Information on the 21st Century Youth Project

After an email exchange with Antonio Rowry, a cofounder at 21st Century Youth Project, I felt it was appropriate to share the work of their organization here on my blog. They describe themselves as “an innovative after school initiative to do a small part to change education” and here is more straight from Antoinio:

The idea first came to us when we read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. To give a quick synopsis, one of our major takeaways from the book is that to become very successful, it’s a combination of several elements: perfect place, perfect timing, with the proper training. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell highlights the massive forces that combined to produce Bill Gates and Bill Joy. They had access to computers and equipment that enabled them to code far before most of the people their age. What does the 21st Century Youth Project entail:

  • Mobile App Development: We are using the Google Android platform where the students will each create their own unique app. The fun part about this is that they can create apps for their friends, family, schools, places of worship, or for the general community. We want to develop leaders, and we’re excited about the power of a student creating an app for their school, and receive recognition for the contribution in the same way as a school athlete.
  • SAT Training: We want to develop students for the next level, being college. Enabling them to slowly receive instruction, we hope to improve their scores so they can attend the school of their dreams. I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to give ACT/SAT math training to communities where paying $1,000 for a class isn’t an option. In many ways, your scores on standardized tests are directly linked to income levels and training, and we’re aiming to bridge that gap.
  • Business Planning: In addition to building an app, we want the students to understand the business implications and executions of their concepts. They will be formed into teams to discuss their business opportunities and create value for their customers.
  • Mentorship: The founder, Prof. Emile Cambry, Jr. is excited to give back because he was very fortunate to be a byproduct of many free educational programs that exposed him to business. Growing up, he thought he was going to be a doctor, but his mother always enlisted him in several programs to learn. It has led to his intellectual curiosity and more importantly; he realized business was his calling. He had attended the LEAD Program in Business and in many ways; the 21st Century Youth Project is based on their implementation. The students will be taking tours to college campuses, primarily those with strong computer or engineering departments, attending technology events in Chicago, and attend lectures taught by Chicago software developers.
  • Open-Source Educational Curriculum: We are slowly enabling, on an invite-only basis, an opportunity to create a dynamic curriculum to be used in the classroom.  This curriculum can be edited like Wikipedia and by keeping it open and dynamic, we hope to develop the best curriculum that isn’t based on state mandated codes, but instead, on what is best for the children. We will have topics in business, technology, finance, film, music, fashion, etc. We only care about providing instruction that the students respond to and learn the most.

After nine months of meetings, conference calls, presentations, and pitches to parents, students, faculty, and administrators, we are finally launching the 21st Century Youth Project. Our first day was February 12th, 2011, one of our MOST personally and professionally satisfying experiences. We’re documenting the progress of the pilot in hopes that we can gear up for a highly successful summer program.

Updates on Thinkfinity

For many years, I have been a fan of Thinkfinity, especially ReadWriteThink. And, while I have generally stopped posting messages about new web-based products and services from the many, many emails that I get each month, this one caught my attention:

The Verizon Foundation have partnered with nationally recognized leaders in educational disciplines including literacy, math, humanities and science to create Verizon Thinkfinity.  The award-winning free digital experience brings to life educational resources, interactive games, lesson plans, news, and webinars to foster excellence in students, parents and teachers alike and was recently named a “Best In Tech” website by Scholastic Administrator.

Thinkfinity’s lesson plans are tailored to meet state-standards in teaching and all K-12 resources are grade-specific in hopes to raise educational standards by offering excellent resources to kids, parents and teachers, in addition to providing an extended community for all.  Verizon Thinkfinity Professional Development engages educators with online and in-person training to assist with them with not only effectively navigating the site, but also integrating the vast array of Thinkfinity resources into the classroom.

Thinkfinity just recently launched their Summer Learning microsite which provides a variety of activities to help students, parents, and teachers combat Summer Learning Loss.  See the recent Time article about Summer Learning Loss here.

The folks at Thinkfinity are eager to have you peruse the site and its resource and provide them feedback from your experiences in hope you find resources and materials available to be a fantastic way to inspire both students and teachers towards achieving their goals in education.

