Last spring, I expressed my dismay over what I saw as the failure of PBS’s Digital Nation documentary to adequately express the work being done as part of MacArthur’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative, a project which has brought together some of the smartest contemporary thinkers about formal and informal learning in the digital age. I was not the only one disappointed in the documentary and so I was delighted to be working with folks from the Pearson Foundation who were producing an alternative account, which is scheduled to be aired on PBS stations around the country next spring. Their project will be called Digital Media, New Learners of the 21st Century.
In advance of the broadcast, they have started to release a series of video profiles of leading thinkers about media and learning via a temporary Vimeo site. They have said that there are more profiles coming and that they are in the process of building a spiffier website to showcase the material. But I wanted to take advantage of my inside knowledge to give you a sneak peak at the forthcoming project.
Here is the profile they constructed about my work. It was shot in and around my new digs at the Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
One of the things I really admire about this series of videos is their attempt to situate each “thinker” in their real world context — to show where we live and/or work and to suggest some of the factors in our surroundings which shape our thoughts. This next one focused on John Seeley Brown does a beautiful job of showing the natural environment that surrounds his home in Hawaii and how he draws insight from the surfing culture there that shapes how he thinks about the learning process. (I am not sure what to make of the focus on athletics in their depiction of me — trust me, I’m no jock, though I do enjoy an office which backs up to the field where the USC Marching Band practices.) The profile of James Paul Gee, which you can find at their site, also situates the educator taking a walk in a beautiful natural setting, again refusing to construct images which pit the digital (or the life of the mind) against the natural.
This profile of Katie Salen offers us some intriguing glimpses into the Quest to Learn School, an innovative charter school in New York City which uses game design principles to encourage young people to develop systems thinking. You might contrast the respectful way that the school is depicted here with the disorientating representation the project received in the Digital Nation documentary. Here, we have a sense of what young people are doing, why they find it engaging, and how it relates to traditional curricular standards.
Check out their Vimeo site to see the other profiles of James Paul Gee, Mimi Ito, Nicole Pinkard, and Diana Rhoten. Each makes important and inspiring contributions to our understanding of digital media and learning.