Blog Post

What We Learned from a Decade of Digital Media and Learning

DML, Digital Media and Learning, MacArthur Foundation

For a decade, HASTAC teams at Duke University and at the University of California Humanities Research Institute administered the Digital Media and Learning Competitions supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.    MacArthur Foundation is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary by recounting 40 stories of the work it has done.  I was honored to be asked to write this one, "Inspiring Learning With and About Ethical Technologies."

"Between 2007 and 2017, the Digital Media and Learning Competition program supported individuals, groups, programs, and institutions in the use and development of sound technologies that inspire learning and contribute to society. The Competition awarded over $13 million to more than 100 'connected learning' projects in some 20 countries. Over 350 grantees championed new forms of educational and civic engagement using games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, social networks, playlists for learning, and digital badge platforms."

What did we learn?  We learned that hundreds, thousands, of people--educators and others--are working hard, often against enormous odds, to insure that we use technology ethically and critically, in school and beyond.  I'm happy to say that many of the projects and many of the grantees have continued their work on behalf of learning, open access, engagement, alternative forms of assessment, and creative learning--all designed to benefit those who are learning, all inspired by a vision of a more just society. 

Given the often less than admirable or altruistic incursions by for-profit technology manufacturers into the worlds of education, the MacArthur Foundation's investment was not only designed to support those working in the non-profit realm but to show that there are other alternatives to profiteering "edTech" than simply Luddite, head-in-the-sand denial that technology is taking over the world.   To simply give over the battlefield to those who have most to profit from the spoils, is to cheat our children. 

I believe I speak for many at HASTAC in saying that we are proud of the work done by our grantees. They worked industriously for better values and a better society--and often overly against an aggressive "edtech" movement that far too often exploits rather than explores.

We are proud of the hard work of hundreds of educators, researchers, judges, evaluators, mentors, advisers, competition administrators, nonprofit developers, and many others who, for a decade, worked to make it possible to think of the words "learning" and "digital" in ways that helped to inform and enlighten. 

And we are proud of tens of thousands of kids, young people, and adult learners who continue, every day, to work to understand the best ways to navigate technology and to find the best, most ethical ways to learn, create, and contribute to a world that desperately needs their responsible, wise insights about data, media, and the often harrowing digital world we all inhabit together.



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