Category Archives: participatory culture

2010 HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition

The HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition will soon be accepting applications. There’s good money to be secured for your projects and it’s open to South Africans. I was a judge for the competition last year and can confirm that they look for innovation from developing countries — so we should go for it!

2010 HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition

We are pleased to announce that all information regarding the 2010 international HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition—including detailed category explanations and guidelines, critical deadlines, application materials, etc.—is now available at www.dmlcompetition.net.

The theme of this year’s Competition is Reimagining Learning and there are two types of awards:  21st Century Learning Lab Designers and Game Changers.

Aligned with National Lab Day as part of the White House’s Educate to Innovate Initiative, the 21st Century Learning Lab Designer awards  will range from $30,000-$200,000. Awards will be made for learning environments and digital media-based experiences that allow young people to grapple with social challenges through activities based on the social nature, contexts, and ideas of science, technology, engineering and math.

The Game Changers category—undertaken in cooperation with Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) and Electronic Arts (EA),  Entertainment Software Assocation, and the Information Technology Industry Council—will award amounts ranging from $5,000-$50,000 for creative levels designed with either LittleBigPlanet™ or Spore™ Galactic Adventures that offer young people engaging game play experiences and that incorporate and leverage principles of science, technology, engineering and math for learning.

Each category will include several Best in Class awards selected by expert judges, as well as a People’s Choice Award selected by the general public.  The online application system will open on January 7 and will include three rounds of submissions, with public comment at each stage.

Please see www.dmlcompetition.net for all details.

Engaging low-income markets through participatory media

Last week I presented Engaging a participatory culture at the Accenture South Africa CRM Executive Summit in Johannesburg.

I asked: What does the emerging participatory culture – in which people produce, share and consume content – mean for a developing country like South Africa? To answer this question, I shared my technology experiences from the education, e-government and developmental sectors and offered suggestions for engaging low-income markets through participatory media.

The presentation builds on the one I gave at Web4Dev in February.

South Africa’s youth are mobile-savvy and participative

(Source: HDI Youth Marketeers)

(Source: HDI Youth Marketeers)

At mLearning Africa I blogged about the results of the fifth annual Sunday Times Generation Next Study. The study, conducted by HDI Youth Marketeers in conjunction with Monash University (South Africa), polled 5,272 South African youth about their brand preferences and consumer behaviour.

What is clear from the study is that youth like to be connected, entertained and to participate (consume and produce content). The mobile phone is at the heart of this behaviour — which has implications for teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Pop culture leads participatory culture

In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins says: “Our workplaces have become more collaborative; our political process has become more decentered; we are living more and more in knowledge cultures based on collective intelligence. Our schools are not teaching  what it means to live and work within such knowledge communities; but popular culture may be doing so.”

I have suggested before that participatory culture is not only an American thing, but is alive and well in developing countries. The news below confirms that, as well as Jenkins’ proposition that pop culture often moves a society towards behaving as a participatory culture. This is not a bad thing, because when we ask our learners or citizens to be participatory then they’ve been prepped in some way already.

The Star reported that DStv, the main pay TV service in South Africa, will soon be rolling out a new youth station, called Vuzu, aimed at “technically savvy 18-to-24-year-olds with a predilection for engaging viewing, combined with audience interactivity centred round MXit, MMS, SMS and the internet.”

According to channel director, Yolisa Phahle: “We can’t predict the response (to Vuzu), but we are hoping (audiences) will voice their opinions and give us feedback.”

Broadband for education (bb4edu) in SA

Last month I gave a presentation at the National Broadband Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa (SA), on what broadband enablement would mean for education here. The forum aims to collectively produce a strategy for making broadband a priority in SA post the upcoming elections, similar to the recent bb4us campaign in America.

The presentation was blogged about on the South Africa Connect website, as well as covered by ITWeb.

See the forum day’s activities on Flickr and Twitter.

