Remake Learning http://remakelearning.org Thu, 24 Apr 2014 06:12:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 City of Pittsburgh Honored For ‘Breaking the Mold’ in Educational Innovation http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/23/city-of-pittsburgh-honored-for-breaking-the-mold-in-educational-innovation/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15737 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:20:14 +0000

City of Pittsburgh Honored For ‘Breaking the Mold’ in Educational Innovation

Pittsburgh and Kids + Creativity Network will receive a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award in New York City this week for "breaking the mold and creating significant impact" in education.

Sometimes you need to shake up the establishment to spark innovation. At least that’s what Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says, and it’s the basis of his Disruptive Innovation Theory. In 2010, the Tribeca Film Festival’s Craig Hatkoff joined forces with Christensen to create the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards (TDIA) to celebrate those whose ideas “have broken the mold to create significant impact” in the fields of health care, education, international development, politics and advocacy, media, the arts and entertainment.

We’re honored to say the City of Pittsburgh has been awarded a 2014 TDIA award in recognition of its innovations in education.  The city will receive the award April 25 at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts as part of the The Tribeca Film Festival. The Grable Foundation’s Gregg Behr, along with Cathy Lewis Long, executive director of the Sprout Fund, will accept the award.

TDIA points to the Kids + Creativity Network for developing a groundbreaking education model: a collaboration of more than 100 schools, museums, libraries, afterschool programs, community centers, higher education institutions, businesses in the private sector, and philanthropic organizations.

The collaboration “connect(s) Pittsburgh’s regional strengths in formal and informal education, learning research, and technology innovation to create a thriving ecosystem where learning happens anywhere and anytime for all children,” TDIA announced .

TDIA_HONOREES-22-150x150

As a result, kids and youth in Pittsburgh have access to a connected system of learning opportunities both in and out of school. They can pursue their interests in new and exciting ways alongside their peers, and head back to class with a new perspective on computer science, writing, or physics. They may be recording their own CDs at Hip Hop on L.O.C.K, learning how to become journalists at Pittsburgh Youth Media, or building catapults at MAKESHOP.

As we’ve previously written, programs like these, and many others, are “turning learning into a continuous, evolving process—both for the intrinsic joy of lifelong learning and as preparation for future jobs.”

Pittsburgh joins an impressive mix of other “disruptors” at this year’s awards. The class of 2014 includes 24-year-old Shiza Shahid, CEO and cofounder of the Malala Fund, the organization representing the young female Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban for demanding that girls receive an education, and the Sesame Workshop. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Jay Walker, the creator of Priceline and founder of LabTV, an innovative new video platform designed to encourage students to become medical scientists

“We’re honored and humbled that Pittsburgh will be recognized with a Tribeca Disruptor Innovation Award on behalf of the 1,000+ members of the Kids+Creativity Network who are connecting with children and youth in hundreds of locales like Elizabeth Forward School District , the Carnegie Library, and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh,” said Gregg Behr. “Such educators as Melissa Butler are genuinely remaking what it means to learn.”

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The Power of Games for Change http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/22/the-power-of-games-for-change/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15726 Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:22:38 +0000

The Power of Games for Change

Attendees at this week's 2014 Games for Change Festival in New York City will hear from Pittsburgh technologists and artists about how they're using games to create connected learning opportunities for the region's students.

Jesse Schell speaking at the 2013 Games for Change Festival.

The Games for Change Festival is kicking off this week in New York City and Pittsburgh’s designers, developers and educators are showing up in full force.

The four-day fest promotes live-action, physical games (including an “epic” retelling of the fall of the Roman Republic) and video games with a social impact (like Start the Talk that  helps parents build real-life skills to help them talk with their child about underage drinking.) The festival includes presentations, workshops, awards, and of course, plenty of chances to play the games themselves.

This year’s G4C award nominees include Papers, Please, in which gamers act as an immigration inspector in a fictional country and decide who can enter and who is arrested or turned away. Another award finalist, TyrAnt brings players down to level of everyday, boring ol’ backyard ants and slowly unveils their amazingly complex ecosystem.

The festival celebrates games that have a purpose beyond entertainment– the types of games games-based learning advocates around the country have embraced for their ability to engage kids (and adults) in critical thinking and decision making while immersing them in a medium they love.

This year, for the first time, social impact games and G4C are going to be in the brightest spotlight yet. G4C is partnering with Tribeca Film Festival to bring together über talented game creators and storytellers—a natural fit, if you think about it. But beyond the collaboration potential, pairing up with the well-known film festival means wider exposure.

“I feel like we are crossing the line into something that is more mainstream,” G4C President Asi Burak told Polygon. “When games are a part of something larger, like the Tribeca Film Festival, they can be very effective, and now we are a more public facing program because we are participating in the Family Day.

Another similarity between films and games is the intense passion of their creators. Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games, is speaking on Wednesday about how passion and “authentic caring” is successfully infused into some games while other games fall flat.

Based in Pittsburgh, Schell Games is a national leader in transformational games. The company lists The Fred Rogers Company, Pixar and PBS Kids among its clients.

Schell’s success venturing into the world of educational games was no easy feat. Developing games that will actually work in schools is notoriously tricky, as educators need to be convinced the games really will enhance students’ learning.

Turning Fantasy Into Reality: Building Games That Schools Need, a panel on Thursday led by Kevin Bushweller, Constance Steinkuehler, Alan Gershenfeld and Chris Curran, will explore the mistakes developers most often make when heading into the K-12 market and consider how developers can transform “the fantasy of a game” into a successful, applicable tool for learning or assessment.

Steinkuehler, a senior policy analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is also participating in a discussion with award-winning game designer and author Jane McGonigal and EdTech innovator Idit Harel Caperton about the role of women in the game media industry. Everyone has heard how male-dominated the industry still is (47 percent of gamers are women, but 88 percent of video game developers are male, according to Women’s Media Center), but the three experts are going a step further to hammer out what they think needs to happen to achieve gender parity. After all, encouraging the next generation of girls to pursue game development would be a social change in itself.

Remake Learning is representing at the festival in a talk-show style panel on Thursday, Remaking Learning: Live from Pittsburgh. Michael Levine, Drew Davidson, Gregg Behr, Cathy Lewis Long and Michelle King will dive into how tech experts, artists, educators, and gamers that make up the Kids+Creativity Network are crossing boundaries and forming a connected learning ecosystem.

It’s fitting that the Kids+Creativity Network gets its time in the G4C spotlight, as Pittsburgh is becoming a national leader in games-based learning. The city’s penchant for interdisciplinary collaboration has formed a hotbed for games-based learning innovations.

For example, educators at Elizabeth Forward Middle School partnered with the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and the online learning platform Zulama to teach game design with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math. (Drew Davidson, director of the ETC, will be demo-ing a G4C award-finalist game along with Nick Fortungo, co-founder of Playmatics, on Wednesday.)

The City of Pittsburgh and the Kids + Creativity Network will be recognized with a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award on Friday. The award honors people or organizations that have made a social impact by breaking the mold—something Pittsburgh’s gamers, educators, makers, and kids are definitely pros at.

Top photo/ Games for Change.

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Avonworth Pittsburgh Galleries Project Takes Arts Education Beyond the Classroom http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/21/avonworth-pittsburgh-galleries-project-takes-arts-education-beyond-the-classroom/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15713 Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:08:32 +0000

Avonworth Pittsburgh Galleries Project Takes Arts Education Beyond the Classroom

Under a new connected learning program, Pittsburgh artists, gallery managers, curators, and museum staff serve as mentors in preparing students to design, create, curate, and manage exhibition spaces. Now the students are ready to unveil their work.

Jesse Schell speaking at the 2013 Games for Change Festival.
Remember thinking in the middle of art history or algebra class, “When on earth am I ever gonna use this?” It was usually a sign you were lost in the weeds and were about to check out. Before long, grades dipped and interest waned even more.

Students at Avonworth High School may never experience that. The school has joined with Pittsburgh’s rich cultural and arts community to show students how they can actually use what they’re learning.

The school recently received a $10,000 grant from the Sprout Hive Fund to put “connected learning”—a new theory of learning that elevates interest-based learning—into play. The grant allowed the school to collaborate with the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh Glass Center, and Toonseum of Pittsburgh to bring students into the art world for a hands-on experience.

“I want the students to learn how to be the curator, not just the artist. I want them to see what else they can do inside the museum,” Avonworth studio art teacher Kerri Villani told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Avonworth Pittsburgh Galleries Project, as it is called, connects students to multiple facets of the art world.  Artists, gallery managers, curators, and museum staff serve as mentors in preparing students to design, create, curate, and manage exhibition spaces.

Students work in teams matched with one of five participating arts institutions. They  visit their assigned institution and work hands-on with the mentors and other professionals, giving context to what they’re learning in art class while also planting the seed about what their future might hold.

Billy Molinari, one of the participating students, visited the Andy Warhol Museum, not just for the art. In a blog post about the experience, he writes of Warhol’s Elvis painting:

In real life it was massive. It stretched an entire wall by itself. We then discussed how the art was presented such as lighting, shadows, wall choice, depth, texture, layers… etc. Following that, we headed down to a little woodshop where we talked about how they ship and transport art. That part was very interesting and I learned a lot.

This kind of hands-on learning has a long history in education, but what this project adds is a glimpse of what students might actually do with all that knowledge they’re accumulating.

That vision can make a difference. A program in Chicago, After School Matters, which offers paid, apprenticeship-like experiences for high school students in technology, arts, and sports fields, found that students were more engaged in school after participating, had fewer behavioral problems, and greater self-regulation. (The program did not improve their grades, however, which was a disappointment).

Shimira Williams, who teaches at a home-based afterschool program called Tek Start in Pittsburgh’s East End, also believes in this kind of learning. As she told us, often her students don’t know about the global innovations that are taking place right in their backyard.

Williams has taken students over to Google Pittsburgh to expose them to their possibilities. Students also interview local professionals so they can better imagine themselves as future scientists or engineers or developers.

The Galleries project reflects another emerging theory of engagement, connected learning. That theory promotes the powerful combination of personal interests and peer culture, meshed with support from strong mentors. Connected learning amplifies learning in all areas of teens’ lives– in their personal circles, their academic circles, and their civic circles, because, as George Santayana once said:  “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

The students will unveil the culmination of their work April 22 at an opening reception at Avonworth High School. They will present five rooms in their school that they have transformed with art exhibits they created and curated while participating in project.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for April 18th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/04/18/15669/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=15669 Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:43:18 +0000

Digital Corps Equips Kids to Navigate Digital Landscape

Meet Digital Corps program manager Ani Martinez; how to make a game jam; CMU names Google VP as new CS dean; 7 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

Young people spend a lot of time using digital media—studies estimate more than 8 hours per day connecting with social networks, playing games, and producing or consuming media. But there is digital literacy beyond Facebook access and a YouTube account. Skills like programming, coding, and basic robotics are becoming increasingly essential for young people to thrive in school, college, the workforce, and life.

