know and what’s to come in digital media and learning. As we bring six years of conversation to a close, we want to hear from you. What have you learned? What questions about digital media and learning remain unanswered?

For all of us, this has been an incredible opportunity to learn from this rich community of researchers, policy makers and, most importantly, educators—in formal school settings and higher education institutions and also in informal settings like museums, libraries and after-school spaces.

As the show of support during the Chicago teachers strike taught us, educators are the ones whose voices need to be amplified. And it is their leadership, pedagogy, and vision for the role technology can play in learning that we’ll all be looking to in the future.

So, over and out. We’ll see you in the blogosphere.


Picture of Buffy Hamilton
Buffy Hamilton


I am so very sad to hear this news—-your daily/regular postings have helped me learn and grow so much these last few years.  While I look forward to the reflective pieces, I will miss the daily bread you’ve provided to feed my mind and heart!  Very best, Buffy

Picture of Jason


We are losing such a necessary advocate for 21st Century learning!  As a high school teacher, I can report from the frontlines that, while there are innovators all around, most administrations and teachers are still in denial about how the world is changing—and how education needs to change.

The curiosity and joy that Spotlight always showed toward experimentation in education—the willingness to question conventional wisdom and dive into new technologies—is a quality we must see among all our educators.  Do we know how the world will look in 20 years?  No.  But we know it will different and our lives will be even more digitized than before.

Thanks again for all your great work.

Picture of Elyse Eidman-Aadahl
Elyse Eidman-Aadahl


NWP teachers and the Digital Is community will miss your ongoing coverage of the field. We appreciated how you helped us ‘see’ the emerging DML field.

Picture of Ellen


Aww, I’m sad that I just found this great resource and you’re not posting any more! :(

Well at least you have a whole backlog of articles I can keep myself busy with!!



Leave a comment

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

Commenting is not available in this section entry.