Staff Blog

Let's Talk About Digital Learning

  • Thumb_nichole

    Posted over 4 years ago by Nichole Pinkard.

    I recently attended an interesting forum where we talked about ways in which young people's learning is changing. The tools that are available to them are tremendous - and they're different from what was available to most adults when we were growing up.

    For example, when I was a young girl, the ways I communicated with my grandmother were relatively unchanged from the generation before. I wrote her letters, called her on the phone, saw her during family visits.

    But for my 2-year-old nephew, it's a whole new world. He and his grandmother video conference! They Skype! She reads him a story through video chat, and it's an immediate exchange.

    So the ways he'll grow up communicating are new, and they require new skills other than the three R's of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

    Even if we are preparing kids for traditional roles, such as being a scientist, a writer, or a doctor, they still have to be able to communicate in these new media forms. They need to be literate visually, cinematically, procedurally, and musically.

    So the question naturally arises, How do we do that?

    Schools can't do it alone, and teachers can't be asked to take all this on. Through DYN, we have implemented Media Arts classes where students can learn these skills. And our afterschool programs let them take that passion and go deeper with mentors who are professional new media artists.

    What do these Media Arts classes look like? Sixth- through eighth-graders are learning how to make digital documentaries, build video games, blog, and more during the school day. Then we talk to their teachers to find ways to incorporate the students' growing skills into the everyday coursework.

    For one teacher working on global warming, we talked about ways students could demonstrate understanding of the topic. As a result, the kids built video games and digital movies to expand on some of the issues and concepts discussed in the lessons.

    I played a lot of basketball growing up, so I like to compare this type of learning to the way I approached the game. Through this new media learning, young people can observe and check out what others are doing. That's just like what I did when I showed up at a court to see who was playing. When they are ready, they can join in to learn and gain understanding. Once they've acquired the skills (like my killer hook shot), then they can level up, sharing their knowledge with others.

    Check out the video from this forum, called "Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age - Literacy 2.0," and moderated by Lisa Guernsey, who is the director of the Early Education Initiative for the New America Foundation.

    Also participating were Benjamin Bederson, Associate Professor Computer Science, Institute of Advanced Computer Studies and iSchool, University of Maryland and Allison Druin, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab and Associate Professor, University of Marylands College of Information Studies; Karen Cator, Director, Education Leadership and Advocacy, Apple; Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products & User Experience; and Daniel Russell, Research Scientist, Google.