A new program, the Remake Learning Digital Corps, aims to bring these skills to tweens and teens throughout Allegheny County, helping to catalyze young people to reach their potential in the digital world around us. Partnering with Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST), the Sprout Fund has trained a team of mobile digital literacy instructors to bring digital literacy education to youth participating in afterschool programs around the county.

Program manager Ani Martinez describes the Digital Corps and its goals.

Tell us what inspired the Digital Corps Program.

AM: Prior to my work with the Sprout Fund, I’d been a program coordinator for Assemble, which is a maker space on Penn Avenue. When trying to staff or even design programming for youth, we consistently found a shortage of mentors/educators who also have digital literacy training.

I never meant to become involved in digital literacy, but I needed to in order to run the programs I was working with, and I picked up skills gradually over time. As I tried conveying these skills to our other educators at Assemble, I started to realize how much I had really learned by doing. This cemented my understanding that digital learning is essential for everyone.

The problem was not unique to Assemble—this knowledge gap for educators was found across the board, in formal education, too. So not only do we have young people who want and need to build these skills, we have educators lacking in digital literacy training as well. The Sprout Fund recognized this and designed the Remake Learning Digital Corps to help assuage that need. We recruited a corps of educators and developed a training program to enhance their digital literacy skills.

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Digital Corps Equips Kids to Navigate Digital Landscape http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/17/digital-corps-equips-kids-to-navigate-digital-landscape/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15643 Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:24:41 +0000

Digital Corps Equips Kids to Navigate Digital Landscape

Ani Martinez, program manager of the Remake Learning Digital Corps, talks about the new initiative teaching digital literacy to adults and kids across Pittsburgh.

Ani Martinez, Program Associate at The Sprout Fund / Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf

Young people spend a lot of time using digital media—studies estimate more than 8 hours per day connecting with social networks, playing games, and producing or consuming media. But there is digital literacy beyond Facebook access and a YouTube account. Skills like programming, coding, and basic robotics are becoming increasingly essential for young people to thrive in school, college, the workforce, and life.

A new program, the Remake Learning Digital Corps, aims to bring these skills to tweens and teens throughout Allegheny County, helping to catalyze young people to reach their potential in the digital world around us. Partnering with Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST), the Sprout Fund has trained a team of mobile digital literacy instructors to bring digital literacy education to youth participating in afterschool programs around the county.

Program manager Ani Martinez describes the Digital Corps and its goals.

Tell us what inspired the Digital Corps Program.

AM: Prior to my work with the Sprout Fund, I’d been a program coordinator for Assemble, which is a maker space on Penn Avenue. When trying to staff or even design programming for youth, we consistently found a shortage of mentors/educators who also have digital literacy training.

I never meant to become involved in digital literacy, but I needed to in order to run the programs I was working with, and I picked up skills gradually over time. As I tried conveying these skills to our other educators at Assemble, I started to realize how much I had really learned by doing. This cemented my understanding that digital learning is essential for everyone.

The problem was not unique to Assemble—this knowledge gap for educators was found across the board, in formal education, too. So not only do we have young people who want and need to build these skills, we have educators lacking in digital literacy training as well. The Sprout Fund recognized this and designed the Remake Learning Digital Corps to help assuage that need. We recruited a corps of educators and developed a training program to enhance their digital literacy skills.

Scratch training at Hilltop Computer Center / Photo: Norton Gusky

Photo: Norton Gusky

So who makes up the corps of educators?

AM: We recruited individuals from diverse backgrounds. Some of our members were seeking mentorship opportunities, some were looking for professional development, and others were just looking to build their own skills and give back to the community. We received 58 applications and accepted 40 members who work as artists, librarians, technologists (like data processors or engineers), formal educators, informational scientists… we’ve got everyone from roboticists to teenagers involved in developing the Corps.

What sorts of sites will the Corps be visiting?

AM: We have a wide variety of learning environments. We selected 11 sites that applied to host our Corps members, and these range from boys and girls clubs to libraries to YMCA programs and other community centers or school-based after school programs.

What will members need to learn to work with the APOST sites?

AM: Our Corps members learn three basic tools: Scratch, Thimble, and Hummingbird.

Scratch is free, open-source programming software developed by the MIT Media Lab for 8-16 year olds to create and share interactive stories, animations, games, and more. This will help young people learn the basics of programming.

Building from this, Thimble is a free Mozilla Webmaker application that allows people to easily design their own web pages. So youth will develop skills in html and CSS languages.

Finally, we’re teaching Hummingbird, which is a no-experience-necessary robotics kit designed locally by folks with BirdBrain Technologies at CMU. Hummingbird provides the physical technology to let a computer interact in some way with the physical world. Users learn about circuits, light, and motion to create projects like kinetic sculpture or animatronics from craft supplies, and it’s compatible with lots of programs. Scratch is one of them! Which brings us full circle.

Our Corps members become familiar with these three tools and then work in pairs to teach them to the youth participating in the various programs.

Teaching Scratch at Hilltop Computer Center

Photo: Norton Gusky

What sorts of sites will the Corps be visiting?

AM: It’s been kind of a crash course! We’ve had a lot of fun. We approach teaching the way we’d like the Corps to teach the youth, so we introduce a skill and immediately, in the same session, have them learning by doing. It’s a great method to get them asking questions, learning to troubleshoot and figure things out.

We’re dealing with skill-based learning, so the idea is not just to learn the tool but also to learn to troubleshoot within the tool. How can we use Google to find the answer? How can we use Scratch and its vast network of projects to find the bug in our program? It’s been very hands-on training facilitated by people familiar with the tools.

Because we’re also emphasizing collaborative learning, we’re employing teams to teach the Corps members the different tools. Our Scratch team consists of a teacher from Propel Braddock paired with a 15-year-old intern from Assemble—she teaches Scratch there. Our Thimble team is a pair of professional developers and designers. They are familiar with the back-end of coding and languages and can translate this information in an accessible way. And we were lucky to get Tom Lauwers, who created the Hummingbird kits, to teach the Hummingbird unit.

What will the education process look like for the youth at the host sites?

AM: Our Corps members will teach in much the same way they learned, so they’ll present a skill and then that same day, the participants will work with that skill hands on, learning by doing again.

Our Corps will work with both the young people and the adult educators at the host sites—staff will be on hand to sit in on the program while the Corps members are working with the youth and be present mentors in the process. We are encouraging positive youth-adult interactions as well as peer-to-peer activity, letting the students help teach one another, collaborate, and share in a safe environment. The idea is for everyone to develop competency with these tools.

We’re actively trying to build relationships between our host sites, finding ways to have the spaces talk to one another about their projects, having our Corps members relating experiences between neighborhoods, etc.

What is happening currently with the Corps program?

AM: This is a very exciting time for us because we’ve just deployed our first corps members into the APOST sites. We have 11 sites throughout the county that all have different backgrounds, educational focal points, and access to technology. For this first round of programming, we’re thinking of it like a bento box—each site will get a little taste of each tool. This summer we’ll go deeper into specific tool sets and competencies. We hope to also add host sites as the summer progresses, so we can work with more youth.

Would you like to be part of the Remake Learning Digital Corps? Sign up to be a member or a host site by Friday, May 2nd!

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for April 11th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/04/11/15537/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=15537 Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:47:09 +0000

Pittsburgh Becomes a City of Learning and issues Open Call for Badges Pilot Project

Pittsburgh City of Learning brings badges to the burgh; GIFs being used to teach about the language of emotions; a new social networking tool to connect students with mentors and professionals; 11 new upcoming events & opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

How do we prepare a workforce for an economy we can’t even imagine? Recognizing learning whenever, and wherever it happens is one place to start.

At a fundamental level, how we learn hasn’t changed. We all take in and process information and create an understanding of the world from that experience. What has changed in this new digital world is the access we have to information and to the insights of others. Sitting in our bedrooms, we can learn astronomy at the side of astronomers. We can upload our own birdsong recordings to scientific databases. We can listen to a lecture from a renowned anthropologist or dive into a virtual human body for anatomy class.

Heady stuff. Yet here’s the dilemma: kids can make leaps and bounds in learning, but no one knows it. We don’t have a system, like grades or transcripts to document this unconventional learning.

The Mozilla Foundation along with HASTAC and the MacArthur Foundation are just a few of the groups helping to lead a new movement in assessment and credentialing that recognizes that kids (and adults) learn anywhere, anytime today—Digital Badges.

Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning that takes place in both formal and informal settings—from organizations to K-12 schools or libraries to museums and universities to online forums.

In summer 2014, Pittsburgh will join other Cities of Learning from across the United States in a groundbreaking initiative to pair learning opportunities for young people with digital badges in ways that allow learners to think about, pursue, and develop their interests.

The Sprout Fund invites organizations from the Pittsburgh Kids+Creativity Network, schools, libraries, museums, and other youth-serving organizations offering summer learning experiences to apply to participate in this regional effort.

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Pittsburgh Becomes a City of Learning and issues Open Call for Badges Pilot Project http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/11/city-of-learning-open-call/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=14922 Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:00:21 +0000

Pittsburgh Becomes a City of Learning and issues Open Call for Badges Pilot Project

How do we prepare a workforce for an economy we can’t even imagine? Recognizing learning whenever, and wherever it happens is one place to start.

Badges Signify Learning
×In summer 2014, Pittsburgh will join other Cities of Learning from across the United States in a groundbreaking initiative to pair learning opportunities for young people with digital badges in ways that allow learners to think about, pursue, and develop their interests.

The Sprout Fund invites organizations from the Pittsburgh Kids+Creativity Network, schools, libraries, museums, and other youth-serving organizations offering summer learning experiences to apply to participate in this regional effort. Learn more about the opportunity to pilot badges in Pittsburgh this summer.

At a fundamental level, how we learn hasn’t changed. We all take in and process information and create an understanding of the world from that experience. What has changed in this new digital world is the access we have to information and to the insights of others. Sitting in our bedrooms, we can learn astronomy at the side of astronomers. We can upload our own birdsong recordings to scientific databases. We can listen to a lecture from a renowned anthropologist or dive into a virtual human body for anatomy class.

Heady stuff. Yet here’s the dilemma: kids can make leaps and bounds in learning, but no one knows it. We don’t have a system, like grades or transcripts to document this unconventional learning.

“We need the credentials that make sense for the way we live our lives today,” said Erin Knight of the Badge Alliance.

“We need the credentials that make sense for the way we live our lives today.” 

The Mozilla Foundation along with HASTAC and the MacArthur Foundation are just a few of the groups helping to lead a new movement in assessment and credentialing that recognizes that kids (and adults) learn anywhere, anytime today—Digital Badges.

Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning that takes place in both formal and informal settings—from organizations to K-12 schools or libraries to museums and universities to online forums.