So, there you go — even though summer is nearing an end, this is a useful update on Thinkfinity. If you want more info, you can contact Clint Kaminska at Mainframe Interactive.

Email him at: clint [at] mfinteractive [dot] com

Back to school begins for many of this week, including faculty development days for me beginning tomorrow. Happy new (school) year!

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Announcing MIT’s International Journal of Learning and Media

Today, I received an exciting announcement from Kellie Bramlet with MIT Press Journals. In addition to the series of books that they released last year with a Creative Commons license, they are now offering the following new journal:

The International Journal of Learning and Media

MIT Press, in cooperation with The Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE), is pleased to announce the publication of the first issue of The International Journal of Learning and Media (IJLM). A first of its kind, the journal is devoted to examining the intersection of media and learning in multiple contexts. Volume 1, Issue 1, edited by David Buckingham, Tara McPherson and Katie Salen, is now available for FREE at http://ijlm.net . While IJLM retains the peer-review process of a traditional scholarly journal, its editorial vision and electronic-only format permit more topical and polemic writing, visual and multimedia presentations, and online dialogues. IJLM will allow the broad community interested in digital media and learning to share its insights using the tools of digital media. Sections of the journal range from shorter pieces on critical issues of a timely nature, through longer essays on keywords shaping the landscape of learning and media today, to traditional peer-reviewed scholarly articles.

http://ijlm.net is currently in its beta stage and we welcome your comments, questions and thoughts on how to improve the site. Please contact us by clicking on the Feedback button in the upper right corner at http://ijlm.net

The development and publication of IJLM is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of its 5-year, $50 million, initiative in digital media and learning.

Rough Draft Thinking for a Hybrid Professional Development Experience

Well, we have a hybrid professional development experience coming up on September 24th for the Project WRITE teachers. In trying to meet a number of constraints and opportunities, I have set up a wiki page for the evening’s activities. Here is some of my thinking about why and how this is set up this way, as well as a screencast of my thinking, too. I would be very interested to hear your feedback about how (and if!) you think this will work.

First, we had to have a way for participants who choose to go the hybrid route to both log their “seat time” for SB-CEUs as well as be connected to what’s going on. Originally, we had planned to use ANGEL through MSU, but for a variety of reasons, not the least of which we can not have enough guest accounts to invite all the Project WRITE teachers in, I didn’t figure that was the best idea.

Second, even if we had enough accounts, I didn’t want to have to have people log in to something that they were not familiar with and try to navigate multiple tabs on a night that they would be using a new tool, Jing, anyway. Thus, I wanted an easy, open way for them to both “login” and monitor their seat time, while possibly having a back channel for communication AND being able to get the stream without having to have a separate tab or media player open.

Third, and perhaps most important to me, I wanted to make sure that what ever we did was easy and accessible to the teachers, so they could replicate this process in their own classroom. After hearing about Meebo and UStream from many other edubloggers, and seeing that they could both embed in wikispaces quite easily, I figured that this would be the easiest way to go. So, I set up the Meebo chat room, the UStream channel, inserted them side-by-side in a table and, voila!

Now, I am sure that someone else has figured this out, and also I now realize that you can have a chat right on your UStream page if you want. However, I wanted to make sure that the interface was clean and connected to the wiki, so this type of embedding made the most sense. And, what is even more amazing is the fact that I don’t even know how I would have imagined doing something like this even a few months ago (although I am sure that the technologies existed then)… instead, this came as a solution to an institutional problem about how to both monitor seat time and create a workaround for the university’s sanctioned CMS that wouldn’t let us do what we wanted to do

So, this will be an interesting experiment in trying to figure out how to have a hybrid session, implementing digital writing tools while also teaching about digital writing tools. I am excited to see what comes of it, and look forward to any suggestions that you might have for me to streamline the process before we make a go of it here in about two weeks.

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NOVA Videos Available for Free Use

Today, I got an email from Karinna from WGBH in Boston — this sounds like an incredible resource!

