Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Education in a World of Social and Technological Change #SXSWedu

Notes from concurrent session, SXSWedu 2012

S. Craig Watkins, Associate Professor of Radio, TV, and Film, The University of Texas at Austin

After grad school, Watkins began immersing himself in the way young people use media. Trying to understand their  perspectives and sensibilities they bring to digital media. Recently he has been working with the McArthur Foundation on how young people's adoption of technology changes the way they live and learn. How are their learning lives evolving?

Teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are almost universally online. Previously via laptop computers, but more recently via mobile devices.

Social media has become central to their (and our) everyday lives.

The Digital Tipping Point - moment in a young person's life when they migrate to the digital world. As you get closer to high school, there starts to be enormous amount of pressure to becomed part of the online community. This pressure is now starting at younger and younger ages.

Preschoolers are using iPads and other handheld devices. They will have very different expectations of what a book will be and what learning will be even as they enters Kindergarten! Think of these 21st Century kids entering 20th Century classrooms...

The Digital Edge - Watkins is trying to understand role of digital media in lives of kids on the margins of digital access - second language homes, low socioeco environments, etc? Was inspired by the concept of digital divide - technology rich vs. technology poor.

Kids who we assume lack access to technology are increasingly getting access through mobile devices and resources in their commmunities. Studies show Black and Hispanic students are spending more time online than their Anglo counterparts, and their primary means of access is mobile.

Mobile is bridging the access divide, but the question of whether it is bridging the divide in terms of quality is not as easy to answer.

Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out - Friendship-driven and interest-driven access (Ito et al 2010) Found a large group of kids primarily went online for social reasons. Another group was found to be going online to pursue interests and passions. The passion-driven kids were using digital media to enrich their own learning. Example: A young woman receiving critique of her fan fiction online began using some of the skills she learned back in her other classes in school.

Connected Learning Project (need to Google this) - examples of projects schools are doing

How can we bring interests students develop outside of school into the classroom to leverage it for learning?

How can we leverage the peer culture in education?

How can we create more dynamic, more robust experiences in the classroom?

Learning gaps are not only shaped by what happens in school, but by what happens in their after-school lives.

Design Principles for Connected Learning:

  • Openly networked
  • Shared purpose
  • Production-centered
Look up YOUMEDIA - a public library based program to help students explore their interests.

What happens when we block social media in schools? We block them from some of their connectivity.

NOTE: Large gap in notes here thanks to an antivirus update that brought my netbook to its knees...

When asked what they wish their computer s could do that they don't currently do, kids answered with things like:
  • I want to go into the computer to visit other places (illustrates blur of line between in person and virtual worlds)
  • I want to make my own game (1/3 of kids responded with a desire to create)
Students seem to have a design disposition. How can we leverage that? How do we craft design/learning spaces that are student-centered? Spaces that are hands-on, active, and dynamic. Spaces that are inquiry-based. Watkins is working with schools on this.

In areas of extreme poverty, such as Brazil, these kinds of learning designs are essential. (Leadbeater & Wong, 2010). Learning needs to be related to real world questions and problems. Making kids entrepreneurial, creative, and inventive. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Learning has to happen across all the nodes and networks that connect us to the world we live in.

Majority of births in this country are now happening among historically minority groups. Students coming into our schools are much more ethnically diverse than they ever have been. How can education respond to this? How can we respond to the diversity?

We need to understand the digital divide as a literacy challenge rather than an access challenge.