And it’s not just online learning. Badges can help veterans transitioning to civilian life who have skills that are in high demand, but lack needed certification.  They may also help the young internet ‘ninjas’ who are technologically fluent and self taught, but lack prestigious degrees.  Or early childhood educators who have years of experience with children, but limited formal training. Badges provide an in-depth method to demonstrate and validate these competencies in the marketplace.

“Open Badges can connect learners to better jobs and opportunities, allowing them to increase skill sets and marketability,” Knight said. “In return, employers can look beyond abstract credentials or self-reported resumes and get credible information on candidates—finding a better match, and unlocking a better future for all involved.”

Badges are housed online and are easily accessed by employers, educators, and others. They are designed by issuing organizations and each badge entails a progression of skills from introductory to expertise.

Click on a badge and the steps along the pathway to accomplishment become evident. Like a digital portfolio, Badges can also link to the learning artifacts and works produced by the Badge earner along the way.

Ultimately, badges help connect interest-driven learning, as well as new skills and literacies, to a broader system of accreditation and recognition.  They enable each learner to demonstrate what he or she is capable of, to inspire and help everyone to seek out new learning opportunities, and to share those achievements, skills, and competencies with the world.

To explore the potential promise of badges in 2014, Pittsburgh will join other Cities of Learning from across the United States in a groundbreaking initiative to pair learning opportunities for young people with digital badges in ways that allow learners to think about, pursue, and develop their interests. In Pittsburgh, The Sprout Fund will partner with members of the Kids+Creativity Network to pilot badges city-wide to enable young people to take new paths of discovery, explore the city’s rich resources, and find out what they can learn, make, do, and ultimately become. Organizations interested in participating in the pilot project are encouraged to apply by May 2nd.

 
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A GIF is Worth 1,000 Words http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/10/a-gif-is-worth-1000-words/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15528 Thu, 10 Apr 2014 04:45:39 +0000

A GIF is Worth 1,000 Words

Two MIT students are exploring how animated GIFs can be used as a language of emotions.

Screenshot/ GIFGIF

From second-by-second Olympic replays to coverage of presidential debates, GIFs’ uncanny ability to put the slightest movements under the microscope has spread to every corner of internet culture.

Now, two graduate students at the MIT Media Lab have embarked on a new project called GIFGIF that aims to turn these mesmerizing little loops into a database of emotions. Like a Rosetta Stone of feelings, creators Travis Rich and Kevin Hu hope that eventually GIFGIF will be able to help people match an emotion with the perfect GIF.

GIFGIF is inspired by Place Pulse, a similar project out of the MIT Media Lab (which also produced Scratch). Place Pulse gives users two pictures of different cities and asks them to rank which one looks more depressing, boring, safer, livelier, etc. It’s collecting all the data as a way to study how the subjective perception of urban areas corresponds with other data sets like violent crime, creativity or economic growth.

The process is similar over at GIFGIF. Users are given two random GIFs and are prompted to rank which one best conveys fear, disgust, relief, or one of 14 other emotions. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes you have to study them for a second to see which one really pins an emotion like guilt.

However, while the methods are similar, the goals of GIFGIF are very different than Place Pulse’s.

As Hu explained to Rachel Feltman at The Atlantic, first up is a GIF-to-text translator.

“I want people to be able to put in a Shakespearian sonnet and get out a GIF set,” said Hu.

GIFGIF’s unusual plans are only the latest turn in the the meteoric resurgence of the animated GIF. Though the file format has been around for decades, Ann Friedman, journalist and widely-recognized GIF guru, says that with a lot of help from Tumblr, GIFs have taken on a life of their own.

“Like the Twitter hashtag, which has transitioned from a functional way of sorting content to its own part of speech, the animated GIF has gone from a simple file type to its own mode of expression,” Friedman wrote over at Poynter.

This unique mode of expression is why GIFs could have a place in education. The GIFGIF creators recently heard from an ESL teacher who is using the site to teach words for different emotions, according The Atlantic. The article doesn’t go into how exactly the teacher is doing this, but it’s not hard to imagine some possibilities. How exactly do you draw the word “frustrated” on a flashcard? It’s pretty easy with the right GIF.

Rich and Hu elaborated on using GIFs to communicate to Boston magazine: “We want to contribute to the lowering of those barriers, acting as a dictionary between words and GIFs. If people can communicate their emotions and ideas almost universally, breaking the barriers of language—that would be powerful, and that’s our vision.”

Beyond eventually using GIFs  to communicate across languages, Hu and Rich imagine using the data to explore how different cultures judge the representation of emotions.

As the GIFGIF site explains, “Does a GIF’s emotional content vary between cultures? For examples, what is the best representation of happiness for Germans, compared with Canadians?”

The duo also told Wired.co.uk they’ve heard there could be potential applications in autism detection. When a user’s choices between GIFs differ greatly from a well agreed-upon emotion, it could mean the person reacts to emotions differently. One could also imagine therapists using GIFs to teach children with autism how to recognize common emotions, given that doing so accurately is one of the more difficult tasks for autistic children.

However, the emotion research is also a bit perplexing. While GIFs exist in a silent, endless loop, complex human emotions don’t exist in a vacuum. An eye roll can be playful or sarcastic depending on the context—something a single GIF probably can’t capture without some surrounding information. That’s why they’re funniest when they’re illustrating reactions, not just standing alone. So while using GIFGIF’s tool to find that perfect GIF might be fun, the serious implications of GIFs and the GIFGIF project remain to be seen.

Until then, perhaps it’s best to appreciate GIFs for what they are: a one-of-a-kind medium for expressing emotions online.

Tim Burke, a prolific GIF creator whose work garnered a lengthy New York Times profile, thinks of them as even more than that: “It’s an art object. You’re taking this little moment and making it exist in perpetuity, because it constantly loops.”

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Want to Stop Cyberbullying? Start With Social Media Design http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/08/want-to-stop-cyberbullying-start-with-social-media-design/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15513 Tue, 08 Apr 2014 21:49:31 +0000

Want to Stop Cyberbullying? Start With Social Media Design

A new study from Pitt researcher Leanne Bowler reveals what young people think about social media and cyberbullying – and includes their ideas for using technology to stop it.

Cyberbullying / Photo courtesy: University of Richmond

Cyberbullying is the scourge of social media. Apps like Yik Yak and sites like Facebook make it far too easy for teens and tweens to pile on with hurtful posts and comments. Banning social media is certainly not the answer, but so is throwing up our hands in a defeatist, technology-can’t-be-stopped shrug.

Why not instead use technology itself to prevent bullying? That’s what some teens in a recent study proposed.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Leanne Bowler and her colleagues Eleanor Mattern and Cory Knobel of the University of California Irvine invited high school and college students to participate in focus groups on cyberbullying behavior. Participants were asked to create fictional accounts about “mean and cruel behavior” online, and how the story might be different if social media were designed differently.

“I want to understand what happens, technologically speaking, that does or does not allow young people to reflect before they act,” said Bowler.

Bowler hopes her research, which won this year’s Lee Dirks Best Paper Award at iConference, the annual gathering for scholars interested in information sciences, can offer “a road map toward positive technologies.”

The students’ narratives led to several design ideas. For example, in instances of potential cyberbullying, they suggested adding a pop-up that remains open for 10 seconds with a message asking, “Why do you like this?” The pause could create the opportunity to stop and think before posting something nasty.

Participants noted that “everything spiraled so fast,” said Bowler. “We were trying to ask the kids, what would make people stop and think before they pressed the button?”

Design elements that encourage reflection touch on Bowler’s core research interest: meta-cognition, or how people think about their own thinking.

“When you’re not aware, you just go on and on,” continuing the same behaviors, which in a social media context could lead to cyberbullying, said Bowler, adding that “raising self-awareness is a really important piece” of prevention.

Students also came up with ideas that were more stick than carrot, such as creating a “bully button” that would allow people to flag a bullying situation with comments such as, “REALLY mean comment,” or injecting some fear in the encounter and encouraging personalized pop-up messages, such as “Mindy, you’re being watched,” that would remind the user comments are monitored.

They also thought that anti-bullying messages should be loud, even irritating, to grab someone’s attention. Finally, they thought there should be a mechanism to alert Facebook or app developers when offensive words are used, or when too many likes are logged in a short period of time—a potential red flag for cyberbullying (or a cute kitty photo; a human would, ideally, step in and review).

Fostering empathy for victims is also important, especially in online environments where anonymity and lack of direct feedback can distance young people from the emotional impact their actions have on others.

“There’s no likelihood they’ll be detected and found accountable. That leads to a reduced empathic response,” Bowler noted.

A related idea is that cyberbullying involves more than just the bully and the victim.

“We have to think of it as a circle, in much more complex terms,” said Bowler. “Bystanders have a really important role to play.” Several of the design themes that the youth created offer a clear acknowledgement of the important role of the bystander and the inherent social nature of bullying.

The paper’s authors describe seven emergent design themes that came out of the participants’ recommendations: design for reflection, design for consequence, design for empathy, design for personal empowerment, design for fear, design for attention, and design for control and suppression.

Bowler hopes social media designers will take this research into account as they develop new apps. And if they don’t, she might design some solutions herself, especially those that promote reflection and empathy.

“I’m really interested in empathy,” said Bowler. “I think that is a silver bullet that might solve a lot of problems with meanness and cruelty on line.”

Photo/ Summer Skyes

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for April 4th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/04/04/15460/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=15460 Fri, 04 Apr 2014 13:39:56 +0000

Building Hubs for Education Innovation

Building hubs for learning innovation; taking another look at career technical ed, teen saves US Govt millions; and 5 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

In late February, President Obama announced that two new manufacturing “innovation institutes”—better known as hubs—are launching in Chicago and the Detroit metro area. The latest in his push to boost U.S. manufacturing and create high-skill, high-wage jobs, these hubs are the beginning of a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation.

Detroit’s hub will focus on developing modern, lightweight metals for wider industrial use. In Chicago, the focus will be on digital manufacturing—using big data and supercomputers to create and refine not just product prototypes, but the factory processes used to create them.   Chicago’s hub will have both a physical space for designing and testing new products and a virtual platform where partners can share data to solve common problems.

This push to create hubs of innovation is not new (think Silicon Valley), but the role of the partners involved is. Mark Muro and Scott Andes at the Brookings Institution, which has been promoting such hubs for some time now, argue that this private-public partnership is ultimately more sustainable and a better way to capitalize on local and regional resources.

This model is in many ways what the Kids+Creativity Network has created for education innovation in Pittsburgh. In 2007, Gregg Behr of the Grable Foundation and Jessica Trybus of Etcetera Edutainment were having a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks, according to Pop City. Both were talking about how much amazing talent was on the ground in Pittsburgh working on projects for kids. It dawned on them that someone should pull all that talent together—and with that, the Kids+Creativity idea was hatched.

“Educators now have the same space sharing ideas with tech people and arts people and those things just don’t naturally happen because we live in silos,” Michelle Figlar, who leads the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, told Pop City. “As simple as that sounds, it’s really hard to make happen. And that’s the most powerful thing.”