Just in time for the new school year, the critically-acclaimed season of NOVA scienceNOW is now available for free download directly from its Web site. Wrapping up its third season this summer, this magazine-style science series from the producers of NOVA covers a wide range of science subjects—everything from brain surgery to smart bridges, from living leeches to long-extinct mammoths–and spotlights innovative and diverse scientists. We’re sure NOVA scienceNOW will provide your readers with dynamic and valuable material they can use in their classrooms this fall, and hope that you’ll consider posting about this new content on Digital Writing, Digital Teaching!

Segments can be downloaded from http://www.pbs.org/nova/sciencenow
Just click the “Download Videos” tab to see what’s available.

Naming and Knowledge-Making

This recent article from eSchool News caught my attention and gave me pause to think about the course I am designing for the fall, ENG 460.

Top News – Google unveils online reference tool

For better or worse, Wikipedia–the online reference site that lets anyone add to its ever-growing body of knowledge–has changed the nature of internet research. Now Google is taking the wraps off a free internet encyclopedia of its own, designed to give people a chance to show off–and profit from–their expertise on any topic.

The service, dubbed “knol” in reference to a unit of knowledge, had been limited to an invitation-only audience of contributors and readers for the past seven months.

Now anyone with a Google login will be able to submit an article and, if they choose, have ads displayed through the internet search leader’s marketing system. The contributing author and Google will share any revenue generated from the ads, which are supposed to be related to the topic covered in the knol.

My interest here is in trying to figure out what value “naming” the author of a “knol” has in comparison to the “anonymous collaborators” that compose Wikipedia entries. I am not so much interested in talking about the authority question, as the one knol that I read on toilet training (a topic of conversation in my house right now!) seemed to be authoritative — and it cited sources — but I couldn’t figure out anything about the author. Also, the main author can open up a knol to collaborators, but not just anyone can chime in. It seems like you retain copyright, too. Finally, one of the stated purposes of the project is to get different people posting knols on the same topic, so having the one, authoritative knol is not necessarily going to happen.

Oh, and it looks like you will eventually be able to serve Google ads on your knol to, I assume, make money.

So, I wonder what this new form of knowledge production will do to the idea of open content. People are free to spend their time and energy wherever they want, be it Wikipedia, Knol, or some other online community. But, I wonder what this idea of sharing one’s knowledge by authoring a knol will do for authors, readers, scholars, and others. By “naming” the author, and being able to verify their credentials, will we feel better about the information presented? Or, does the process that a Wikipedia article goes through still provide more of a peer review process that checks facts and clarifies ideas?

It will be interesting to see how Knol unfolds in the next few months. I may make it part of my students’ final project — post a knol on your topic of independent study. We’ll see how they react to that idea…

Notes from Margaret Hedstrom’s “The Future of Networked Knowledge”

Notes from Margaret Hedstrom’s “The Future of Networked Knowledge”

Overview Announcement:

Dr. Hedstrom is an archivist who is on the faculty of the School of Information at U of M. Her research interest is digital information. She has done some interesting cross cultural empirical research on user response to various methods of archiving digital files. (e.g. “The Old Version Flickers More:” Digital Preservation from the User Perspective. American Archivist http://www.ils.unc.edu/callee/dig-pres_users-perspective.pdf) Not just ease of use but also reliability of stored electronic files.

She is also a member of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences. (Their report available at http://er.lib.msu.edu/item.cfm?item=050123)

Notes from the session:

  • Intro
    • Recent feature story from NYT on archiving digital materials
    • We are trying to build networks, facilities, and human capital that takes advantage of the burgeoning world of digital information
    • There are archival questions in every discipline, problems that we encounter in humanities and social sciences, as well as other sciences
    • Today’s talk will be to reflect back on the ACLS Commission’s thoughts on infrastructure for education and the humanities
    • What is the vision and potential of this, as well as the challenges that we experience on a daily basis and others that we can anticipate; then discuss some paths that we can use to move towards this vision
  • The Vision
    • The potential for cyber infrastructure allows for transformative research that were not possible for people to address in the past as well as open scholarship
      • This is the big goal for research cyber infrastrucure
    • Looking from the humanities and social science perspective at a report from science and engineering report on cyber infrastructure
      • What could we do if we had massive amounts of digital data, easy-to-use analytical tools, and networks of repositories, and well-trained people to use it?
    • There must be money out there for the scientists, and the humanists could ride on their coat tails, right? Well… it turns out that when you talk to scientists there are problems with funding for research, and competition is intense, too.
      • Many of us from outside of these science communities think that they are networked and forward-thinking, but there are many questions about what makes legitimate science, peer review, qualifications of researchers, etc.
  • More thoughts on the vision
    • What do we mean by infrastructure?
      • It is about the protocols for moving data, for sure
      • But, it is also about the people who know how to approach these new resources
        • Archivists who are getting data into shape so others can use it
          • There is a lot of technical work in adding metadata that goes unnoticed and, consequently, is different from what has been done in the physical world
        • To take advantage of this potential, we need to learn how to teach and research in different ways, and these are the bigger stumbling blocks that we need to get over
  • There are new ways of addressing research that are happening in a parallel with a move towards interdisciplinarity
    • How do you take ideas that have been historically separated by institutional boundaries that are now coming back together again in a digital convergence?
    • How does an interest in cyber-enabled learning happen in conjunction with this? Is there a dissastisfaction with the compartmentalized visions of scholarship?
    • A goal for cyber infrastructure shifts your way of thinking about research and looking at problems that allows for a new way to think about problems.
  • What would “big” humanities (transformative research) mean?
    • Because of the way that humanities research has been done in the past (single investigator, deep problem, specific set of data resources) — the problems have been scaled down to fit within the scope of work for one human being.
    • Now, we can scale the work across a team of people and apply knowledge to much bigger questions
    • Changing the culture is partly a generational change and partly thinking about not trying to convince those who do not want to change their ideas.
    • Some of the big issues with the humanities is that the early attempts to do quantitative research didn’t fit in with the paradigm of what people were trying to look at.
      • What has happened since then is that the kind of resources available to, say, historians, are richer and more vast.
        • You can get census data, yes, but you can also get images, primary texts, and other items more easily
      • UM and Google’s library project — how does a historian go about mining that data?
  • Resistance
    • You can enable other kinds of cyber science, but don’t take away from my current budget.
    • Is the work empirical? Does it have rigorous tests of validity? What happens when you triangulate it with other kinds of research?
  • Openness in Scholarship
    • Open in both the sense that it is making contributions to research as well as have access to the results
      • The raw materials for the research (documents, data, and even people) are networked and widely accessible
        • In this area, she gives librarians lots of credit for moving forward in this area
        • There are formidable monetary and intellectual property issues to overcome here, though
      • Research becomes much more collaborative
        • It doesn’t mean that the idea of the lone investigator goes out the window
        • Expertise is shared, however, and scholarship is open to new audiences and perspectives
          • Universities have done a disservice by trying to have “quality” through exclusivity
          • What is the line between a free-for-all and a very rich dialogue about the research questions we are trying to pursue?
        • Also, could we engage younger people with a degree of fun? Have we dismissed something that people might find engaging by dismissing it as frivolous?

Challenges

  • Where do you start with all of this?
    • There is a complex set of interdependent variables here.
      • How do we do research without a critical mass of resources and tools?
    • There have been some areas in the humanities where things have changed.
      • For instance, in the classics, you find many early adopters because the primary resources are finite (there are only so many original Greek texts) and you can get it online; it is the base of data that everyone draws there conclusions from the ancient world
      • On the other hand, what happens when you look at 20th century history and the endless amounts of content that are out there?
      • What happens when all the volumes in the world are digitized? Of all the primary sources out there, we only have so much money to digitize though…
        • What do we bring out that is trapped?
      • Within the disciplines, there is lots of room for advice from scholars on this
        • Someday, can we help make decisions about what is important in the field and what needs to be digitized?
        • Can we help develop the analytical tools to look at the data?
          • Can we do massive text mining?
          • Visualizations?
        • What about stimulating the demand for this new kind of scholarship?
          • Who wants to take a risk as a young scholar when it could fall flat on deaf ears or it could be the greatest thing since sliced bread?
          • Is there an in-between space that we can translate the goals of that vision on a reasonable scale?
        • Where does the money come from?
          • Most of the physical infrastructure in this country came in the early part of this century. The point is that we do no, as a country, invest in maintaining infrastructure. Universities do a little better at this, but there is more to do to mobilize these resources.

