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Digital Media and Learning

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Technology, Design, Practice

Countless people around the world harness the affordances of digital media to enable democratic participation, coordinate disaster relief, campaign for policy change, and strengthen local advocacy groups. The world watched as activists used social media to organize protests during the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution. Many governmental and community organizations changed their mission and function as they adopted new digital tools and practices.

Toward a Digital Future

How are widely popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram transforming how teachers teach, how kids learn, and the very foundations of education? What controversies surround the integration of social media in students’ lives? The past decade has brought increased access to new media, and with this new opportunities and challenges for education. In this book, leading scholars from education, law, communications, sociology, and cultural studies explore the digital transformation now taking place in a variety of educational contexts.

Today educational activities take place not only in school but also in after-school programs, community centers, museums, and online communities and forums. The success and expansion of these out-of-school initiatives depends on our ability to document and assess what works and what doesn’t in informal learning, but learning outcomes in these settings are often unpredictable. Goals are open-ended; participation is voluntary; and relationships, means, and ends are complex.

Most research on media use by young people with disabilities focuses on the therapeutic and rehabilitative uses of technology; less attention has been paid to their day-to-day encounters with media and technology—the mundane, sometimes pleasurable and sometimes frustrating experiences of “hanging out, messing around, and geeking out.” In this report, Meryl Alper attempts to repair this omission, examining how school-aged children with disabilities use media for social and recreational purposes, with a focus on media use at home.

Benefits and Challenges for Learning and Assessment

Professional and amateur musicians alike use social media as a platform for showcasing and promoting their music. Social media evaluation practices—rating, ranking, voting, “liking,” and “friending” by ordinary users, peers, and critics—have become essential promotional tools for musicians. In this report, H. Cecilia Suhr examines one recent development in online music evaluation: the use of digital badges to aid in assessment and evaluation. Digital badges have emerged in recent years as a potential credentialing method in informal learning environments.

Music Videos and Creative Literacy

Music videos were once something broadcast by MTV and received on our TV screens. Today, music videos are searched for, downloaded, and viewed on our computer screens—or produced in our living rooms and uploaded to social media. In We Used to Wait, Rebecca Kinskey examines this shift. She investigates music video as a form, originally a product created by professionals to be consumed by nonprofessionals; as a practice, increasingly taken up by amateurs; and as a literacy, to be experimented with and mastered.

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.

The New York Times declared 2012 to be “The Year of the MOOC” as millions of students enrolled in massive open online courses (known as MOOCs), millions of investment dollars flowed to the companies making them, and the media declared MOOCs to be earth-shaking game-changers in higher education. During the inevitable backlash that followed, critics highlighted MOOCs’ high dropout rate, the low chance of earning back initial investments, and the potential for any earth-shaking game change to make things worse instead of better.

Cultivating Digital Media Citizenship in Urban Communities

The popular image of the “digital native”—usually depicted as a technically savvy and digitally empowered teen—is based on the assumption that all young people are equally equipped to become innovators and entrepreneurs. Yet young people in low-income communities often lack access to the learning opportunities, tools, and collaborators (at school and elsewhere) that help digital natives develop the necessary expertise.

Gaining Ground in the Digital University

Behind the lectern stands the professor, deploying course management systems, online quizzes, wireless clickers, PowerPoint slides, podcasts, and plagiarism-detection software. In the seats are the students, armed with smartphones, laptops, tablets, music players, and social networking. Although these two forces seem poised to do battle with each other, they are really both taking part in a war on learning itself. In this book, Elizabeth Losh examines current efforts to “reform” higher education by applying technological solutions to problems in teaching and learning.

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