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M&L 2012 - Emergent mindsets in the digital age - by Edith Ackermann

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  • 1. emergent mindsets in the digital age: new media ecology / new genres of engagement what support /settings (anchor, compas) for learners on the run? edith k. ackermann brussels, november 15, 2012 http://www.media.mit.edu/~edith 1 As a psychologist, I am interested in how today’s learners proceed to find their ways—and voices—in an increasingly saturated and interconnected digital landscape. Of particular relevance in this regard are the questions:- How do we—our children—reconcile our lives on- and offline? At home, school, work, and in-between- What do we expect from others, things, and from the tools at our avail? What are we giving back?- What self-orienting / grounding /mediating devices do we invent to keep our bearings?- HOW DO WE, AS A CULTURE, REDEFINE what it means to be knowledgeable, literate, successful, experienced, a good person — and what it takes to become so?- How does shared access to—and everyday use of— mobile devices, social networks, smart appliances, augmented realities, smart toys slowly but surely impact how people THEMSELVES come to blend virtual and physica, make-believe and reality, actualities and possibilities, in new ways 1
  • 2. new media ecology - new genres of engagement fertile grounds for curious mind people as place-makers and way-finders moving between worlds (physical, virtual, physical) high-low tech, on-and-off line, mortar and bits 2Not being plugged in, interconnected is today’s equivalent of being illiterate. Andyet being connected alone won’t suffice to be an active and competent player intoday’s world -let alone a creative person. The term “new media ecology” refersto environments in which traditional tools and mediations, intersect with —areaugmented by- and in some cases mimic or invert their digital counterpart. Frombooks to Facebook, smart boards to overhead projectors, educational softwareto authoring tools, location-based technologies to mobile devices…Genres ofengagement speaks to they ways learners—and those in charge of theirupbringing— navigate, stake, inhabit and furbish such hybrid mediaenvironments. My own stance as a researcher is that: (1) no one has ever livesin one realm, mode, or channel, alone. Instead, we constantly move betweenworlds, physical/virtual/digital. Hence (2) the irrelevance of asking the question:what’s the effect”of tech X [ex.cellphones] on learners’ Y [smarts, skills,emotions) without looking at ‘its’ place in a broader ecology (contexts of use,and usages over time). I also learned that (3) digital media, or ITC, or evencomputer, is too broad a category to be of any help. It’s the “microworlds” (aps,mobile devices, or software) that matter. It’s the promises “they” held that we fallfor, or resist! 2
  • 3. emergent mindsets: ME, US, THEY, WORLD how do today’s kids—and those in charge of their upbringing see themselves relate to others treat things, dwell in space what do they expect from tools, media, 3Today’s kids are growing up in a world increasingly shielded from nature; of evermore busy work and entertainment schedules; longer commutes; ‘disappearing’third places; reorganizing neighborhoods; communities in transition; andrecomposed families. At the same time, both kids and adults these days have ahost of new tools and toys at their avail that we couldn’t even dream of growingup. I am interested in how the youngsters themselves make sense and use ofwhat’s around -- cultural mediations - artifacts, other people, peers as a means tofind their ways into the jungles in which they are born, and what challenges—andopportunities— this raises for those in charge of their upbringing. 3
  • 4. kids today / kids yesterday living without knowing kids are born with a knack to do the right things in order to get to know more about what they do not know yet ! they are good learners by necessity, not by design alan kay’s principle 4Children may have little knowledge, or experience. Yet, they are born with a“knack” to do the right things in order to get to know more about what they do notknow yet ! Kids are expert navigators / explorers. They compose withuncertainties all the time…They do so by necessity - not by design. As thesaying goes: You give a child a hammer and they whole world looks like a nail.Better yet: You put her in the middle of nails and she’ll invent the hammer. earlyon, Much can be learned from their interests and genres of engagement.Regarding technologies, Alan kay puts it well when he stats: we, adults, tend tocall technology any tool that was invented ‘after I am born’. Not so for kids! Tothem, high or low-tech won’t make a difference, and the world in which they liveis, by definition, beyond mind’s grasp. 4