A visit to Project Media Literacies @ MIT

Last month I had the pleasure of heading up to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to meet Erin Reilly, Research Director at Project New Media Literacies (NML). This is one of six research projects within the Comparative Media Studies program at the university.

The team at Project NML have come up with a list of new media literacies (NMLs) and cultural competencies that young people need to learn, play, work and live in the 21st century. Since I first blogged about the NMLs in 2007, one more has been added:

Visualisation: the ability to interpret and create data representations for the purposes of expressing ideas, finding patterns, and identifying trends.

“It’s a dynamic, living list,” says Erin. She explained that many youth today have already learned some of these competencies in social settings, but that it’s important for them to formally develop the competencies in other, constructive settings, e.g. in the classroom. Project NML aims to help create that space — wherever it may be, in school or at after school venues — to give youth and educators the appropriate language to critically think about and practice these competencies. Their work is in direct response to the emerging participatory culture in the world.

Erin Reilly and me at Project New Media Literacies, MIT

Erin Reilly and me at Project New Media Literacies, MIT

One of the issues we spoke about was how to promote the importance of NMLs to educators and parents. While Erin and I get this importance, what about those who don’t, who think a “back to basics” (traditional, non-digital) approach is what is needed  in education (as is the case in South Africa)?

Erin explained that we have to present NMLs as a very effective way to develop the basics. We need to demonstrate how to effectively leverage popular culture — which is highly engaging for young people — in the classroom to develop the 3Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic.

She believes that the labels are not important, e.g. NMLs or 21st century skills. What is important are the actual competencies. We need to call these whatever necessary to get the point through. Further, we need to empower educators to create the spaces for their learners to develop and discuss the NMLs. We cannot be the experts who come into the classroom and take over from the teachers. They must be the experts in NMLs. Maggie Verster wrote an excellent blog post about how challenging it is to achieve this in South Africa.

Taking this approach — NMLs as the way to develop the basics — is an effective way to make NMLs part of the curriculum and not an add-on (which drastically reduces it’s uptake by already overworked teachers).

Another key point that Erin raised was how the team at Project NML is increasingly realising that it’s not useful to separate formal education and informal learning. While there are differences between these contexts, the educational dillemas in each are the same, and the learnings in each are easily transferred to the other context.

Finally, Erin demo’d the forthcoming Learning Library, an online play space for learners to practically develop new media literacies.

Hopefully we’ll continue to explore NMLs and work together to see how they play out in the developing world. As I’ve said before, participatory culture is alive and well in the developing world, it just looks different.

Beyond the computer lab: Rethinking ICT for education

Today I gave a presentation at the 3rd Annual Education Conference in Southern Africa called …

For the fortunate learners in South Africa who have access to a computer lab at school, they often only spend 30 minutes per week at these PCs. At the same time, up to 90% of youth have access to a cellphone. The argument of my presentation is that we — educators, researchers, policy makers and parents — need to engage with the full gamut of ICTs and digital media in the lives of young people when we think of their teaching and learning. It is the only plausible response.

Cellphones and (digital) gaming present opportunities — and risks — for learning. It is time to seriously consider the digital lives of young people — to exploit the concomitant opportunities and minimise the risks — so that the growing gap between their in-school and out-of-school experiences is narrowed.

Even in the computer lab, much more needs to be done to fully utilise the affordances of ICTs. Researchers from the University of Cape Town, Mastin Prinsloo and Marion Walton, present a bleak case study of how early literacy is taught at one primary school in Cape Town. They describe their observation of learners and teachers in the school’s computer lab in Situated responses to the digital literacies of electronic communication in marginal school settings (2008):

The teachers enthusiastically supported the use of this [pre-reading] software because it was consistent with their own ideas about how reading as a basic skill should be introduced: as a drill and practice activity.

Children encounter literacy in the context of the authority relations and pedagogical practices that characterize schooling in this setting.

The way they were expected to behave in school contrasts sharply with the potential of ICTs for children’s experimentation, self-instruction and individual choices and creativity

We really need to change this. If that is all we’re going to use powerful PCs for, then we might as well not bother.