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Building Hubs for Education Innovation http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/03/building-hubs-for-education-innovation/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15448 Thu, 03 Apr 2014 16:12:20 +0000

Building Hubs for Education Innovation

The national push to create hubs of innovation in manufacturing relies on two key ideas—creating networks of partnerships and sharing ideas. Those two elements are also on display in Pittsburgh’s own innovation hub, in education.

Photo/ Ben Filio

In late February, President Obama announced that two new manufacturing “innovation institutes”—better known as hubs—are launching in Chicago and the Detroit metro area. The latest in his push to boost U.S. manufacturing and create high-skill, high-wage jobs, these hubs are the beginning of a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation.

Detroit’s hub will focus on developing modern, lightweight metals for wider industrial use. In Chicago, the focus will be on digital manufacturing—using big data and supercomputers to create and refine not just product prototypes, but the factory processes used to create them.   Chicago’s hub will have both a physical space for designing and testing new products and a virtual platform where partners can share data to solve common problems.

Key to their success is bringing together universities, major industry, and public and private resources to collaborate and share ideas and spark new solutions to everyday problems.

This push to create hubs of innovation is not new (think Silicon Valley), but the role of the partners involved is. Mark Muro and Scott Andes at the Brookings Institution, which has been promoting such hubs for some time now, argue that this private-public partnership is ultimately more sustainable and a better way to capitalize on local and regional resources.

The “very concept of the hub network reflects a new form of federalism wherein the federal government convenes and provides seed money, but leaves project design and delivery to the creativity—and matching resources—of ‘bottom up’ partnerships.”

This model is in many ways what the Kids+Creativity Network has created for education innovation in Pittsburgh. In 2007, Gregg Behr of the Grable Foundation and Jessica Trybus of Etcetera Edutainment were having a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks, according to Pop City. Both were talking about how much amazing talent was on the ground in Pittsburgh working on projects for kids. It dawned on them that someone should pull all that talent together—and with that, the Kids+Creativity idea was hatched.

The Grable Foundation spearheaded the network with seed funding. The Sprout Fund has since taken over, providing catalytic funding for innovative projects in education. The Kids+Creativity Network provides the glue to link people and organizations working in different realms. The serendipity of chance encounters and shared ideas allows for breakthroughs in education innovation, just like the manufacturing hubs hope to accomplish by joining forces and sharing ideas and data.

“Educators now have the same space sharing ideas with tech people and arts people and those things just don’t naturally happen because we live in silos,” Michelle Figlar, who leads the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, told Pop City. “As simple as that sounds, it’s really hard to make happen. And that’s the most powerful thing.”

This network of alliances—from public, private, and charter schools to cultural institutions, private enterprise, and the city’s stellar universities—is truly a sum larger than its parts.

In many ways, efforts like Kids+Creativity or the new manufacturing hubs represent a new way to design progress. Where once engineers or scientists held “state secrets” close to the vest in tightly cloistered labs in suburban enclaves, today’s model for innovation and discovery is more open, networked, and shared. The belief is that ideas need an ecosystem to spur creative growth. That’s certainly what drives the Kids+Creativity network.

The Department of Education’s Richard Culatta might agree. Calling for more innovation in education, he pointed to strategies in other industries, like BioSTL in St. Louis, a coalition of bio-science industries and scientists. Its leadership role, he said, has spurred entrepreneurial infrastructure, created new companies, and expanded local venture capital.

He might as well have been talking about Pittsburgh, spurring educational infrastructure, new learning opportunities, and new sources of seed funding.

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April Fools? Nope. Real Life Sci-Fi Coming to a Classroom Near You http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/04/01/april-fools-nope-real-life-sci-fi-coming-to-a-classroom-near-you/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15408 Tue, 01 Apr 2014 06:07:11 +0000

April Fools? Nope. Real Life Sci-Fi Coming to a Classroom Near You

In tech circles, April Fools’ Day 2013 may best be remembered for the Play-Doh 3-D printer that didn’t actually exist. But are such imaginings really that far off? Check out these very real technological wonders.

Photo/ Ben Filio

Did you get excited when you first heard that an iPad-connected Play-Doh 3-D printer was available for the low, low price of $49.99? Were you disappointed when you realized it was a clever April Fools’ trick thought up by ThinkGeek? We were.

April Fools_RL_Credit_ThinkGeekBut considering how 3-D printing really works, it’s not completely beyond the realm of possibilities. In fact, the HYREL 3D printer really can print with Play-Doh and other gooey materials like chocolate or epoxy. Technology moves so fast that the line between what’s real and what’s not is increasingly difficult to follow.

Here are a number of other technological wonders that might be difficult to tell apart from April Fools’ Day pranks. Some are already being used by learners, some have enormous potential we probably can’t even tapped into yet, and some are just freakishly amazing.

As different as all these inventions are, they all took some seriously imaginative thinking — something a dynamic, hands-on learning ecosystem like one we are creating here in Pittsburgh can help nurture.

After all, today’s kids are tomorrow’s inventors. What they’ll come up with is sure to amaze us in ways we can’t even imagine.

First up, two junior doctors at St. George’s University have used large-scale holograms  of kidneys and other body parts in their medical school lectures. The illusions of the 3-D, floating objects were created with LED projectors from three directions. (It makes high school junior Daniel Nemroff’s short film depicting a high school chemistry class of the future a lot less far off.)

Straight out of a science fiction movie is Motorola’s edible password pill, which contains a tiny chip loaded with your password information. Once swallowed, it’s powered by the acids in your stomach and emits an EKG-like signal, unlocking phones or computers and basically turning you into your body into a walking, talking authentication system.

Physics teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel brought his Google Glass to CERN in Switzerland, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, and took his students along on a virtual field trip. While he was underground next to the particle accelerator in Geneva, students in Michigan got to call out questions in real time.

It’s one thing for students to see through a teacher’s eyes, but Google Glass also allows a school technology coordinator Margaret Powers to see through students’ eyes as they work on projects. Their work is documented on Powers’ blog, 365 Days of Glass.

A few years ago, Facebook spending $2 billion on a company that makes a virtual reality headset really would have been an April Fools’ joke. But  this month’s purchase was very real, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in his post on the acquisition, even mentioned “studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world” or “ sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures” simply by wearing goggles as future possibilities.

As Jeff Dunn at Edudemic points out, educational uses of virtual reality are already here. For example, MIT’s Teacher Education Program and Education Arcade have already developed an augmented reality game that requires players to figure out the root of a toxic spill by interviewing virtual characters and conducting experiments. The outdoor game is played with GPS and handheld computers—taking game-based learning to an entirely different level.

beach2-1024x687Meanwhile, engineers at MIT developed a vest called Sensory Fiction that enables its wearers to feel what fictional characters in a book are experiencing. The vest replicates what the protagonist is feeling by altering the user’s heart rate, constricting areas with air pressure bags, and causing temperature changes.

Shifting from sensing to smelling, the oPhone, which sends scented text messages, is in development and may be available this fall. Created by Harvard University professor David Edwards and his students at Le Laboratoire in Paris, the phone lets one user type a message and “attach” a scent, which then comes through on the receiver’s phone.

“Clearly, [there's] a big difference between me saying to you the word ‘croissant,’ or even showing you a picture of a croissant, and you smelling a croissant,” Edwards told NPR.

The 3Doodler, a 3-D printing pen, can turn letters, numbers or doodles into physical objects. It’s still in the pre-order phase, but MAKE magazine has already explored its potential uses — read this interview with 3Doodler co-creator Max Bogue.

There are some die-hard 3-D printing fans out there—us included. But would you want to be tattooed by a machine? A handful of French students hacked a MakerBot Replicator 3-D printer and replaced the extruder of the printer with a tattoo pen, making it capable of drawing designs on skin. As Mitch Hensley at 3D Print notes, they had no problem finding volunteers.

Speaking of intelligent robots, a Lego robot just beat the previous robotic world record for solving Rubik’s Cube. The time: 3.2 seconds. Jason Dorrier at Singularity Hub explains how a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone camera can detect the cube’s color configuration, and an app tells the robot’s arms how to move.

Solving a Rubik’s Cube not useful enough? This robot can stack 450 pancakes in a minute, this one leads kids in an exercise class by dancing to “Gangnam Style,” and this one is actually pretty good at ping pong.

No, not April Fools’ jokes. Just life in 2014.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for March 28th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/03/28/15374/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=15374 Fri, 28 Mar 2014 14:24:54 +0000

Beyond Screen Time

Remake Learning speaks with Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation; learning about light speed using Minecraft; Carlow University becomes CREATE Lab satellite; 2 new upcoming events & opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

We spoke with Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and author of “Screen Time: How Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software — Affects Your Young Child” about what brought this group together and where work around early learning innovation is heading.

Remake Learning: Tell me about this new group, the Alliance for Early Learning in a Digital Age.

Lisa Guernsey: It’s a coalition that came together at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012. It’s the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Sesame Workshop, PBS, Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, Erikson Institute and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. I came into things in 2013 to help think through some of the challenges that a group like this might face.

What was the spark? What made something like this seem necessary?

The early childhood community has been a little averse to talking about technology in any deep way. And for good reasons, honestly. There is fear that technology in a preschool classroom might lead to kids sitting around staring at the TV. There is also fear that kids might get pushed into things before they are developmentally ready. Everyone wants kids to have a well rounded, hands-on, exploratory learning environment, but those types of fears have hung over the question of what role technology should play in that.

Have recent technological changes altered this conversation at all?

There have been some very interesting advances in technology — most obviously the touch screen. There’s also been some recognition through research and through the work of some pioneering educators, that, gosh, there are chances to use technology in ways that help children explore, that help open up windows into new worlds, or enable them to see themselves as creators.

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Libraries Prove to be Adaptable and Vital in the Digital Age http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/27/libraries-prove-to-be-adaptable-and-vital-in-the-digital-age/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15381 Thu, 27 Mar 2014 22:00:58 +0000

Libraries Prove to be Adaptable and Vital in the Digital Age

In Pittsburgh and around the country, libraries are becoming “bustling community centers.”

Photo/ San Mateo County Library

Late in the afternoon, after school is dismissed, some teens in Pittsburgh head over to their public library to make movies, create digital crafts, and produce hip-hop music. And even though they are in the library, no one is telling them to be quiet.

In fact, they are learning these fun skills through The Labs at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, also called The Labs @ CLP, a program where students in grades 6-12 can use sophisticated digital equipment that sparks their creative interests — either on their own time or through many of the program’s workshops.  These “learning labs” are currently located in three Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations.

These libraries are among the many around the country that are becoming “bustling community centers” according to a recent New York Times article, “where talking out loud and even eating are perfectly acceptable.”

“I see the program as an opportunity for teens to follow their interests, developing them into true talent,” says Corey Wittig, a Labs mentor and CLP digital learning librarian.

