Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Playing LBP with my 3rd Grader

One day last week my third grader got out of school early due to winter weather. I brought her into work with me, and down to Ruby's office where she got to play LittleBigPlanet (LBP) on the HASTAC research PlayStation3. She'd never played on a PlayStation before--her only gaming experience was with the Wii and some American Girl and PopTropica games on the internet. It was interesting for me to watch her learn and play. It was fun for her to play a game she'd heard about from a bunch of her (boy) friends. (In fact, she only has one girl friend who she knows plays on a PS--and she has an older brother.)

We talked together about the experience, below. I'm "M" (me) and she's "D" (daughter).

M: So, what did you think of LBP?
D: I thought it was really fun and cool. It was a whole new experience.

M: Your Sackgirl was pretty adventurous looking. Did you think of her as a character acting in the game or was she you?
D: I just put together crazy things. I thought of her as me, sort of. But sometimes she was someone else.

M: How about when you got stuck and got frustrated? You killed yourself so you could continue with the game.
D: I thought it got pretty frustrating, but once I got to this thing where you have to grab and that was pretty hard. So I killed myself then and went back to my pod.

[As her mother, this concerned me, I have to say. I think it would be good for there to be an eject button or something like that so that she didn't have to kill her Sackgirl to start over. I don't really like that message. In fact, it made me very uncomfortable. This is exactly the sort of gaming aspect that many parents don't like and won't buy into. It's not super violent, but she's 8 years old. There's no violence that's good violence at that age (at any age?).]

M: What was your favorite part about LBP?
D: I liked where you could get points, and talk to people and do cool things when you got the points. But I also liked when the people talked to you and told you clues so you could put the clues together like a puzzle.

M: Do you think you would've been able to figure out the things they told you on your own?
D: Maybe. When I had to dress Charlie, one of the guys told me I had to dress him. So I had some sneakers and a torso, so I put those on Charlie then the bridge fell down. So I sorta had to figure out some stuff on my own. It was like puzzle pieces.

M: What did you think of earning prizes and stickers and stuff?
D: My favorite part was when you earn stickers, cuz you had a long line of bubbles that you bang into.

M: Do you think you learned anything?
D: Not really. It was fun and I sorta learned how to grab things, but that's not exactly educational.

M: Would you like to play games like this even if there were some educational parts to it?
D: Yeah. It would be still fun. It wouldn't be as fun, but it would still be pretty fun. So I take that as a yes.

D: I thought LBP was really fun. It was cool how you could stick things almost everywhere and how you had a poppit that could pop out. At first it got really frustrating but then it got really easy. Once it got easy I moved on to the next level but that level was HARD.

M: I'm sure that playing LBP would be even more fun for D if she were playing with her friends. And I can see how that might bring interaction and collaboration into the game in ways that were nonexistent as she played by herself. I hope that we can bring a friend or two in to play with her sometime soon, and if so, we'll write about that.

I also think it's telling that when I asked her about whether she thought she'd learned anything, she had already positioned "learning," "not learning" and "things educational" in a very specific category, and "fun" wasn't in that category. Meeting challenges doesn't count as learning in her current paradigm. This is exactly the problem that our competition addresses: How can we make it so that learning is not segregated to specific subjects and situations, but is more integral to everyday life? And maybe even fun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 competition kicks off, featuring The White House, Sony, EA, and YOU

Today HASTAC re-launched the website for the Digital Media and Learning Competition (dmlcompetition.net) with the long-awaited details of the 2010 Competition! This competition builds on two successful years of supporting projects that advance and DO participatory learning.

Each year, the competition addresses different themes. In 2008, 17 projects won Innovation or Knowledge-Networking Awards. In 2009, 19 projects won Innovation or Young Innovators awards. This year's theme is Reimagining Learning and has brought some exciting new players to the table. We have been given the opportunity to participate in National Lab Day - part of the White House's Educate to Innovate Initiative - on our Learning Lab Designers awards. And we're also collaborating with videogame makers Sony and EA on the Game Changers awards.

Another new element of this year's competition is you, dear reader. We will host public comments on the applications as soon as people begin submitting them in January, and in May we will invite you to vote on your favorites to select the winners of the People's Choice Awards. (See our timeline for more details about this process.)

