Skip navigation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap

Fresh from a party, a teen posts a photo on Facebook of a friend drinking a beer. A college student repurposes an article from Wikipedia for a paper. A group of players in a multiplayer online game routinely cheat new players by selling them worthless virtual accessories for high prices. In Disconnected, Carrie James examines how young people and the adults in their lives think about these sorts of online dilemmas, describing ethical blind spots and disconnects.

Crafting e-Puppets with DIY Electronics

Short Circuits offers students opportunities to undertake physical computing projects, providing tools and methods for creating electronic puppets. Students learn how to incorporate microprocessors into everyday materials and use them to enhance their language and writing skills with shadow puppet shows featuring their own DIY flashlights.

Designing with Gamestar Mechanic

Gaming the System demonstrates the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions of game elements and rules, and how to identify systems concepts in the design process. The activities use Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a systems thinking focus.

Digital Storytelling with Scratch

Script Changers shows the ways that stories offer a lens for seeing the world as a series of systems. It provides opportunities for students to create interactive and animated stories about creating positive change in their communities. These projects utilize the Scratch visual programming environment.

Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics

Soft Circuits introduces students to the world of wearable technology. Using Modkit, an accessible DIY electronics toolkit, students learn to create e-textile cuffs, “electrici-tee” shirts, and solar-powered backpacks. Students also learn the importance of one component to the whole—how, for example, changing the structure of LED connections immediately affects the number of LEDs that light up.

Why Children Need to Learn Programming

Coding, once considered an arcane craft practiced by solitary techies, is now recognized by educators and theorists as a crucial skill, even a new literacy, for all children. Programming is often promoted in K-12 schools as a way to encourage “computational thinking”—which has now become the umbrella term for understanding what computer science has to contribute to reasoning and communicating in an ever-increasingly digital world.

Tweens in a Virtual World

Millions of children visit virtual worlds every day. In such virtual play spaces as Habbo Hotel, Toontown, and Whyville, kids chat with friends from school, meet new people, construct avatars, and earn and spend virtual currency. In Connected Play, Yasmin Kafai and Deborah Fields investigate what happens when kids play in virtual worlds, how this matters for their offline lives, and what this means for the design of educational opportunities in digital worlds.

Young People, the Internet, and Civic Participation

There has been widespread concern in contemporary Western societies about declining engagement in civic life; people are less inclined to vote, to join political parties, to campaign for social causes, or to trust political processes. Young people in particular are frequently described as alienated or apathetic. Some have looked optimistically to new media—and particularly the Internet—as a means of revitalizing civic life and democracy.

Measuring and Supporting Learning in Video Games

To succeed in today’s interconnected and complex world, workers need to be able to think systemically, creatively, and critically. Equipping K-16 students with these twenty-first-century competencies requires new thinking not only about what should be taught in school but also about how to develop valid assessments to measure and support these competencies. In Stealth Assessment, Valerie Shute and Matthew Ventura investigate an approach that embeds performance-based assessments in digital games.

School Knowledge in the Digital Age

Although ideas about digital media and learning have become an important area for educational research, little attention has been given to the practical and conceptual implications for the school curriculum. In this book, Ben Williamson examines a series of contemporary curriculum innovations in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia that reflect the social and technological changes of the digital age.

Choice-Based Assessments for the Digital Age

If a fundamental goal of education is to prepare students to act independently in the world—in other words, to make good choices—an ideal educational assessment would measure how well we are preparing students to do so. Current assessments, however, focus almost exclusively on how much knowledge students have accrued and can retrieve. In Measuring What Matters Most, Daniel Schwartz and Dylan Arena argue that choice should be the interpretive framework within which learning assessments are organized.

A Review of Study, Theory, and Advocacy for Education in Non-Formal Settings

Schools do not define education, and they are not the only institutions in which learning takes place. After-school programs, music lessons, Scouts, summer camps, on-the-job training, and home activities all offer out-of-school educational experiences. In Learning at Not-School, Julian Sefton-Green explores studies and scholarly research on out-of-school learning, investigating just what it is that is distinctive about the quality of learning in these “not-school” settings.

Digital media and technology have become culturally and economically powerful parts of contemporary middle-class American childhoods. Immersed in various forms of digital media as well as mobile and Web-based technologies, young people today appear to develop knowledge and skills through participation in media. This MacArthur Report examines the ways in which afterschool programs, libraries, and museums use digital media to support extracurricular learning.