  • 5. outline 1. digital natives (genres of engagement): what’s to be learned 2. 21st c. skills / media literacy: what’s being proposed, what could be 3.lessons for designers and educators: restoring a viable balance 4. new ways of getting things done: DIY, DIT, BIIT. D-craftsman 5-1.[ Digital natives genres of engagement] how do they play and learn.What’s to be learned? What’s their “strengths and weaknesses when itcomes to ITC fluency / new media literacy? and what to make of it all ?-2. What’s being proposed (2ist century skills and new media literacyinitiatives)? How can we build on the kids strengths while, at the same time,supporting / guiding them in what they ‘d be missing out, if left drifting.-3. Lessons for designers and educators: Thoughts and guidelines on how torestore a balance.-4. New ways of getting things done: Do it yourself, do it together, be in ittogether, digital craftsmanship. 5
  • 6. Part 2:While wary of claims that polarize the divide between so-called digital natives: bornafter 1980, and what Marc Prensky coins digital immigrants: born and raised in thepost-Gutenberg / pre-digital era), it is fair to say : we are witnessing a significantcultural shift - or epistemological mutation, the symptoms of which are only magnifiedin today’s youth’s infatuations with all things digital. Looking into today’s youngstersgenres of engagement and expectations -- how they like to mediate their experiencethrough tool-use—help us see - and possibly rethink some of our own assumptionsabout what it means to be literate, knowledgeable, a good learner,or team player—and what it to become so… 6
  • 7. growing up digital - areas of change shifting identities -new ways of being sharism - new ways of relating border-crossing - new ways of “transiting” literacies beyond print - new ways of sp(w)riting gaming, simul(at)ing - new ways to playing it safe makers, hackers, hobbyists - new rapports to things when generational gap and cultural mutation coincide 7Based on research by ito, gee, salem,etc…, we have identified 6 areas ofchange where there seems to be more going on than the usual generationalgap. Each constitutes a dimension that, together with others, informs howtoday’s kids play & learn, and more generally: see themselves, relate toothers, treat things , dwell in space & what do they expect from tools, media attheir avail (what’s tech to them)Dimensions are:- Shifting identities - or fluid selves- Sharism - new ways of being together- Border-crossing - new ways of moving between worlds - settling- Literacies beyond print - new ways of saying it- Gaming and simuling - new ways to playing it safe- Maker, hacker, hobbyist - new rapports to things, and making things do things 7
  • 8. sharism - new ways of relating - do it together be in it together co-creation over individual construction and personal elaboration mingle before make share before think go public before it is ripe borrow / address / pass along 8Sharism - a growing precedence of CO-CREATION over INDIVIDUALCONSTRUCTION, and personal elaboration.In a nutshell, and at the risk of caricature, today’s youngsters don’t first figureout things for themselves & then share them with others (the Piagetian way).Instead, they seem to give reason to Vygosky by acting (getting stuff out) andsharing before they “think things through.” The natives love to disseminatehalf-baked ideas and creations—found or self-made—which they then bouncearound, often at a fast pace, instead of keeping them to themselves. Andthey often do so with kindred spirits, present or absent - before they seek helpfrom knowledgeable adults.Needless to say, such open “sharism” calls for trustworthy allies: a reliablegroup of acquaintances (folks who know that nascent ideas are by definitionfragile and incomplete, and who are open to listening to others—and helpingeach other move on. 8
  • 9. plural identities, fluid selves new ways of being / x-ple selves shifting boundaries between ME /NOT-ME - where I/mine ends and you/yours begins. what gets incorporated (taken in) / projected out (objectified, other-ized) 9Plural identitiesrefers to the notion that today’s children seem to exist in multiple realms (physical,virtual, digital). With a sense of self that is at once more fluid and distributed. Note.By Identity we mean distinct personal traits that remain persistent - recognizable -over time and across contexts. In their role play, the kids may take on differentpersonae, which is not new (carnaval, bal masque), but digital environments havethis particularity that they let you wear several hats at once! I.o.w, you cansimultaneously explore different aspects of self in varying contexts—often shieldedfrom one another—and in each you will be taken at face value.The challenge for today’s children is to strike a balance between spreadingthemselves thin(due to loosening boundaries between ME not ME, where me/mineends and you/your begins ends) and remaining in touch with who they are (find theirvoice) 9