We'll be writing more on this blog about learning labs, game changers, and participatory learning. So keep reading, and visit the re-launched DMLcompetition.net, to learn more about this year's competition. Put on your thinking caps and start developing ideas now. The initial application period will be open from January 7th to 15th. We can't wait to see what you will do!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Making as learning

Originally posted on Cathy N. Davidson's Cat in the Stack blog on HASTAC.org
I've been thinking about the ways we learn when we make things and how differerent that experience is from learning in order to answer exam questions (especially multiple choice) about things, subjects, or ideas that other people have made.   What is most different is that, when you make something you learn about failure and from failure.   When you "get the answer wrong," you fail.   Therein lies all the difference.

Whether you are making a robot, a sweater, a poem, a research paper, a mod of a video game, or a donut,  the first time you do it you draw from and build upon a range of similar experiences, some of them successful, some of them not.  Trial-and-error is part of the process but so is your own, personal toolkit.   Some of those tools might be actual, physical, material tools.  Others are bodily repertoires of gestures or words or sounds or experiences.  And still others are histories of past successes and failures, some of which have direct relevance to what you are making, some of which are important simply because they remind you that you survive and even thrive after failure--and success does not stop the process of learning. In all of these settings, actually doing the process becomes a learning lab, a place of experimentation and process and exploration and (dare I say it?) fun.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tests Hamper Teaching Students to Think Like Einstein

by Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University

Reblogged from the Durham Herald Sun, December 11, 2009

I often lecture or blog about grading, arguing that the way we now assign grades is an antiquated system that may have worked well for the Industrial Age but that undercuts what is valuable, exciting, or potentially useful for interactive thinking in the Digital Age. I’m often critical of so called "standards-based education" such as No Child Left Behind, with its reduction of evaluation and assessment to standardized testing.

But I’m actually criticizing here a much broader way of thinking that reduces the process of thinking to “a result,” even to “the best result chosen from among a select number of choices” (i.e., multiple choice exams).

That concept of grading seems the exact opposite of critical and daring thinking, and inconducive to the kind of integrative, creative, innovative thinking our era demands, in all fields from the arts to the theoretical sciences and engineering.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

HASTAC Network Joins White House Campaign

This piece was reblogged from The Herald Sun, http://heraldsun.com/bookmark/5030564/article-HASTAC

A network of educators and digital innovators is playing a role in the White House campaign to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The HASTAC network will administer the third-annual Digital Media and Learning Competition.

The competition will award $2 million in support of participatory learning experiences that incorporate STEM principles.

The competition launches Monday and winners will be announced in spring 2010.

HASTAC (an acronym for Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) was founded and is primarily operated at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke and the University of California Humanities Research Institute at the University of California, Irvine.

Duke's Cathy N. Davidson, who co-founded HASTAC with David Theo Goldberg of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, said, "We are proud that an interdisciplinary humanities-inspired network like HASTAC has a leadership role in administering the Digital Media and Learning Competition. We are honored to be so central to President Obama's vision for education in the 21st century."

Awards will be given in two categories:

- 21st Century Learning Lab Designers will receive awards for learning environments and digital media-based experiences that allow young people to grapple with social challenges through STEM-based activities.

- Game Changers awards recognize creative new games or additions to Sony's LittleBigPlanet(TM). These games and game expansions should offer young people engaging game play experiences that incorporate principles of science, technology, engineering and math.

The HASTAC competition is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to the University of California, in collaboration with Duke University.

On the Web: For more information about the competition, visit dmlcompetition.net.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Digital media = engaged, civic minded kids

Just one reason we are so proud of our Digital Media and Learning Competition winners and their participatory learning projects?  Engagement with digital media makes kids productive offline citizens!

We can't wait to see what the next round of the Competition brings. In the meantime, check out the great Digital Media and Learning Competition projects that are doing their part to encourage engaged, excited and civic-minded students!

Research by education professor Joe Kahne shows online experiences—such as participation on fan sites—can help make kids more active offline citizens.
Joe Kahne, professor of education at Mills College and director of the school’s Civic Engagement Research Group, has studied the connection between students’ participation with digital media and their level of civic engagement. He finds that kids who participate in community activities online are more likely to later get involved with civic actions offline, even if their online activities appear to be only social or for fun.
Kahne notes that young people who use digital media are picking up skills on how to find, assess and share information. New media provides opportunities for young people to be active participants—as opposed to old media, such as newspapers, which provide learning opportunities but no way to immediately share or add input.
More good news: Kahne also found that participation in online communities doesn’t isolate or distract young people from other forms of social life.