The Labs @ CLP is just one example of the many new programs and resources offered at some of the nation’s 9000 public libraries.

Public libraries do face numerous challenges in today’s digital age, writes Karen Cator,  former director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education and current CEO of Digital Promise. Poor public perception and lack of funding are just two major hurdles.

Yet as Cator also points out, libraries continue to evolve in innovative ways to meet the needs of people of all ages.

“Libraries are so valued by the people who use them,” she writes, “that they simply cannot meet the growing demand for both traditional and new services of all types.”

In Boston, the downtown branch is building a new teen space based on cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito’s work on “homago” — where teenagers can “hang out, mess around and geek out.” Like the school library at Elizabeth Forward High School in the Pittsburgh Region, the new space in Boston will include “lounges, restaurant booths, game rooms and digital labs, as well as software and equipment to record music and create comic books,” according to the Times.

Young people’s demand for library services is strong. A 2013 Pew Research Center report found that 16- to 29-year-olds are just as likely to visit the library as their older counterparts, and are significantly more likely to use technology at the library.

For those familiar with programs like The Labs @ CLP, that’s not a big surprise. Indeed, for kids who don’t have a computer or internet connection at home, the local library is a vital resource.

“Until now I never used Photoshop,” said Gabe Gomez, a Pittsburgh high school student who, along with his friends, made a seven-minute film at The Labs that they hope to turn into a web series. “It’s rare to have access to this sort of thing. I’m trying to learn as much as I can.”

Cleveland Public Library Executive Director and CEO Felton Thomas Jr. is at the forefront of making “libraries the center of learning, where technology is provided that levels the playing field for the disadvantaged,” reports American Libraries Magazine.

In 2012, their library launched TechCentral, an impressive 7,000-square-foot space that holds a computer lab with 90 workstations and a “Tech ToyBox” equipped with iPads, Kindles, and all sorts of fun tech gadgets, as well as a maker space.

To bring attention to the dynamic things libraries are doing with technology, the Young Adult Library Association (YALSA) hosted Teen Tech Week March 9-15. Libraries across the country celebrated the new and inventive ways they are engaging teens. This year’s theme was DIY @ Your Library,” reflecting the new trend of libraries developing maker spaces.

School librarian Buffy Hamilton, aka “The Unquiet Librarian,” tweeted and blogged about the high- and low-tech projects students at Norcross High School in Georgia did for Teen Tech Week, including making friendship bracelets  and creating duct tape art and circuit kits made out of dough.

She also wrote about Teen Tech Week’s grand finale: the school’s media center partnered with the Gwinnett County Public Library to explore 3-D printing.

For Hamilton, seeing kids get excited about these new resources is rewarding.

“To see these teens thinking so intently, experimenting, and learning through trial and error in a relaxed setting was truly a joy and a way for us to grow the kind of culture of learning we want the library to embody,” she wrote.

Photo/ San Mateo County Library

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Are ‘Bossy’ Girls Future STEM Leaders? http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/26/are-bossy-girls-future-stem-leaders/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15359 Wed, 26 Mar 2014 05:07:01 +0000

Are ‘Bossy’ Girls Future STEM Leaders?

How do we encourage girls to take the lead in STEM fields? Sheryl Sandberg suggests banning the word “bossy.”

Photo/ JBLM PAO

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In organization recently launched a campaign to ban the word “bossy,” enlisting powerful women such as Condoleezza Rice, Beyoncé, and Diane von Furstenberg to help spread the message.

What’s wrong with “bossy”? The Ban Bossy website explains: “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up.”

Supporters of ”ban bossy” argue that the term undermines girls’ confidence and reinforces harmful gender stereotypes. Critics, on the other hand, have taken issue with everything from the movement’s scolding tone—which itself has been called “bossy”— to the very idea of policing language.

Teacher-Tip_No-Interruptions-copyWriting for The New Yorker, Margaret Talbot points out that “‘bossy’ is a useful descriptive word that invokes a particular kind of behavior. It’s not actually a synonym, derogatory or otherwise, for leadership or authoritativeness, nor necessarily a criticism of women who embody those qualities.”

She concedes, though, that the term is disproportionately applied to girls and women.

Slate’s Katy Waldman questions the campaign’s effectiveness: “Will banning it actually help adjust the retrograde thinking underneath, or will we just start to rely on other code words, like shrill, angry, or emotional to do the same minimizing work?”

Instead, she suggests reclaiming the word, like Tina Fey did in her book “Bossypants.”

Even if the campaign fails to eradicate the five-letter B word (well, one of them), it has a lot of people talking about the issue of women and leadership, and that’s a good thing.

Whether you believe that language merely reflects or reinforces behavior, the fact is that a gender gap persists in many areas. Women are lacking in leadership positions from the C-suite to Congress. And that gap is especially apparent in STEM fields, which remain male dominated.

Why does this matter? Because STEM represents a critical growth area in this country. According to a 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce report, STEM occupations are projected to increase by 17 percent through 2018, relative to 9.8 percent growth in non-STEM fields. And STEM professionals earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts.

One problem is that fewer women pursue STEM occupations. Anna Stansbury reported on the disparity for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Journalist’s Resource: “Women accounted for 55 percent of university graduates ages 25 to 29 but only 31 percent of STEM graduates. They make up 50 percent of the overall US workforce but only account for 25 percent of STEM workers.”

Even when they do enter STEM fields, their attrition rates are higher than men’s. As Stansbury writes, “After about 12 years, 50 percent of women who originally worked in STEM have left, compared to only 20 percent of professional women.”

The statistic is even more striking for women with advanced degrees, who are 165 percent more likely to leave STEM fields. Interestingly, this doesn’t apply to women with advanced degrees in non-STEM areas.

One researcher is trying to find out why this attrition happens. University of Delaware psychology professor Chad Forbes was recently awarded a $791,000 National Science Foundation grant to study stereotype threat—the pervasive, self-fulfilling ideas that undermine performance, such as the belief that women aren’t good at math—and the effect this phenomenon has on women and minorities in STEM fields.

As Forbes’ research suggests, fear of failure may be the greatest deterrent to success in STEM fields, not concern over being perceived as bossy or aggressive. This fear prompts women to self-select out of challenging disciplines such as engineering and technology—fields that happen to pay better and offer more opportunities than most. And it’s impossible to rise to the top in a field you abandon or, worse, never enter.

Banning “bossy” won’t eliminate this fear factor, of course, but empowering girls and young women to take risks and accept challenges just might.

Top photo/ JBLM PAO

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Beyond Screen Time http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/25/beyond-screen-time/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15325 Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:51:52 +0000

Beyond Screen Time

Lisa Guernsey says national leaders have a lot to learn from practitioners on the ground in Pittsburgh, who are using technology to put kids in charge of their own learning.

Pittsburgh's Children's Innovation Project

Experts gathered at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. this week for a moderated discussion that explores “a world beyond ‘screen time.’” How to use technology as more than an electronic babysitter and how to push for higher standards in technology use are on the agenda.

We spoke with Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and author of “Screen Time: How Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software — Affects Your Young Child” about what brought this group together and where work around early learning innovation is heading.

Remake Learning: Tell me about this new group, the Alliance for Early Learning in a Digital Age.

Lisa Guernsey: It’s a coalition that came together at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012. It’s the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Sesame Workshop, PBS, Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, Erikson Institute and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. I came into things in 2013 to help think through some of the challenges that a group like this might face.

What was the spark? What made something like this seem necessary?

The early childhood community has been a little averse to talking about technology in any deep way. And for good reasons, honestly. There is fear that technology in a preschool classroom might lead to kids sitting around staring at the TV. There is also fear that kids might get pushed into things before they are developmentally ready. Everyone wants kids to have a well rounded, hands-on, exploratory learning environment, but those types of fears have hung over the question of what role technology should play in that.

Have recent technological changes altered this conversation at all?

Lisa Guernsey

Lisa Guernsey

There have been some very interesting advances in technology — most obviously the touch screen. There’s also been some recognition through research and through the work of some pioneering educators, that, gosh, there are chances to use technology in ways that help children explore, that help open up windows into new worlds, or enable them to see themselves as creators.

That’s interesting, that idea of the difference between kids staring blankly at a TV and being “creators” as you say. Why is that so important?

We now have tools that let kids talk more freely and really capture what they’re exploring and creating. There are math concepts we used to think kids under a certain age couldn’t grasp, but it turns out, yes, they can — they just might not communicate it the same way older kids do. What if we can give them tools — like video cameras or tape recorders — to enable them to communicate in ways they couldn’t before?

For 4- and 5-year-olds, it can still be a struggle to put ideas on pen and paper, but maybe there are all kinds of things they want to say. For teachers this means being able to see more clearly how the kids are learning. And for the kids, it’s a chance to look back at something they’ve just done and say, “Hey, I did that. And here’s my story.”

There’s so much going on in the world of digital media. Is there a central set of concerns, or a central question around which the Alliance is organized?

At the New America Foundation, where I work, we have questions about how to break through the tired, polarizing conversations about technology, and how to bring educators up to a new level professionally with the right resources at their finger tips. The Alliance has several categories it coalesced around, and one is to build an agenda for new research. Our two organizations wanted to find a place to bring together all the research that’s happening in so many disparate places — some in science labs, some in research groups, some in the media literacy world.

So we had a research conference at the New America Foundation offices in October, and researchers talked about the similarities in their findings and their thinking. The desire to enable children to explore and be creators was an exciting idea to many people in the room, though it hasn’t been tested very much in research.

I’d imagine, considering the group, there was also talk about the role of the teacher or caregiver in facilitating children’s relationship with technology.

Children will really learn more and gain more from the experience if they are asking questions of a peer or adult while engaged. Sometimes the media itself triggers conversation or new questions — or takes them down paths of new learning. That joint engagement piece came through pretty loud and clear in October.

What else?

There’s a big focus on using media intentionally with young children and being very mindful about what it means for them.

I feel like so many people are so excited about these new digital tools and possibilities. Do you still find yourself telling people screen time is not inherently bad? Or has the conversation moved on from there?

What do we know about how children are interacting with digital technology? What are they learning? 

I don’t think everyone is on the same page because of the varied experiences out there. I see all sides of this because I talk to teachers in the elementary realm as well as in the realm of childcare and preschool. I also meet with childcare providers who work with, say, six children, in their home, and also public school teachers working with 3- and 4-year-olds. In some places there’s still a lot of concern that it’s just inappropriate for children to be using screen media.

On the other hand, I see teachers wishing they had more iPads, for example. There’s a wide range of view points out there, and we can learn from them all. It goes back to the mindfulness question. What do we know about how

children are interacting with digital technology? What are they learning? What are they understanding when they’re using these materials? Those are the big questions.

I’m struck by how the first thing you said was, “We need to do more research.” What do we know? Is there anything specific to which you can point?

