September 1, 2011

Worthy Reads: On Minecraft, Borges, Khan, Next Generation Museums

Category: Edtech
group of students giving presentation goofing off in front of class

If you haven’t yet heard about Minecraft, then get ready. We can’t go to an education conference without hearing talk about it. The widely popular sandbox game has sold more than 3 million units, though it’s still in beta. Each player gets their own world to “mine” for resources and then “craft” those resources to build whatever they imagine. A great introduction to Minecraft and its potential for education, especially for the younger set, is this Teacher Teaching Teachers podcast, which features educators from around the world sharing how they are using it in and out of the classrooms and why some are refusing to tie it to a curriculum. Massively Minecraft is a new community for educators using the game, Global Kids’ own offers some resources, and when we present to educators we are now using it as a case study for the power of games-based learning.

Jorge Luis Borges and the Internet (article)
On Jorge Luis Borges’ 112th birthday, Google created one of their already notorious doodles. This sparked an interest and conversation on the Internet about the writings of Borges and their relationship to our digital age. It is not a surprising connection if you are familiar with the works of Borges.
borges.375He was fascinated by symbols, language, time and space, and information storage. In one of his most well known stories, The Aleph, a man finds a space in the basement of a house in Buenos Aires where the entire history of the universe is contained. Reading it one thinks of the proliferation of information and the way it can be found in a central repository space. One can possibly take any of Borges’ stories and find something that relates to the way we have come to process information, communicate, and relate to each other across space and time. An excellent New York Times article from 2008 examines some of the stories written by Borges and how they can be linked to the developments of the information age.

How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education (article)
Clive Thompson wrote an excellent article on Khan Academy in a summer issue of Wired. After reading a year of Wired in one month, this was clearly one of the stand-outs. When people aren’t talking about Minecraft, they’re often referencing this “library of over 2,400 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 125 practice exercises.” They want people to learn whatever they want, whenever they want, at their own pace. The core is quite simple: short videos made by Salman Khan, some supported by exercises that are personalized to your level of learning. The article does an excellent job showing how Khan’s videos meet a need for those interested in how digital media can support interest-driven and personalized learning. At the same time, it demonstrates the disagreements within the digital media and learning fields, as many constructionists fault this approach as simply delivering the old pedagogy in a new way, rather than supporting youth to learn through discovery.

Talk To Me (website/museum exhibit)
Many of the exhibits in the Museum of Modern Art’s new thought-provoking show, Talk To Me, feel they came right off the pages of Wired (as, in fact, many have). In MoMA’s own words, Talk to Me “explores the communication between people and things…[and] focuses on objects that involve a direct interaction, such as interfaces, information systems, visualization design, and communication devices, and on projects that establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.” It is a fascinating idea and, while not every exhibit hits the mark, it is an idea worth exploring, as is the companion website for those unable to visit New York City.

Global Kids does a great job each month flagging fascinating resources. Juan Rubio contributed to this set of picks. Please share what you’re reading and watching, too.

Global Kids’ NYC-based programs address the need for young people to possess leadership skills and an understanding of complex global issues to succeed in the 21st century workplace and participate in the democratic process.

Banner image credit: Global Kids