September 3, 2015

Where We Stand: A Decade of Digital Media and Learning

Category: Digital Learning
1 adult 2 students at museum staring at ipad

This October will mark nine years since the official launch of the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative, at an event held right down the hall from my desk at the American Museum of Natural History (yes, we offer a lovely room you too can rent out). At the time, I didn’t work at the museum, but the path that eventually lead me here was very much paved by the innovations in digital learning advanced by the foundation in the years that followed. And, I suspect that journeys like mine, which benefitted immeasurably from the DML wind in my sail, is far from rare (especially amongst readers of DML Central).

When the DML Initiative was first announced, the funding had already begun a year earlier (including our first work at Global Kids within Teen Second Life). So now, in 2015, we are a decade into the project, 10 years that have seen tremendous growth in areas of research, practice, pedagogy, public policy and more. And, this past summer, we learned the organizational requirements behind all these efforts has grown beyond the walls of the foundation. Julia Stasch, 
president of the MacArthur Foundation, and Connie Yowell
, director of education, posted the details in “A Note to Our Partners in Digital Media and Learning.”

We learned that a new organization will launch in the fall, supported by the foundation, to offer a “new organizational model that can attract a more diverse set of partners and investors, explore alternative funding models and mechanisms, and accommodate a more entrepreneurial and innovative approach to philanthropy,” all with the goal of scaling “connected learning,” the term summing up these different efforts.

So, before we learn more this fall, I wanted to ask us to look back at the success of the past 10 years. What began as a commitment of $50 million over five years grew into an investment of more than $200 million in 10. And let’s begin with MacArthur’s own tally. In “Time For Change,” from their recent 2014 annual report, Julia Stasch details nine of their most prominent accomplishments:

  1. an entirely new field;
  2. an innovative pedagogy called connected learning;
  3. a new approach to young people’s civic engagement;
  4. support for innovative educators;
  5. new learning applications through competitions;
  6. new approaches to assessing hard-to-measure skills with video games;
  7. the Hive Learning Networks, bringing civic, cultural and learning institutions together;
  8. badges gaining currency as credentials that make learning more visible and valuable; and
  9. new schools and teen-endorsed facilities in libraries and museums that demonstrate connected learning in action.

If your professional (or personal journey) has been shaped by the DML Initiative, please take a moment to reflect on one of the nine accomplishments above and share how it crossed paths with your own. Let’s get personal! And, of course, please feel free to add to the nine, suggesting your own list.

Banner image credit: Barry Joseph