  • 10. border-crossing /expanding territorial borders take a walk on the wild side see what’s on the other side center / periphery skins / envelopes are moving expand circles of acquaintance 10Border-crossingThe spatial equivalent of distributed and liquid selves, border-crossing refersto new ways of moving between worlds (virtual, physical, digital) often withoutmoving their bodies— and of settling in places (characteristic of what YasminAbbas calls neo-nomads). Some feel at home in more than one place/ or noplace in particular. Many seek grounds in virtual places / carry along stuff theycare about (ever heavier backpacks), and stay connected while on the go.Kids who live in split or recomposed families, may ask each parent to buy apreferred toy to await them when[re]ever they will stay over in their place.Their ways of crossing borders —geographic and cultural puts an end to thenotions of home, territory, and “roots “ as we know them.The neo-nomads’ biggest challenge, as a generation, is to find new ways offeeling grounded, securely attached…anchored… 10
  • 11. literacies beyond print - new ways of sp[w]rinting! notate to annotate mix & match media copy-and-paste literacy (perkel) close gap between read & write secondary orality, sp(w)riting SMS, wiki, word-commands 11Literacies beyond print—deep shifts in what it means to be literate —and aliterate thinker. From write to Sp[w]rite /Notate to Annotate/ search to search.With the proliferation of digital presentation and authoring tools, the gap is closingbetween read and write, as well as between speech and writing (Ong, Olson,Lankshear). WRITE becomes a quick assembly of cut-and-pasted fragments, ablending of text, images, and sounds; and READ turns into a meticulous act ofhighlighting, earmarking, and extracting bits for later use. Annotations instead ofnotations / Editing as a way of creating. Texting, on the other hand, is about write tospeak, and since texting is slow, kids invent ways to speed it up. Today’s authorsrarely start from scratch: borrow from those who inspire, and address to thosewhose opinions matter. And if time permits, they reconfigure, repurpose, and remixincomes to leave their mark. In anticipation: what’s true of writing is also true ofprogramming……A big challenge for educators today is to come to grips with what they view asplagiarism: students’ tendencies to pick-up and pass-on ready-made imports thathave not been acknowledged, or mindfully engaged. It is our view that borrowingand addressing are quite OK as long as incoming bits are being recognized and‘massaged’ long enough to be owned (iteration iteration! ), which requires allowingthe time it takes for things well done. Remember: it takes a year to write a bookand a few days to read it…. 11
  • 12. gaming and simuling - new ways of playing it out, safely a growing expectation that the tools at hand be responsive and forgiving, let you experience things as-if for good you can take risks because you are given a second chance! always 12Gaming and simulingUnlike “simulating, which implies the faithful reproduction of an original in anattempt to mimic an existing reality (e.g., a professional flight simulator),‘simuling’ is meant as the creation of an alternative world, virtual or physical, thatis ‘true’ or believable in its own right (a microworld in papert’s sense) . More thanin previous generations, today’s kids expect the tools they use to provideimmediate feedback, And most important, the tools should let them undoprevious moves (recover), and keep track of what they are doing (revisit). This“good-enough-mother” quality of digital tools (attentive, immediately responsive,forgiving) breads a culture of iteration (try again, build on top) and playfulexploration (go for it, no move is fatal) in ways that pre-digital tools hardly could.Note: Jean Baudrillard distinguishes 4 steps in the process of creating realities:(1) reflection of reality, (2) perversion of reality; (3) pretence of reality, and (4)simulacrum, which to him bears no relation to any reality whatsoever. GillesDeleuze sees simulacrum (4) as a royal venue by which established ideals or‘privileged positions’ can be challenged, overturned: subverted…A challenge for today’s gamers is to remind themselves what the game orsimulation is a play on or a simulation of, I.e., don’t take the fiction for the realityit is meant to depict. 12