Joe Kahne on Civic Participation Online and Off from Spotlight on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

21st Century Literacies by Cathy N. Davidson, reblogged from www.hastac.org

I've spent the morning rereading some of Howard Rheingold's ideas on 21st century literacies, the skills required to navigate the digital age. Attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness, and critical consumption of information are the key skills he discusses. Where do we teach those skills? How do we learn them? For starters, we learn them from reading Rheingold. I highly recommend his blogs for the San Francisco Chronicle Check out Twitter Literacies http://tiny.cc/vvD8s and Attention Literacies http://tiny.cc/MHBfS

Besides being the author of the classic Smart Mobs, Howard was a winner of our 2008 Digital Media and Learning Competition. He's a master at participatory learning and he built a Social Media Classroom for his project. You can check that out here:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Exploring this new Planet

I spent some of the wee hours of the Thanksgiving break actually playing LittleBigPlanet for the first time.  (I have a son who is too young for TV, so gaming was restricted to after his bedtime.)  I definitely get what all the fuss is about!  The beautiful graphics have a depth my partner described as "the opposite of the Wii." The personalization was reminiscent of Second Life, without being nearly as flexible of course.  And the game play was not unlike the Atari video games of my youth, with a lot of jumping around, picking up glowing prizes, and avoiding dangerous pits.

The game does a nice job of walking the newbie through the basic skills and concepts, gradually ramping up the challenges to dexterity and problem-solving.  After completing the first three story levels a whole new world of user-created community levels opened up before me, as well as an area of blank canvas for me to create my own levels!

Press releases

I thought folks might be interested to see the official press releases from the White House and the MacArthur Foundation about last week's launch of National Lab Day and the Educate to Innovate program, of which the Digital Media and Learning Competition is a part.

They are excerpted below. Click the links in the previous paragraph to read the full document.

Speaking to key leaders of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) community and local students, President Obama announced a series of high-powered partnerships involving leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies dedicated to motivating and inspiring young people across America to excel in science and math.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You have lots of questions and we'll have lots of answers!

We are thrilled that yesterday's announcement has generated so much excitement and that word is traveling fast through the blogosphere (you can keep track of our coverage by monitoring our Delicious account).

We know that many of you have questions. Here at headquarters we are putting the final touches on this year's shiny new (and President Obama endorsed!) Competition.  Details and more information will be forthcoming December 14th, including information about when the Competition will actually open, the application structure, materials, deadlines, FAQs, etc.

Stay tuned to this blog, follow us on Twitter, or join the Competition list-serv for all the latest details!

Elmo and friends enlisted in STEM education

One of the first public hints about this year's competition theme was this story in yesterday's New York Times.

To improve science and mathematics education for American children, the White House is recruiting Elmo and Big Bird, video game programmers and thousands of scientists.

President Obama will announce a campaign Monday to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, officials say.

The campaign, called Educate to Innovate, will focus mainly on activities outside the classroom.
Science and engineering societies are promising to provide volunteers to work with students in the classroom, culminating in a National Lab Day in May.

The MacArthur Foundation and technology industry organizations are giving out prizes in a contest to develop video games that teach science and math.
“We’re finding extraordinary engagement with games,” said Connie Yowell, director of education for MacArthur. If the engagement is combined with a science curriculum, she said, “then I think we have a very powerful approach.”

- NYTimes.com: White House Pushes Science and Math Education, Nov 22, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Getting to know LittleBigPlanet

Ruby G
Working for HASTAC has it's perks. Today's Presidential announcement about National Lab Day was the culmination of several frantic months of percolating, planning, wondering, worrying, creating, and kvetching. And it was all worthwhile to see the big public launch of this incredible strategic initiative to improve education and address global challenges.
One of the interesting aspects of this year's Digital Media and Learning Competition is that it includes a partnership with Sony to create "levels" in their PS3 game LittleBigPlanet that incorporate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. So, dutiful New Media "expert" (ha ha) that I am, I have started to research the game. Not surprisingly, Wikipedia is a definitive resource.  I also found a site where users can create their own avatars (known as "Sackboys") for the game.  Seen at right is my very own Sackgirl! Cick on it to make your own.
There's more over on BoingBoing today about National Lab Day and on the unique art of LittleBigPlanet (a sample of which is below).