There is a lot that we do know. My book, “Screen Time,” was based on scores of studies on television and some new studies on interactive media with children under the age of 6. But questions from educators and parents are still hard to answer, often because they’re asked in such broad ways, such as, “Should my child use an iPad?”

To answer that kind of question, we need to go deep and get specific. There’s some research, for example, that showed 30-month-olds could learn something specific from a short, interactive video experience. So we have research like that. Little slices that give us some hints.

And people surely have been researching TV for ages.

There’s all sort of research about background television, or just television without any consideration of content. That’s the very opposite of mindful and intentional. It’s just noise and visuals off to the side of the room. There are studies that show background television is disruptive to children’s play patterns.

That of course raises all sorts of interesting questions about why it’s disruptive. Is it the noise? Is it the visuals? There have been a couple of studies that show problematic connections between background TV and kids not getting enough verbal interaction from adults. In other words, different media used in different ways make a big difference.

In your book you talk about the three C’s.

It’s a shorthand way of understanding how complex it all is. It’s not just all or nothing when it comes to media and kids. You have to look at the content,  the context of how the media is being used , and of course there’s the child herself. How old is she? Where is she developmentally? What are her interests? Etc.

A lot of people are starting to really look at the equity component of all this. What’s your thinking? Is this part of the Alliance’s focus?

From what I understand, one  reason the group is named the Alliance for Early Learning in a Digital Age is that it’s about ensuring all children, even children from low-income families, have access to the same kind of learning environments that kids from the richest families have. At New America, that focus on equity is a core piece of our work throughout our education policy program.

How do you go about addressing this issue?

We’re focusing right now on equity in broadband access. We’re looking at the lack of discounts for internet services in childcare settings, as well as many Head Start classrooms and some publically funded pre-K classrooms. The public schools have the E-Rate program. President Obama is pushing for the

It’s about ensuring all children, even children from low-income families, have access to the same kind of learning environments that kids from the richest families have.
new ConnectED initiative, and the FCC is in the process of revamping the E-Rate to try and infuse a little bit of money into the system.

We’ve been writing and making recommendations to the FCC. One of our recommendations focuses on the early learning setting and trying to ensure more parity, at least for Head Start and publically funded pre-K. In an ideal world, we’d get it for childcare centers, too. This ability to gain access to the internet is important for teachers and caregivers so that they can communicate and share information professionally.

New America is holding an event in Washington, D.C. on March 26 titled Beyond Screen Time.  What’s the connection here to Pittsburgh? 

I’m glad you asked that. Pittsburgh is at the forefront of seeing past this old debate about passive media being detrimental to children’s learning. They’re past, “Oh gosh, technology just means putting kids in front of a screen.” They’re helping move us into a new realm, which imagines children as creators themselves and agents of their own learning, and having access to all sorts of resources to help them learn, create and make. We can learn a lot from what’s happening in Pittsburgh.

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The Three Tiers of Hive [Hive NYC] http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/22/the-three-tiers-of-hive-hive-nyc/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15232 Sat, 22 Mar 2014 14:10:13 +0000

The Three Tiers of Hive [Hive NYC]

Chris Lawrence of Mozilla returns with his second blog for Hive NYC, writing on building Hive into a global network of learning and development activities.

Making activities at a Hive event

This is the second in a series of blog posts where Mozilla’s Senior Director of the Webmaker Community details plans for a global network of Hive activity. The first post is here.

Over the last two years MacArthur and Mozilla have grown Hive NYC and Hive Chicago, helped on-board Hive Pittsburghand Hive Toronto and responded to a growing chorus of communities eager to incorporate Hive values, ideas and platforms, or as we have dubbed it, “Hivey-ness.” As a result, we’ve developed a three-tiered engagement ladder,  outlining ways to contribute to Hive as well as the path towards creating and sustaining a Hive Learning Network.


Tier 1: Hive Learning Events

These are learning gatherings that bring network practice and connected learning principles to life for an inter-generational audience. Examples include Pop-Ups, Hack Jams, media production sessions, Maker Faires and other events. We brand these events in two ways:

  • Hive Pop-Ups have an intentional program design towards fostering a “Hanging Out, Messaging Around, Geeking Out” (HOMAGO) experience. For more on HOMAGO check out this handbook written by the Yollocalli Arts Center and Hive Chicago. At these events, multiple organizations come together with some of their best programs and deliver activities via learning stations tailored towards three levels of users:

    • Those who sample (Hang Out) by searching the room for what interests them most

    • Those who lightly experience all the activities offered (Messing Around)

    • A smaller but focused group who lock into one activity for the duration of the event (Geeking Out)

Participating educators get to both contribute to and observe what it’s like to see youth self-direct their learning and design their own experience in a networked space. Often the question, “Why Hive?” is better answered after seeing a Pop-Up in action: adults see youth interacting and learning with peers, remix and re-interpret their programs, become part of the energy in the room, and perhaps most importantly, see youth travel from different activities/interactions guiding their own path through the controlled chaos. We have distilled the Hive Pop-Up into a Webmaker Teaching Kit and this video details the Brooklyn Public Library Storymakers Maker Party/Hive Pop-Up.

  • Maker Party is the second event category, based on Mozilla’s global campaign to engage, excite and educate people about a production-based culture. Maker Party seeks to broaden access and equity to both digital as well as analog practices. Maker Parties are used to grow the community of people aware of connected learning and as cultivation strategy for new Hive Learning Communities.


Recently the Hive Research Lab has been studying Hive Events (Pop-Ups, Hack Jams and Maker Parties) through the lens of their two primary research areas: how Hive can foster Youth Interest-Driven Pathways and how it can act as effective infrastructure for Networked Innovation. Based on early fieldwork, Hive Research Lab has come up with design suggestions for how educators can more effectively use these events to reach these goals, ones that relate to outcomes for whole networks, member organizations and network-affiliated youth.

These events have been catalysts in helping new Hive communities emerge and we’ll share some specific examples in an upcoming post.

Tier 2: Hive Learning Communities (HLC)

Hive Learning Communities begin to use the connected learning principles and the practices of Hive to operationalize a learning network. They draw heavily from the experience of existing Hive Learning Networks whose leaders function as consultants and mentors sharing information about structure, program design and strategy. Local facilitators then adapt tools, practices, frameworks to their local contexts. They are free to self-identify themselves as Hive and use the branding assets and developmental resources that are openly networked.

Specific characteristics could Include:

  • educator meet-ups

  • recruitment and curation of affiliated organizations

  • wider participation and implementation of communication networks

The Hive concept has really developed into a grassroots movement with Hive Learning Communities forming around the globe. Current examples include Hive India, Hive Bay Area,Hive Berlin and others.


Tier 3: Hive Learning Networks (HLN)

Hive Learning Networks are city-wide vehicles for implementing and spreading connected learning ideas, tools, practices and values. These networks are fully operationalized with a staff, sources of funding, ways to seed innovation projects and a system for convening its membership. They accept the responsibility to be engaged in the stewardship of Hive Global. New Hive Learning Networks will be admitted through a review process of the Hive Global stewarding body, MacArthur, Mozilla and a panel of independent stakeholders.

The minimum requirements for Hive Learning Networks are:

  • Demonstrated alignment and programmatic commitment to connected learning values and principles

  • At least one dedicated, full-time staff member

  • An operational budget of at least $150K/year

  • A grantmaking apparatus that seeds no less than $15K into ecosystem

  • Participation in Hive Global stewardship beyond home city

Specific characteristics of the networks include:

  • Demonstrated commitment to providing equitable, accessible  connected learning andweb literacy opportunities to youth

  • A laboratory-approach

  • Cross-disciplinary collaboration

  • Incubation of inter-connected learning experiences for youth

From our experience consulting and participating in nascent communities, we know the components of successful Hives share common categories and characteristics. We recently circulated a collaborative document to surface a common set of self-emergent values, and here are just a few:

  • encompass innovative and transformative learning experiences

  • understand community needs and bridge gaps in local education

  • outcome-oriented

  • youth interest-driven

  • embody experimental, iterative, and open source practices

We are currently working in the open towards the better articulation, operation and adaptation of these three tiers as a strategy to establish Hive practices as a key driver of the spread and scale of connected learning. We’ll continue to share more plans, details and resources in the coming weeks, and we’re also interested in your feedback. If you’re already working towards building a Hive in your community, or have been considering it, we’d love to know what resonates with you, or what questions you have regarding information we’ve shared so far or even specific details to help you get started. Feel free to comment below or reach out to me directly via email.

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for March 21st http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/03/21/15266/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=15266 Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:00:43 +0000

Report Finds Class Divide in Educational Media Use

Report finds class divisions in use of educational media; Pitt helps spur city-wide transformation; CMU's Working Examples teams with Silicon Valley start-up; 7 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

In January, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a report on young children’s media diets. The survey of more than 1,500 parents of children ages 2-10 asked a bevy of questions about educational media use. Much of the ensuing news coverage focused on the sheer volume of media use, and how little of it overall parents deemed helpful, especially when it came to science and math content.

But I found something else to be more interesting: the study shows a serious class divide on educational media use. That made me wonder, could it be that high-income parents are letting their presumptions about “screens” cloud their judgment?

Perhaps it’s a hangover of a snobbish view of television among people who are more educated (and have a higher income). Or it could be a slightly more subtle version of equating bad parenting with TV—and now video games, apps, and other media. Or maybe it’s the common reflexive assumption that screen time is bad; the most common reason cited for not using educational media is the desire to limit screen time.

Pundits (a.k.a. elite parents) too often take a simplistic and uninformed view of digital media—in all forms—and its role in kids’ lives today. They forget that for every Sponge Bob or first-person shooter video game there’s a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or SimCityEdu or other “transformational” game. The New America Foundation’s Lisa Guernsey writes in Smithsonian Magazine that parents and pundits need to be careful to not treat screens as a “monolithic entity” that is “doing something ‘toxic’ to children’s developing brains.” Screen media, she points out, comes in many forms these days, many of them interactive.

If we can get beyond the false assumptions, parents might be able to demand more, and better, educational media. Right now for media developers, the incentives are elsewhere, Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, told Games Industry International.

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Anchored In: University of Pittsburgh Helps Spur City-Wide Transformation http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/19/anchored-in-university-of-pittsburgh-helps-spur-city-wide-transformation/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15256 Wed, 19 Mar 2014 16:53:13 +0000

Anchored In: University of Pittsburgh Helps Spur City-Wide Transformation

What happens when a university becomes not only a good neighbor, but a valuable – and welcome – engine of change?

Photo/Dylan Mirales

“Anchor institution” is a buzz phrase in economic development circles these days, especially in cities such as Pittsburgh that are struggling to reinvent themselves. Institutions with established roots have become “powerful players in remaking cities into vibrant livable places,” according to a recent Pop City article.

First coined in 2002 by Harvard business professor Michael Porter, anchor institutions are universities, medical centers, performing arts centers or other large businesses that do what the term implies: they anchor a community, and they anchor in a community.

