DML Competition Closes with Over 1,000 Entries

by Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, HASTAC Co-founders

Its not often that a big idea takes root. Even less so that a similar idea would find itself germinating at a major foundation willing to take some risks in its behalf. And less so by half again when idea, producers, and funders are able so easily to triangulate around an experiment.

People think you are all a little nuts. Digital learning? What on earth can you be meaning? A lot of head-banging. Digital learning? You wade in together. Run a competition. People say, oh, thats really obscure, maybe youll get a hundred applications. Maybe youre ahead of your time. Or too late.

1,007 applications too late. Or too early.

We came away from a Mellon meeting in 2002 seeing a sea-change in the way young people (and the not so young) think, interact, engage, customize media, supply content and share it, interrogate one another energetically (using new media), trade ideas, and just plain get excited about complex combinations of images, text, sound that dont fit within the silos and disciplinary terms of schools and universities. Those were the folks we wanted to be interacting with. Mobilizing. Almost immediately, we found people like Anne Balsamo, Tim Lenoir, Jeff Schnapp, Kathy Woodward, Tara McPherson, and the incomparable Ruzena Bajcsy. They were experiencing exactly what we were.

But there were others who thought this the silliest idea ever. You mean IT--Instructional Technology? theyd say. No, the complex new ways of thinking that were all learning, the global, collaborative ways of learning, less hierarchical, more contributive. Like Wikipedia, like Youtube, like Flick, like collaborative multiplayer games, all that. How we think, how we learn, how we interact---the foundational concepts of humanistic thinking. Blank stares.

We launched this competition not knowing if the result would be stunned and shunning silence. Only to realize this week that there are a whole lot of people who have come to this insight too. 1,007 applicants at the closing bell. It was pretty amazing, applications streaming 60 to 100 per hour as the day ended. Another 1,000 serious enough to register, perhaps to try next year. 30,000 absolutely unique visitors to the competition website over the past two months.


This is unprecedented. A sea-swell of interest and engagement around 2.0 learning. Time to take a breather. This is so exciting, to see it happen.

And now how to find the most compelling projects from so rich a crop. To spell out compelling criteria for judging new modes of learning. Innovation, sustainability, reach, generalizability, interactivity. The right relation between technology as instrument and the generation, circulation of ideas.

Of form to content. Of teaching to learning, self-creation to self-learning. To build on a movement building on itself.

Stay tuned.

Special thanks, as always, to the amazing bicoastal team that have been working so hard. They have worked with us and each other incessantly, round the clock and then another round, to run an incredibly efficient, even elegant competition. Servers that held strong through the deluge, code on our FastApps online application system that ticked like a clockwork, human attention to questions and inquiries beyond compare. Erin Ennis, HASTAC grant director at Duke, Suzy Beemer, HASTAC grant director at UCHRI, Jonathan Tarr, HASTAC Project Manager, Brett Walters, HASTAC and Competition webmaster, Khai Tang, Technology Director (and designer of the FastApps system) at UCHRI, Jason Doty, graphic designer, Mark Olson, MacArthur New Media director, A Annette Rubado-Mejia, UCHRIs HASTAC-Macarthur DML Program Officer, and Jennifer Wilkens assisting Suzy Beemer in the grant management; everyone at Dukes Arts and Sciences Computing for getting us the best server this side of the national supercomputing centers. A fabulous team, we are your everlasting fans. A thunderous thank you! And to our colleagues and friends in Southern California, our thoughts and well wishes are with you at this time.