This past Wednesday, June 25, featured a wonderful collaborative conversation at the Berkman Center – the Digital Natives Forum on Creativity and Media Literacy. Thirty five of us crammed into the Berkman conference room on with gyros and baklava to talk, discuss and brainstorm about the issues facing various production/research venues in our neighborhood, and five projects from around the area shared their obstacles and their opportunities in today’s digital age. Here’s a taste of what happened:
-Jayne Karolow of Locamoda demonstrated Jumbli. Karolow shared an interesting mobile-text specific challenge with the group: Privacy and Trust. It seems many people do not trust “just send us a text message and win!” campaigns. There is a general feeling, Jayne reported, that mobile-texting games will charge you more than the usual text message or that the company will steal your information and spam you. How should LocaModa to counteract this bad image? The group suggested that they work with established intermediaries to become a more trusted brand. More specifically, some Berkman group also suggested that Jumbli position itself as a spelling game for schools, where all kids are mobile-ready.
-Eugenia Garduno of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education talked about River City, a Multi-User Virtual Environment for middle school students that teaches epidemiology and the scientific method. Even though students report more interest in science after playing the 17 hour curriculum, is there any way to ensure that they will be able to apply what they learn virtually to their offline lives? Prominent research says no. The Berkman group suggested designs for a second level of curricula—one that would takes kids out of the classroom and into their community—applying what they learned in River City to their own cities. Because situated learning is the only learning that ‘works,’ teaching anything on any subject must relate to real life if it is to transfer for the student.
-Karen Brennan, and Andrés Monroy-Hernández of MIT Media Lab presented Scratch, a simple graphical programming language for construction of animations. Scratch has over 15,000 pieces of unique animations and almost every minute new content is added. Students can reuse each other’s work but sometimes do without giving credit, so Scratch developed a way to track source code so that previous designers (from one level up) could be credited. How can they make clear its principles of sharing, creativity and remixing?
-Anna Van Someren and Clement Chau of MIT’s New Media Literacies explained their Learning Library project, an informal setting to explore media, mash-ups and appropriation. While they are still working out the logistics of their tool, they too are caught up in issues regarding ownership, authorship and copyright. How will NML engage students in thoughtful, nuanced or balanced exploration of the issues around digital engagement and the law? All parties present seemed to agree that young people need to learn what it means to share, to credit, and to build on others’ opinions. But how to do that, while navigating the complexities of the law, is a challenge.
-David Dockterman of Tom Snyder Productions showed off Timeliner, a software program that visually organizes information on a time line or number line. The next version Timeliner will launch with a built in internet browser that will allow students to embed and attach movies, music, photos from the web into their reports, but this will raise even further copyright issues. It can handle attribution through links to source sites, but attribution is really not a copyright issue. How can kids publish or share their work if the work they’re using is copyright protected? How can teachers encourage them to use such unsafe work?
The five main issues that emerged from the day were: branding and symbol clarity; the transfer of knowledge; authorship and plagiarism; simplicity in language; and educating about the law. These themes circle us as we too attempt to design meaningful learning opportunities in the Digital Natives context. How can we make simple what we teach? How can we make sure students learn content in the context of their real lives? How do we connect digital appropriation to ethical principles? How can use words and build web models that reflect our ethics? How do we connect our social norms and practices to the principles of the law, government and political balance?
Digital Natives’ copyright curriculum group was thrilled to have these groups here—to learn from their stories and to consider ways for complementing their efforts.
Our hope is to continue the conversation, with each other and with others. Our next Digital Natives forum, Civic Engagement, will be held on August 4, 2008. We will feature two researchers and one project, and will continue the conversation begun Wednesday.