As such, these institutions generate jobs, purchase goods and services, and with time, foster clusters of spin-offs and other area development. But unlike other businesses, they cannot simply pack up and leave when the going gets tough.

The University of Pittsburgh is an anchor institution—and a notable one at that. Located near downtown in the ethnically diverse, culturally rich Oakland neighborhood, which also has its share of poverty, Pitt is taking an active role in helping the community become a more vibrant and innovative place.

Its efforts are picking up notice. Pitt was featured as “A University of the Community” in a recent article by researchers at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and ranked “Best Neighbor” among public colleges and universities in a 2009 national survey.

“Over the course of recent years, the role that our University has played in this region’s rebirth has been cited with envy by observers from other parts of the country,” Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said in a release.

So why has Pitt achieved such rock star status?

First off, the university listened and responded to community concerns, and its outreach efforts have led to the creation of much-needed programs and services. Pitt Science Outreach, for example, provides science immersion programs and experiences for kids. Health care networks are fighting obesity and promoting wellness. Housing, neighborhood revitalization programs, and job training services are available to community residents.

The university has also reached beyond the Oakland community to partner with area businesses and institutions, such as The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, that serve city youth and promote education. The university’s Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE) is a partner in the museum’s MAKESHOP. Efforts such as these have contributed to the city’s larger economic growth and urban development, which has made Pittsburgh a more attractive place for new businesses, including Etcetera Edutainment and Schell Games.

It’s this willingness to collaborate that is one of the main hallmarks of Pitt’s (and other anchors’) recent success, according to HUD researchers. And this success has had a ripple effect that has led to an even wider network of innovative opportunities.

The Kids+Creativity Network is a great example. Gregg Behr of the Grable Foundation and Jess Trybus of Etcetera Edutainment wanted to create more opportunities for kids in Pittsburgh. With so many resources and so much brainpower in the city, what would happen, they wondered, if they pulled together some of the top talent in education, arts, entertainment, business, and technology?

Within a very short time, they found out. More than 300 Pittsburgh leaders came together to create unique partnerships to hatch and foster learning opportunities for kids. University of Pittsburgh, The Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and the Fred Rogers Center are now just a few of the Kids +Creativity Network participants.

In many ways, it is this kind of synergy that represents the ideal of anchor institutions. Anchors are just the start of something bigger. By providing continued support and stability, anchor institutions cultivate clusters of related businesses and brains – all of which attracts more talent and investment, making innovation like that in the Kids+Creativity Network possible.

The key in all of this clustering and anchoring, however, is to recognize the assets already in the place—the long-time neighborhood residents, for example, who have their own roots sunk into the area, as well as an institutional memory that can prove valuable. Far too often, though, long-time residents are seen as “legacy costs,” not assets—an OFF! spray to the creative classes, and something to be “addressed.”

As the HUD report notes, Pitt has created a model for how to effectively incorporate community voices in the process. And as the evidence in Pittsburgh proves, cities can rebuild and innovation can thrive only when everyone takes part.

Photo/ Dylan Morales

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Report Finds Class Divide in Educational Media Use http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/17/report-finds-class-divide-in-educational-media-use/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15228 Mon, 17 Mar 2014 04:02:39 +0000

Report Finds Class Divide in Educational Media Use

A report from the Cooney Center points to lessons for parents and educational media developers.

Photo/ Ben Filio

In January, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a report on young children’s media diets. The survey of more than 1,500 parents of children ages 2-10 asked a bevy of questions about educational media use. Much of the ensuing news coverage focused on the sheer volume of media use, and how little of it overall parents deemed helpful, especially when it came to science and math content.

But I found something else to be more interesting: the study shows a serious class divide on educational media use. That made me wonder, could it be that high-income parents are letting their presumptions about “screens” cloud their judgment?

The report finds that it is high-income parents who are limiting media time for their kids. Lower-income families are using more educational games. Their kids spend more time with educational digital content than kids from high-income families. (In the examples that follow, for brevity’s sake, I compare the lowest and highest income categories only, but the pattern holds across the income spectrum. And all the differences are statistically significant.)

For example,

  • Overall, 43 percent of low-income kids (whose parents earn $25,000 or less annually) use some form of educational media daily versus 25 percent of high-income kids (whose parents earn $100,000 and above).
  • Lower-income kids also spend a higher share of total screen time on educational materials than high-income children—57 percent versus 40 percent.
  • These gaps hold regardless of the type of media—whether television, mobile phones, computer games, or other video games. For example, despite having less access to mobile devices, 12 percent of low-income children are daily users of educational content on mobile devices, compared with 5 percent of high-income children.

And before one thinks it’s because low-income families aren’t as discerning as consumers, there were few notable difference in their assessment of quality—they too know that their kids aren’t learning much from Sponge Bob.

Perhaps it’s a hangover of a snobbish view of television among people who are more educated (and have a higher income). Or it could be a slightly more subtle version of equating bad parenting with TV—and now video games, apps, and other media. Or maybe it’s the common reflexive assumption that screen time is bad; the most common reason cited for not using educational media is the desire to limit screen time.

Pundits (a.k.a. elite parents) too often take a simplistic and uninformed view of digital media—in all forms—and its role in kids’ lives today. They forget that for every Sponge Bob or first-person shooter video game there’s a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or SimCityEdu or other “transformational” game. The New America Foundation’s Lisa Guernsey writes in Smithsonian Magazine that parents and pundits need to be careful to not treat screens as a “monolithic entity” that is “doing something ‘toxic’ to children’s developing brains.” Screen media, she points out, comes in many forms these days, many of them interactive.

These same pundits are also too quick to point fingers at low-income parents. As the Cooney Center report suggests, low-income parents aren’t just plopping their children in front of a television, as so many seem to think; in fact, grandparents in these families frequently watch alongside children. They’re also seeking out educational media for their children and using it to help prepare their children for school.

If we can get beyond the false assumptions, parents might be able to demand more, and better, educational media. Right now for media developers, the incentives are elsewhere, Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, told Games Industry International.

And making a good game that is transformational for the user is hard work. Schell (an accomplished juggler) says this about making games that are both fun and educational:

“Teaching is really hard. Making an entertaining game is really hard. And now we’re proposing that we’re going to do both of them simultaneously. It’s like doing stunt riding on a motorcycle and juggling, and now I’m going to do them at the same time.”

Sure, some skepticism is warranted—there’s a lot of content masquerading as “educational.” But not all of it is bunk. As parents learn more about what constitutes quality, and understand that the context of use matters, they may both buy more games and put more pressure on developers to create good, educational content, including content that brings families together, rather than isolating each family member on a separate screen in the living room.

And maybe, too, they’ll realize that lower-income families are a key market.

 

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for March 14th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/03/14/15195/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=15195 Fri, 14 Mar 2014 14:34:09 +0000

Why Silicon Valley Wants Humanities Majors

Why Silicon Valley wants more humanities majors; Taking Hive global with Mozilla's Chris Lawrence; Google executive Ross LaJeunesse to visit Pittsburgh to discuss Digital Age; 4 new upcoming events and opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

It’s no secret the traditional humanities in higher education, especially at the graduate level, are struggling. Fewer students are enrolling in humanities classes as undergraduates, and fewer graduates of humanities doctoral programs are finding the jobs they expected.

But slowly, scholars and universities are beginning to break down the longstanding divide between the humanities and STEM disciplines. Digital humanities researchers are mapping the spread of ideas, crowdsourcing digital archives, and making manuscripts accessible to answer timeless questions about what makes us human. Stanford University recentlyannounced it is developing new majors that integrate computer science with humanities disciplines like English and music.

And engineers and entrepreneurs are taking note. When the New York Times asked techpreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa to write a 2011 opinion piece on where to spend higher education funds—on STEM or on liberal arts programs—they expected him to argue for STEM. But he didn’t.

Wadhwa and a team of researchers surveyed more than 650 CEOs and leading product engineers at more than 500 technology companies. They found that about half had earned a STEM degree at some point in their academic career (bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D.). The rest held degrees in a variety fields, including the humanities. “Gaining a degree made a big difference in the sales and employment of the company a founder started,” Wadhwa wrote. “But the field that the degree was in … was not a significant factor.”

As Christine Henseler, a leading scholar in the digital humanities movement, wrote, “To write or represent a good story, we have to think about the power of the image, the sound, the word, the logic behind our arguments, the cultural perspectives of our audiences, the faith, or lack thereof, in what we do.” That’s what the humanities teach students.

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Taking Hive Global [Hive NYC] http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/14/taking-hive-global-hive-nyc/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15176 Fri, 14 Mar 2014 13:13:52 +0000

Taking Hive Global [Hive NYC]

Check out the first of a syndicated blog series originally published by Hive NYC, where Mozilla's Chris Lawrence talks about the future of Hive as a global, sustainable collection of connected networks.

Pittsburgh teens took over The Warhol Museum on May 3 to kick off Hive Days of Summer. / Photo: Ben Filio

This is the first in a series of blog posts where Chris Lawrence, Mozilla’s Senior Director of the Webmaker Community, details plans for a global network of Hive activity. These posts will provide an overview of Hive, as a philosophy and as a Webmaker strategy. They will detail Mozilla’s ongoing involvement and map a path for how Hive will spread to new cities, from initial interest to the creation of sustainable and connected networks.

The Hive Learning Network project is a global set of values, strategies, tools and design principles. Hive has become an integral part of Mozilla’s work and has connected hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of youth engaged in interest-based production. In line with Mozilla’s mission, Hive also helps people know more, do more, and do better.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 4.00.05 PM

We believe 2014 will be a pivotal year in establishing Hive as a global effort linking local educators to an international community through the advancement of connected learning, web literacy, and digital skills.

Together, Mozilla, MacArthur Foundation and other key stakeholders plan to increase Hive participation at the individual, city, and global level by activating educators and empowering them with the tools, community, culture, and practice to re-imagine learning in the cities in which they live.

We have a responsibility to optimize how youth learn.

The inspiration and design of the Hive model springs from a fidelity to connected learning, an emergent educational theory that recognizes the need for a new approach to learning. It is defined by its core values, learning, and design principles. We also know that the technology and the culture of the web is critical to learning in a connected world—helping all young people become citizens of the web is an issue of justice and equity. Our experiences, whether digital or analog, are informed by the web. The web is so integrated into our collective daily lives, we believe that web literacy is essential for youth and the adults who interact with them to be positioned for success in our ever changing world.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 1.10.50 PM

We need a Global Hive to spread tools and practices from existing Hives and to help people who want to start Hives in new cities.

Through the work we have done over the past two and a half years with Hive NYC, and more recently with Hive ChicagoHive Pittsburgh, and Hive Toronto, we have learned:

  • That there exists a great appetite to iterate proactively on the pedagogies and principles that best prepare people for a rapidly changing world

  • That too often innovative work and people sit inside silos with little chance to connect their work to others

  • That we need more collaborators, co-designers, and constituents to advance our collective goals

  • That there is a growing sophistication of purpose in the types of people, organizations, and communities who gravitate to Hive

  • The strength of a unifying brand and identity, which is open and available to adopt, adapt, and replicate in order to expand a distributed network

Hive is the city-based strategy within Mozilla’s Webmaker initiative.

