Youth and Media Circle

“An open space for collaborators, Mentors, and Lab alums to stay connected through an ongoing discussion–something that never really ends.” Alex O’Dell

The Youth and Media Circle is meant to re-imagine the Lab not simply as a location, but as a growing global network, by periodically hosting informal meetings with special guests. This is based on the belief that the most innovative moments, sparks of ideas, and fundamental truths come from informal conversations. Past guests have included Mitchel Resnick (Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab), Hugo Van Vuuren (Skillshare, Berkman Fellow), Sam Klein (Wikimedia), Brian Waniewski (The Institute of Play) and Melissa Morgenlander (The Institute of Play). The Circle serves as a platform for talks and presentations and as a home for gathering the collective thoughts and inspiration surrounding the issues we care about. The Circle is also an open space for mentors, collaborators and Lab alums to stay connected through ongoing discussion- something that never really ends.

Hugo Van Vuuren

Hugo came to share some insights from his involvement with Skillshare, a community marketplace for offline classes. He spoke about the requisites for designing an effective and engaging class. An effective curriculum consists of three parts: context and intros, lessons, interaction and collaboration (the third part is what distinguishes a great lesson from an exceptional one). The Youth and Media Lab has developed a set of modules we have tested extensively with youth. However, one limitation we face are the time constraints of only having a few hours to share our work. Hugo emphasized that a good class/teacher is someone who inspires the passion to pursue a subject/idea independently and learn more. The Khan Academy is a hierarchy of lessons that shows you where you should go next, and provides a path to learning. With that said, students should have autonomy in their learning process, and education ought to think about what people want to learn.

Samuel Klein

Samuel (SJ) Klein from the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees visited the YAM lab to talk about Wikipedia educational projects and the peer review process for assessing information. Besides providing us with an overview of how Wikipedia works, SJ introduced us to some of the methods Wikipedia uses for evaluating information such as the tool for detecting plagiarism, the rating system, and the Wikipedia Backlog. The ambassador program that Wikipedia has been developing resonated with the one that the YAM lab is trying to implement and the way universities are participating on it provided us with great examples of how to build further collaborations with educational institutions.

Mitchel Resnick

Mitchel Resnick is the director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. He is an education pioneer who entered the field as a He launched the easy-to-use programming language called Scratch to take the intimidation out of coding. Graphical blocks are dragged and snapped together to control animated characters, letting kids around the world create interactive stories, games, and animations. He co-founded the Computer Clubhouse project, a worldwide network of after-school centers where youth from low-income communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies.

Resnick’s aims are to encourage kids to think creatively, systematically, and collaboratively, and achieves this by building on the interest of kids. Resnick was a researcher under Seymour Papert in the early days of the Media Lab. Papert’s work revolved around kids on individual computers, engaging in an isolated experience. However, Resnick has extended upon the grand narrative with the emphasis on community. This is evident in the global network of Computer Clubhouses and the Scratch community (to date, close to two million projects have been shared online).

We hope to see a collaboration between Lifelong Kindergarten and the Youth and Media Lab in the future.

The Institute Of Play

We met in their New York office with Brian Waniewski, the Managing Director, and Melissa Morgenlander, the Research Manager. They shared with us their journey that has taken them to exciting places over the past four years. The Institute was conceived by a few game designers working in a commercial studio called Game Lab. They received their initial funding from the MacArthur Foundation (also a significant supporter of the Berkman Center). Curriculums are developed collaboratively between a teacher, a game designer from the Institute, and a curriculum specialist. The curriculum development is done on the fly with typical time frames of three weeks for completion. Once the activities are developed, all the testing is done in the classroom. They are then brought back to the Institute for refining, and the cycle repeats.