Developing the School for Digital Kids

Quest to Learn, an innovative school for grades 6 to 12 in New York City, grew out of the idea that gaming and game design offer a promising new paradigm for curriculum and learning. The designers of Quest to Learn developed an approach to learning that draws from what games do best: drop kids into inquiry-based, complex problem spaces that are built to help players understand how they are doing, what they need to work on, and where to go next.

An Empirical Examination of Youth, Digital Media Use, and Information Credibility

How well do children navigate the ocean of information that is available online? The enormous variety of Web-based resources represents both opportunities and challenges for Internet-savvy kids, offering extraordinary potential for learning and social connection but little guidance on assessing the reliability of online information. This book reports on the first large-scale survey to examine children's online information-seeking strategies and their beliefs about the credibility of that information.

What Mozilla Has to Teach Government

Firefox, a free Web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation, is used by an estimated 270 million people worldwide. To maintain and improve the Firefox browser, Mozilla depends not only on its team of professional programmers and managers but also on a network of volunteer technologists and enthusiasts—free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) developers—who contribute their expertise. This kind of peer production is unique, not only for its vast scale but also for its combination of structured, hierarchical management and open, collaborative volunteer participation.

Learning Institutions in a Digital Age

Over the past two decades, the way we learn has changed dramatically. We have new sources of information and new ways to exchange and to interact with information. But our schools and the way we teach have remained largely the same for years, even centuries. What happens to traditional educational institutions when learning also takes place on a vast range of Internet sites, from Pokemon Web pages to Wikipedia? This report investigates how traditional learning institutions can become as innovative, flexible, robust, and collaborative as the best social networking sites.

Kids Living and Learning with New Media

Conventional wisdom about young people’s use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today’s teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networking sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youths’ social and recreational use of digital media.

In this report, noted scholar James Paul Gee discusses the evolution of digital media and learning (DMAL) from its infancy as an "academic area" into a more organized field or coherent discipline. Distinguishing among academic areas, fields, disciplinary specializations, and thematic disciplines, Gee describes other academic areas that have fallen into these categories or developed into established disciplines. He argues that DMAL will not evolve until a real coherence develops through collaboration and the accumulation of shared knowledge.

A Synthesis from the GoodPlay Project

Social networking, blogging, vlogging, gaming, instant messaging, downloading music and other content, uploading and sharing their own creative work: these activities made possible by the new digital media are rich with opportunities and risks for young people. This report, part of the GoodPlay Project, undertaken by researchers at Harvard Graduate School of Education's Project Zero, investigates the ethical fault lines of such digital pursuits.

A Cultural History of Children's Software

Today, computers are part of kids' everyday lives, used both for play and for learning. We envy children's natural affinity for computers, the ease with which they click in and out of digital worlds. Thirty years ago, however, the computer belonged almost exclusively to business, the military, and academia. In Engineering Play, Mizuko Ito describes the transformation of the computer from a tool associated with adults and work to one linked to children, learning, and play.

This report focuses on the civic aspects of video game play among youth. According to a 2006 survey, 58 percent of young people aged 15 to 25 were civically "disengaged," meaning that they participated in fewer than two types of either electoral activities (defined as voting, campaigning, etc.) or civic activities (for example, volunteering). Kahne and his coauthors are interested in what role video games may or may not play in this disengagement.

Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project

This report summarizes the results of an ambitious three-year ethnographic study, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings—at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces. It offers a condensed version of a longer treatment provided in the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out (MIT Press, 2009). The authors present empirical data on new media in the lives of American youth in order to reflect upon the relationship between new media and learning.

Media Education for the 21st Century

Many teens today who use the Internet are actively involved in participatory cultures—joining online communities (Facebook, message boards, game clans), producing creative work in new forms (digital sampling, modding, fan videomaking, fan fiction), working in teams to complete tasks and develop new knowledge (as in Wikipedia), and shaping the flow of media (as in blogging or podcasting).

In this report, Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg focus on the potential for shared and interactive learning made possible by the Internet. They argue that the single most important characteristic of the Internet is its capacity for world-wide community and the limitless exchange of ideas. The Internet brings about a way of learning that is not new or revolutionary but is now the norm for today’s graduating high school and college classes.

  •  
  • Page 1 of 2