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Digital Media and Learning HASTAC Competition

McArthur’s Digital Media and Learning HASTAC Competition has announced their 2008 Innovation in Participatory Learning Awards and Young Innovator Awards. The awards support individuals and institutions at the forefront of participatory learning:

Participatory Learning includes the ways in which new technologies enable learners (of any age) to contribute in diverse ways to individual and shared learning goals. Through games, wikis, blogs, virtual environments, social network sites, cell phones, mobile devices, and other digital platforms, learners can participate in virtual communities where they share ideas, comment upon one another’s projects, and plan, design, advance, implement, or simply discuss their goals and ideas together. Participatory learners come together to aggregate their ideas and experiences in a way that makes the whole ultimately greater than the sum of the parts.

This is a great award that supports students and teachers of all ages

to think boldly about “what comes next” in participatory learning and to contribute to making it happen.

For past winners, check out the 2007 Winners Hub, featuring projects like Critical Commons, a fair use guide for educators, and Black Cloud, a participatory pollution monitor.

Also check out social media guru Howard Rheingold, one of the winners, who has been running a HASTAC forum on participatory learning on Seesmic. In the Social Media Classroom Co-labrotory, Howard Rheingold explores the idea of participatory learning with the new HASTAC Scholars explores the affordances of SEESMIC (think YouTube video with responses running along the bottom as the video plays to highlight the conversation) as a learning tool.

For more on the HASTAC awards, check out their website and request for proposal.

Digital Natives around the world: introduction

Hello, my name is André Valle and I will be blogging here in the Digital Natives Blog on fridays. I am a Educational Technologist and undergraduate student at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, interested in researching how different cultures interact with different types of technology, speciffically within the educational environment.

I am now based in Brazil, where I have been living for the past 25 years, and I intend to present to you a different perspective of the Digital Natives concept. In Born Digital, John Palfrey and John Palfrey investigate the Digital Natives’ interpretations of what it is to be connected, they map when this new generation of Digital Natives starts to be born and discuss how they conceptualize the technologies that sourround them, ubiquitously.

Some questions that will drive my blog posts are:

– What is a digital native in places where technology has been developed in a different way, such as developing countries, for instance?
– How to situate the digital natives who have less or no access to technology due to their social or economical conditions?
– How is technology developed according to specific conditions and necessities of a certain area?

To exemplify this concern of mine, I want to tell a story that describes the moment when I realized that we can interact differently with different types of technology.

Sometimes we are so used to the environment that sourround us and the tools that are available for us to do our day-to-day activities, that it is hard to train our observation in order to identify these different layers of interaction.

I was once asked by my grandmother to help her with the task of sending an e-mail. Back then, I was going to leave in Montreal for one year, and she wanted to have the chance to communicate with me by herself. I instantly asked her to have seat and start turning the computer on, which she did exactly as she was taught by her computer teacher. When the computer was ready to work, I asked her to select the Internet Browser and it was only then that I realised that my question assumed a whole lot of premisses that I had never thought of. When my grandmother was trying to select the Internet Browser that I pointed on the screen, I realised that the mouse arrow was actually shaking in a weird and unnusual way. It was only then that I realised that my grandmother did not know how to hold the mouse properly, what demanded an extraordinary effort by her in order to move the arrow.

My point here is the following: obviously, my grandmother does not fit in any of the Digital Natives definitions, but she made me realize that she had to adapt her usual activities to fit them in the computer era, nowadays she knows how to send an email, but she still thinks in a linear way, following always the same path to reach a goal (she cannot understand that we can turn a program off by pressing ALT+F4 or selecting the X on the top-right side of the openned window, she always needs to select File and, then, Close).

While my grandmother had to adapt her way to write, communicate, etc into a computer, I myself remember of the first time I had a computer at home and how my uncle taught me to send e-mails.

My question is: what happens with my cousin, who is now nine years old and, as a baby, had among his toys an old keyboard to play with? How will he interact with the technology that sorrounds him more and more?

In the following discussions, I intend to bring stories that I can find here in Brazil to identify issues related to Digital Natives and their interaction with new technologies. Also, I intend to bring up some stories concerning the Digital Divide, which gets broader as high technologies get concentrated only in hands of some users, while others don’t have any access or don’t want to have it.

– André Valle

Attention Intervention: Digital Natives and the Myth of Multi-Tasking

This summer, I worked at my first real-world job. Forty-hour weeks, company-provided computer, something resembling an office: the whole shebang. Though I was working at a pretty technology-positive company—Microsoft!—I still quickly discovered that my working habits required some explanation. Fifty browser tabs open at once, music softly playing in headphones, cell phone parked firmly by my keyboard: I can understand why my co-workers might have been curious.

What ever happened to old-fashioned “discipline?” This question has come up constantly in my conversations with parents and teachers over the course of my involvement with the Digital Natives project. When parents glance over and see not only 50 browser tabs open on the family computer, but iTunes and a computer game and AIM too—with a book report relegated to a tiny corner of the screen—they’re understandably bewildered. How do kids ever get anything done? “I’m just really good at multi-tasking, Mom,” a savvy student might reply. And, as long as the work gets done, it seems hard to argue with that logic.

However, as a new wave of research on the science of attention makes the rounds of blogs and the popular press, that logic is becoming more vulnerable. In an interview over at Lifehacker recently, Dave Crenshaw discussed his latest book, The Myth of Multitasking. Crenshaw makes a strong distinction behind “background tasking”—reading a magazine while waiting in line, for instance, or listening to music while coding—and “switch-tasking.” Most of the time, when we talk about “multi-tasking,” we’re actually talking about the very costly practice of “switch-tasking.” Every time you switch your attention from one place to another—even from one browser window to another—you take a significant hit to your focus. Though this may seem to be common sense, the science behind the phenomenon is quite sobering. Early in the summer, I attended a talk by neuroscientist John Medina—author, most recently, of Brain Rules—at which he also debunked the “myth of multitasking.” Switch-tasking, he definitively proves, causes you to execute each task more slowly than you would otherwise, with more errors. (Charts and more information here.)

So what, then, is the solution? Specifically, what can parents, teachers, and employers do to help their kids, students, and employees focus their attention more effectively? As a kid, student, and employee myself, I have to say that I believe the solution is emphatically not to limit access—at least not for older teens. Rather, I think the key lies in laying out the facts and discussing strategies. Information overload and the allure of infinite access, after all, are challenges that affect everyone with an internet connection—not just young people. And, though writing a stellar book report might not be a cause compelling enough to warrant total focus, every young person will at some point find a pursuit worth paying attention to. Maybe it’s writing short stories; maybe writing music. Maybe it’s making art. But when that pursuit comes along, they’re going to want to know how to firewall their attention, focus their efforts, and—for once—stop switching. Tools like Freedom, the WiFi-disabler for Macs, can help. But ultimately, no strategy will be effective without the investment of the person executing it. The best strategy, I believe, is actually to help Digital Natives to discover pursuits worth focusing on in the first place. The rest, I think—I hope—will follow.

What are your strategies for “firewalling” your attention? Have you ever staged an attention intervention? What will it take to convince companies to stop venerating “multi-tasking” as a worthy skill? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!