Let me start with the end. I attended the 2012 DML Conference which has become a cutting edge hub for advocated of Technology and Education for Youth and at the end of the first day, in a moment the conference organizers called the “Ignite Talks” about 5 minute presentations by a dozen chosen contenders on the state of education, one man stood up and remarked on both the 60’s romantic enthusiasm highlighted by the Conference Logos’ bright color but also to beware the utopian aesthetic. While the presenters were highlighting that the digital divide still occurs creating a two tier society or that hacking needs to become an essential new literacy for contemporary youth, or how the addition of Zombies can spice up a lesson, bubbling with the potential of the moment, it was also important to remember that these struggles have been in progress for sometime and will manifest with many different equally important perspectives in the decades to come, especially considering this rapidly changing digital age.
Sessions focused on the range from urban ecologies, wearable technologies, the under-represented, designing interactive play for museums, the concept of networked locality for youth, to better way to encourage people to produce rather than just consume the encroaching technologies around them. In fact there were so many, my strategy became rather than to skip around was to attend half of one, then the other and to just use the manual as a resource for what’s out there. Many the ideas already evolving in the at large world of creative technologist for a decade.
Surprising attentive and informed dialogues erupted. On a session regarding badges for game, despite the highlighting of the ‘gamification’ terminology touted by the conference twitter feed, there was a healthy skepticism about how rewards should be offered leaning towards the idea of an intrinsic presence. As we were asked to form groups to discuss, this leads me to the fascinating variation of types attending the conference. Beyond the demographic of ‘teachers’ and ‘researchers’, I discovered several in the realm of “digital anthropologist” or “oral historian” or “agricultural development”. A positive sign that community groups or facilities outside of the traditional realms were enthusiastic to join in the dialogue and use the resources available to encourage a rich learning for a lifetime.
In the end, I was heartened by some of the last comments made by speaker which announced that the focus was becoming more ‘learning’ vs ‘education’, emphasizing connectedness and transference from ‘one to the many’ to the ‘many to the many’ or more emphasis on informal peer based learning networks. While I could see the staunchly engrained current system with a small few getting up in the audience to denounce the funding funneling away from tradition, or technology as a slithery glamour, the latest technological literacies or collaborative methodologies are a needed growing dialogue ‘ignited’ to speed the system to catch up with currently rapid transformations in the world at large. All of these methods or educational theories attuned to the digital or not have each created small revolutions in the process of learning to the public at large, yet, ultimately, it seems all these manifestations still harken back to age old philosophies where the best method will always be that blueprint unique within each individual mind.