          How do we build an ethos of openness and the public good, when the culture and legal structure locks data up and attaches ownership to them?

  • Social and cultural challenges
    • Institutional Roles
      • Incentives and rewards for scholars who take the risk to do research in these new ways
      • There are challenges to the ways of doing this work
        • Conservative, traditional modes of funding
        • Finding others to collaborate with
        • Tenure and what counts as legitimate contributions to scholarship
      • These are all ways of thinking in institutions that are deeply held and may not be antithetical to these newer notions, but certainly don’t jive with them either
        • Everyone’s work will change as a consequence of this shift
      • The role of the brick and mortar university will still attract students from a variety of backgrounds and these interactions will not go away
        • But, what is it that distinguishes one place from another, especially with this notion of openness?
        • What are universities doing to attract faculty?
        • What physical resources does the university have (librar, facilities)?
          • What happens when anyone can get access to these materials? What is the value added by the institution?
        • One of the questions also becomes whether or not we are willing to do something different as well as what we were doing before?
          • Can we teach as much and do elaborate research projects?
            • In libraries, for instance, if we are out there cataloging every web page like we do every book, then there are certain things we can and can not do with every resource.
  • Conceptual Challenges
  • If we want to draw a variety of perspectives into looking at the problems, then how do we maintain scientific rigor and have inclusion at the same time?
    • The wisdom of crowds argument
    • What if everyone in the crowd is wrong?
    • How far can we push this from opinion to educated judgment
    • Universities that have resources as compared to those who do not
    • Digital ivory tower
  • How do we convince skeptics of the potential without solid evidence?
  • Avoiding the “trust me” syndrome and making a case for how to spend money

Where to start?

  • Starting in the schools, doing things in a connected way is good, but they are doing things on a superficial level and we have not done a good job of packaging this information
  • Getting info from 19th century and putting it out there for people to gobble up
  • Getting the next generation of scholars being more insistent on this kind of work
  • Encourage the convinced to talk to those who “don’t get it”
    • Don’t want to be dismissive, but there are some who need to at least not stand in the way for others to bring this work forward
    • There are those who place lots of value in traditional kinds of work and we need to convince them that there are ways to do otherwise
  • Look at pockets of innovation and support that work rather than spread things too thin
    • There are things that people are doing, but don’t contribute to the infrastructure
  • We can stop doing some things if they don’t seem important
    • The world won’t come to an end if the pre-prints don’t come to the mailbox
  • Some kinds of work that might seem frivolous might come to be valuable in the end
    • The gaming metaphor and how there is something profound there
    • If you can learn by doing something with a game, we need to embrace that kind of shift in thinking

My Reflections

As I prepare materials for CMU’s online repository, CONDOR, I have been considering many of these same issues. What “counts” for me in terms of creating blog posts, wikis for my class, opening up content that has been published in “locked” journals? I want to be a young scholar who pushes these issues in my department, college, and university, yet I want tenure, too. I think that I am striking a good balance in doing the types of scholarship that is considered as legitimate by my colleagues and publishing in these types of open forums, yet there are still the nagging concerns that my work will not be understood. So, I continue with the both/and philosophy (publish in books and peer reviewed journals as well as in digital formats such as blogs, podcasts, and other forums).

Certainly, these will be issues that I wrestle with for years to come, if not my entire career, so hearing her talk today helped me see my concerns in a larger educational context.