Mozilla will house, operate, and co-fund Hive Global to function as a “big tent” for educators and organizations with diverse approaches to come together around connected learning and web literacy. Having a local and grassroots approach with Hive allows us to build momentum for and global adoption of the philosophy, tools, and strategies of connected learning.

mozilla-webmaker

As steward of the Global Hive network, Mozilla will construct and convene a governance structure, create materials, offer badges, run events, provide web platforms, and collect metrics that support the work of local Hive leaders.

Our roadmap for Hive Global in 2014

In the coming months, we will be working to identify and document best practices from existing Hive Learning Networks that can be shared with others globally. We’ll share more details and resources for those interested in exploring what a Hive might look like in their city.

Our immediate priorities are to:

  • Fully integrate the Hive Global plan, situated within Mozilla’s Webmaker initiative.

  • Expand the pipeline of new cities interested in Hive.

  • Build core materials and systems that make it easier and faster for people interested in Hive to get involved.

hive-youth-activity1In my next post, I will share thoughts on a tiered engagement model that outlines what contribution to Hive looks like, and how those interested in activating local communities around this model might start on that path.

We’re extremely excited about the progress we’ve made in the past two years, and in the rising interest we’ve seen and heard from people and organizations around the world who have an affinity to our work. In many ways, we’re working to meet the demands of the opportunity to share and spread the Hive model, and so we’d love to hear your feedback or comments on these initial plans–please feel free to add them below or to email me directly.

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Why Silicon Valley Wants Humanities Majors http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/13/why-silicon-valley-wants-humanities-majors/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15197 Thu, 13 Mar 2014 17:39:56 +0000

Why Silicon Valley Wants Humanities Majors

The humanities aren’t dead in the digital age. In fact, they powered it. They’re helping us understand it. And they’re what let our young people hone their creative edge and succeed in it.

Photo/ Kaitlin Phillips

It’s no secret the traditional humanities in higher education, especially at the graduate level, are struggling. Fewer students are enrolling in humanities classes as undergraduates, and fewer graduates of humanities doctoral programs are finding the jobs they expected.

But slowly, scholars and universities are beginning to break down the longstanding divide between the humanities and STEM disciplines. Digital humanities researchers are mapping the spread of ideas, crowdsourcing digital archives, and making manuscripts accessible to answer timeless questions about what makes us human. Stanford University recently announced it is developing new majors that integrate computer science with humanities disciplines like English and music.

And engineers and entrepreneurs are taking note. When the New York Times asked techpreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa to write a 2011 opinion piece on where to spend higher education funds—on STEM or on liberal arts programs—they expected him to argue for STEM. But he didn’t.

Wadhwa and a team of researchers surveyed more than 650 CEOs and leading product engineers at more than 500 technology companies. They found that about half had earned a STEM degree at some point in their academic career (bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D.). The rest held degrees in a variety fields, including the humanities. “Gaining a degree made a big difference in the sales and employment of the company a founder started,” Wadhwa wrote. “But the field that the degree was in … was not a significant factor.”

Students of the humanities bring skills to the table that engineers don’t—like how to tell a good story. That’s a skill in high demand among tech businesses, as Silicon Valley chronicler Michael Malone discovered when he invited entrepreneur Santosh Jayaram to speak to his writing students. As Malone described it to the Wall Street Journal, he extended the invitation but begged Jayaram not to “dash their hopes” by telling them to leave the humanities.

But Malone, too, was surprised. “English majors are exactly the people I’m looking for,” Jayaram said. He explained that to create a successful tech startup today, you must research “that one undeveloped niche you can capture” and sell the idea to investors, partners, employees, and customers. “And how do you do that? You tell stories.” According to Jayaram, good storytellers are much harder to find than good engineers. “That’s why I want to meet your English majors.”

As Christine Henseler, a leading scholar in the digital humanities movement, wrote, “To write or represent a good story, we have to think about the power of the image, the sound, the word, the logic behind our arguments, the cultural perspectives of our audiences, the faith, or lack thereof, in what we do.” That’s what the humanities teach students.

The classroom discussions and group projects in history, English, and other humanities disciplines also foster social intelligence in a way that traditional STEM disciplines have not always done. “Social intelligence is not what schools specifically train people in, but the highest growth right now and the highest salaries go to people with high social intelligence skills. These are skills better fostered by the humanities,” said Kevin Stolarick, a researcher on the “creative class” who recently spoke at Pittsburgh’s Creative Industries Summit. (For more of his perspective, plus a look at our local creative class and our ability to attract and keep creatives, check out this post.)

The Kids + Creativity Network is helping Pittsburgh-area children and youth develop skills not only in STEM, but in arts and imagination—key building blocks of a humanistic world view. Projects like Crossing Fences, the Literary Arts Boom (The LAB), and Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Youth Media Program combine the best of the humanities—asking questions, reflecting on stories, and discovering the common elements of the human experience—with cutting-edge technology and communications tools. Thanks to these kinds of experiences, Pittsburgh’s next generation will seize—and likely, create—new pathways to integrate the humanities with STEM.

 

Photo/ Kaitlin Phillips

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Teens and Social Media? “It’s Complicated” http://remakelearning.org/blog/2014/03/11/teens-and-social-media-its-complicated/ http://remakelearning.org/?p=15173 Tue, 11 Mar 2014 18:19:24 +0000

Teens and Social Media? “It’s Complicated”

When it comes to teens and technology, social media researcher danah boyd thinks parents and educators should nix the anxiety and embrace the possibility.

Photo / personaldemocracy

A Nielsen study released last month found 40 percent of young adults use social media in the bathroom. A little odd, perhaps. But when you look at how truly tuned in teens are to social media, is it really that surprising?

It’s not just teens’ attachment to technology that can make adults scratch their heads. There’s a deeper fear—that kids will lose their ability to socialize face-to-face, that they’ll be bullied, or lured by strangers into dangerous situations, or that they’re sexting or… the list of dangers goes on.

danah boyd, for one, thinks those fears are misplaced. And more deeply, the author of the new book, “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens,” argues that we’re scapegoating digital media for bigger problems—like an overtly sexual society and overly scheduled childhoods.

boyd, who’s a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, spent eight years interviewing hundreds of teens and studying the nuanced ways they use social media. Her findings challenge the gloom-and-doom narratives we’ve all heard before. While still acknowledging the internet’s boundaries and shortcomings, she brings to light the potential of new media to empower teens.

In the book’s opening chapter, boyd makes an important clarification. Teens aren’t actually obsessed with Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Rather, as she told fellow tech expert Clive Thompson at Wired, “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other.”

“Most teens are not compelled by gadgetry as such—they are compelled by friendship,” boyd writes. “The gadgets are interesting to them primarily as a means to a social end. Furthermore, social interactions may be a distraction from school, but they are often not a distraction from learning. Keeping this basic social dynamic firmly in view makes networked teens suddenly much less worrisome and strange.”

“Educators have an important role to play in helping youth navigate networked publics and the information-rich environments that the internet supports.”

-danah boyd

Teens today want what teens since the stone age have wanted—a place to be themselves and hang out without adults hovering over them. But boyd describes how the last few decades have seen a mix of anti-loitering laws, enforced curfews, a decreasing number of public places, and growing safety worries from parents. Pair all that with the ever-increasing pressure to get into college, and teens have less time than ever to hang out face-to-face, which, boyd claims, is one reason their online lives mean so much to them.

But what teens see and what adults see are often two different things. Parents and teachers, she says, are too quick to blame social media and online worlds as the root cause of the problem. As she sees it, the real problem is bigger. To wit: sexting. We blame digital media for the flood of sexually explicit photos pinging back and forth via texts and Snapchat, but we should really be blaming the conflicting messages society sends about sex—from the Kardashians and twerking to abstinence and virginity pledges.

boyd also thinks that teachers should be more open to interacting with students on social media. She told Emily Bazelon on Slate:

“The moves educators have made away from using social media to talk to kids have been really destructive. Educators should have open-door policies for kids to reach out to them online. A teacher should create a profile that is herself or himself as a teacher, on Facebook or wherever your cohort of kids are. Never go and friend a student on your own, but if a student friends you, accept. And if a student reaches out to you online, respond. If you see something concerning about a student on a social media account, approach him or her in school. Give your password to the principal, so it’s all transparent, and then be present. Unfortunately, I hear a lot of teachers say they shouldn’t talk to kids outside the classroom. You can’t be 24/7, but when that connection is possible, it should be encouraged. And social media is an opportunity for more informal interactions.”

(That one lit up the comments, for a lot of reasons.)

Educators, and adults in general, play another role, boyd says—as online sherpas for teens:

“Educators have an important role to play in helping youth navigate networked publics and the information-rich environments that the internet supports,” boyd writes. “Although youth are always learning as they navigate these systems, adults—including parents, educators, and librarians—can support them further by helping turn their experience into knowledge.”

In the end, the advice boyd sends to parents, educators, and others concerned with technology is “keep calm and carry on”: nix the anxiety and embrace the possibility. “With technology, there is such a tendency for it to be a source of anxiety,” she told Bazelon. “I’d really like us to be in a place where we think of it instead as an opportunity for teenagers.”

 

Photo/ Personal Democracy

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Kids+Creativity Weekly Update for March 7th http://remakelearning.org/newsletter/2014/03/07/15137/ http://remakelearning.org/?post_type=newsletter&p=15137 Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:18:15 +0000

Helping STEM Learning Take Root Outside the Classroom

STEM learning takes root outside the classroom; meet Caroline Combemale, teacher, student and musician; Yo-Yo Ma honored with Fred Rogers award; 6 new upcoming events & opportunities.

Remake Learning Weekly Network Update

Back in the dark ages—as in, the ’70s and ’80s—a typical afterschool routine might have involved heading home for a snack and an episode of “Scooby Doo.” Today a Pittsburgh teen is more likely to fire up her laptop and engage in a multiplayer game with other online gamers as far away as Tokyo or Dubai, or to construct intricate cities on his iPad using Minecraft.

Boosted by this vital extracurricular learning, those gamers could grow up to be the next Marissa Mayer or Steve Jobs.

But the disparity in access to digital technology leaves many kids in the dust, lagging behind watching reruns of old cartoons. A February 2013 report by the Pew Research Center found that “More than half (54%) [of the 2,462 Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers surveyed for the report] say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, but only a fifth of these teachers (18%) say all or almost all of their students have access to the digital tools they need at home.”

Enter afterschool programs. They can help bridge that gap, according to a recent issue brief from the Afterschool Alliance, with support from the Noyce Foundation. The brief details how afterschool programs can help contribute to nationwide STEM education goals, especially in high-demand skill areas such as computer programming and engineering.

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