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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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February262008

MacArthur Foundation Announces Digital Media and Learning Grants

You may recall a blog post of mine from a few months ago when I encouraged readers to pitch innovative education projects to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, which was interested in investing resources in the development of educational networking and social media projects. Last week, they announced the grantees, and the project list offers a taste of things to come, from educational mobile games to virtual worlds.

Back in August, the MacArthur Foundation put out a call for proposals for its digital media and learning competition; in the end, more than 1,000 projects got pitched to them. The foundation eventually narrowed down this pool to 17 projects that would receive as much as $238,000 to develop their ideas.

“The ubiquitous nature of digital media has profound implications for learning that we are only just beginning to understand,” said foundation president Jonathan Fanton, announcing the grant winners. “An open competition was an excellent way to inspire new ideas and collaborations, and the amazing number of applications we received speaks volumes about the untapped potential in the field of digital media and learning. The 17 winners represent the best thinking from many disciplines and professions working to harness the power of the web for learning, and we look forward to the insights they will provide.”

It’s been fascinating looking through the winners of the projects, as it gives you a window into the mind of the foundation and the 50 judges representing a variety of disciplines they brought in to review the proposals. Here are some of the projects that struck me the most:

Mobile Musical Networks: Based out of Princeton, this project will build an expressive mobile musical laboratory for exploring new ways of making music with laptops and local-area-networks. Students will collaborate in designing these technologies. In the process, they will learn about a variety of subjects, including musical acoustics, networking, instrument design, human-computer interfacing, procedural programming, signal processing, and musical aesthetics.

HyperCities: Based on digital models of real cities, “HyperCities” is a web-based learning platform that connects geographical locations with stories of the people who live there and those who have lived there in the past. Through collaboration between universities and community partners in Los Angeles, Lima, Berlin, and Rome, HyperCities will develop and offer a participatory, open-ended learning environment grounded in space and time, place and history, memory and social interaction, oral history and digital media.

Sustainable South Bronx Fab Lab: This project is a laboratory that allows people to turn digital models into real world constructions of plastic, metal, wood and more. Part of a broader MIT-led initiative, this particular project will apply the principles of personal fabrication to learning about urban sustainability. The project will examine connections between virtual and physical spaces, collaborative design, and the potential for impact within the South Bronx.

YouthActionNet Marketplace: The YouthActionNet Marketplace is a dynamic digital networking platform for young leaders to engage in social entrepreneurship and address critical social problems. Young social entrepreneurs can link to a global community of innovators to share, collaborate, customize, and evaluate information and ideas, and showcase them to a general public searching for new ways to address old issues.

Critical Commons: this will be a blogging, social networking and tagging platform specially designed to promote the “fair use” of copyrighted material in support of learning. The project will engage and organize academic communities to articulate their needs, models and ethical principles of fair use. The project aims to promote a strong, legally viable and expanding conception of fair use, especially in support of learning.

FollowTheMoney.org: a project of the Institute on Money in State Politics, is an online interactive site and users’ guide that supports civics research by young people and promotes their understanding of — and engagement with — electoral politics and legislative activities. Teacher and student collaborators will guide development and testing of this interactive site for networking youth civic engagement.

The Social Media Virtual Classroom: this initiative by online community pioneer Howard Rheingold will develop an online community for teachers and students to collaborate and contribute ideas for teaching and learning about the psychological, interpersonal, and social issues related to participatory media. This digital learning space will both feature and analyze the use of blogs, wikis, chat, instant messaging, microblogging, forums, social bookmarking and instructional screencasts for teachers and students.

The Virtual World Educators Network: GlobalKids.org will be developed to serve as an online hub to promote the use of virtual worlds as rich learning environments. The participating community will share best practices, encourage dialogue, provide access to the leading research, provide podcast interviews with community leaders, and feature the latest news on learning in virtual worlds.

Along with the cash awards, recipients will also receive free consultating on a variety of disciplines, from technology development to management training. They’ll also be given access to policymakers, venture capitalists and others seeking to find digital solutions to education challenges.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the competition. I’m looking forward to watching your projects develop in the coming months and years! -andy

Filed under : Cool Tools

Responses

I found it interesting that four of the seven innovation grants (the bigger ones) went to faculty from the University of California and Duke, who are the main supporters of HASTAC, who administered the contest.

I have submitted an offer for various foundations, including NSF, well before the announcement of this competition or others. It seems to me, and the record shall show that if it doesn’t have to do with a global community theme, or Atlantis theme, then education will have to take a back seat.
These proposals are newly painted faces to old boring ways of thought. Just because a child is visiting a virtual city or chatting with a foreign country (reading its periodicals) doesn’t make it a new learning format.

My idea is light years better, funner and more comprehensive-to dealing with the problems that face our youth. Better more exciting…..video games. …You won’t compete.
Do they really want to?
Is it just Globalism?

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