Everything is touched by education …. And education needs to change

After a bus journey into the hills of the new territories (no monkeys spotted yet) we arrived at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. And found reasonable coffee hurrah, free wifi and an amazing view over the surrounding countryside. The conference started with a real bang – dancing, magic tricks and general cuteness from a troupe of school children. Then a song about benefits of learning from women’s choir and finally most memorably the Lion dance-very cool!

On to the more ‘formal’ welcomes. The president of Common Ground Publishing http://www.commongroundpublishing.com/ Dr. Bill Cope from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, launched the conference by asking us what learning means and why is it important?  Education impacts on everything, he claimed, from digital media to economic challenges. Therefore it is vital that we gain greater understanding of how people learn and engender creativity in the learning process.

So I’m thinking that we should open the next LDC conference with a performance by the LDCers children and a song by the LDC team 🙂

Further questions came from Kathy Chan So Kuen (Chief Executive officer of Bossini) about whether as parents and teachers we are qualified or capable of educating children in this new digital age. Have  we turned children off learning? Citing Ken Robinson she asked whether we are stifling our children’s creativity. We need radically different education systems to support the changing world and be-engage our children. The fate of the future rests on education, but it will take time.

Keynote: Yasmin Kafai, University of Pennsylvania: “Digital Designs for Learning and Creativity in Youth Communities”

Everyone trying to understand what it means to be literate in 21st century. So she has developed term “participatory competencies” to describe engagement with multimedia as well as text. This term tries to define what it means to be literate in 21st century and understand all the different issues including ethical and legal issues. Not just about access but about who is participating and how they are dealing with ethical issues.

Presented 3 Vignettes- cheats, codes and crafts

Cheats –Whyville –a teen world where you play science games to accessorise your digital avatar. Very popular with teenage girls and has a well-developed community. 100s of cheat sites and cheating is a big topic of discussion in the Whyville times (site newspaper). Teenagers are sophisticated in how they get around site rules but also make connections between cheating online and cheating in real world. Demonstrates a well-developed understanding of online engagement in way teenagers enjoy with cheat sites or not.. Researchers watched the development of a cheating site.

Code –Scratch –a programming language where you can create many projects. Worked with local communities to assess how children engage with programming. Children from local community in LA designed things that reflected local community eg “lo-riding”. Documented what kind of learning happening –not just around programming but also creative processes and multi modal development (ie using multimedia) as well as critically reflecting on development process. Also created Scratch community which is a multi generational community even though most users are School children. Now Scratch used in Universities for programming.  Children take programmes that other people have designed then reuse them are re-introduce into community = ‘re-mixing’. Important part of media  literacy and how children learn about copyright and re-use. You can see in Scratch where the code came from and how it gets re-used.

Craft –Lilypad –  Katie Perry wore a twitter necklace to award ceremony. Example that these technologies are not just for geeks but are mainstream. Technology being integrated into clothing to create interactive clothing eg lights for bike jackets for direction indicators.  This is what Lilypad enables.  Creating Lilypond which is an online community for support.

These 3 examples of digital designs tap into our cares as parents and educators. Technology working with traditional ‘crafts’ in last example. All have elements of collaboration which is important for children and we need to think how we enable communities in learning. Problem for us as educators is how to deal with elements of ‘re-mixing’, crowd sourcing and mining which challenge traditional notions of learning. How can we create opportunities for these in our education systems as learners are using these as part of their engagement with the digital commons.

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