  • 13. bricoleurs and pro-ams- new rapports to things (DIY; DIT; BIIT) makers, hackers, hobbyists- caring geeks make things make things do things repurpose, mend, trade things DIY culture, maker fairs, digital crafts mindful engagement - design to fabrication people tend to care about things they invest (spend time on/with) 13hands-on to “bricolage” - Maker, Hacker, Hobbyist: New rapports tothings. DIY-DIT- BIIT.A bricoleur is a Jack of all trades who knows how to “make do” with what’s athand. Unlike the engineer, the bricoleur achieves many tasks putting puttingpreexisting things together in new ways. The Engineer, in contrast, is moreof a planer - a “programmer”More than in previous generation, today’s “bricoleurs” are eager to gather.tweak, remix, and trade stuff, preferably tangible but not necessarily. Theylike to give things a second life or extra ‘powers’. And as they grow older andperfect their technical skills, our ”pro-ams invent many new and clever waysof making things (crafting, fabricating); of making things ‘do things’(controlling, programming); and of repurposing things. It is mostly theirconfidence in —and knowledge about—how to fix and mend things (debug) ,together with a belief in the benefits of iteration (layering, refining), that holdthe potential to bread a new culture of crafting.Their challenge, as a generation will be to break loose from a consume anddispose mindset, and to do things their ways without loosing the capacity ofbeing good listeners. If given a chance and provided appropriate support—and technical knowledge— I actually think that today’s youngsters won’tmerely consume and dispose. Instead, they will create and recycle. Alias,they will care! 13
  • 14. new cultures of participation: hang out, mess around, geek out maker cultures, pro-ams, parallel economies new media productions gamers craftsmanship/fabrication kids develop their own ethos on things worth pursuing and how 14While not all youth —and not only youth—exhibit the millienial traits justdescribed, the trends are significant enough to be worth paying closeattention to In particular,New cultures of participation ARE developing their own very pointed,technical expertise in such diverse areas as digital video, fan fiction, anime,fashion design. They entertain a different rapport to stuff, and to the makingand trading of things. From design to fabrication. consume and dispose tomake and mend. Most importantly. the natives are inventing new ways to goabout their business and develop their own ethos on things worth pursuingand how. 14
  • 15. 2. 21st century skills / literacy: what’s being proposed? what today’s youngsters ought to know to become active and successful players in tomorrow’s world 21st century skills /P21 requirements 21st century literacy (jenkins) participatory cultures (jenkins, gee) gaming, QUEST 2 LEARN (salem) 15 There is much talk about 21st century skills these days, and much research being fueled into redefining what today’s youngsters ought to know in order to become active and successful players in tomorrow’s world. In the US, the so-called P21 framework offers an integrated framework for 21st century requirements, a blending of content knowledge, specific skills, expertise and literacies, and offers support systems to produce desired outcomes. Other important contributions and initiatives include:- Jenkin’s 21st century literacy guidelines is another,- james gee’s notion of participatory cultures, proams, and his and katie salem’s views and takes on gaming, simuling,- The quest to learn program : an actual public school in NYCity based on gamer’s ….- The list is long….. 15
  • 16. 3. lessons for educators, designers, architects - new cultures of participation: lurkers to “pro-ams” balance of production, consumption balance of participator, spectator groups form/dissolve/reform fats what to make of it all? 16Yes! today’s youngsters entertain a different rapport to one another and to theworld—man-made or natural, digital or physical, animate or inanimate. At thesame time, many of us (including some of the kids) are also slowly reclaiming ourbodies, finding new territories to go about our business and developing our ownethos on what things are worth pursuing and why. One the “geeky” side ofthings,there is no doubt that in today’s world (I am talking about places whereaccess is not a problem), :1. Most anyone (not just experts) can produce some form or other of quasi-professional looking creations (multi-media productions, programs, or artifacts)2. They can initiate/participate in practices - and events - usually reserved toprofessionals (flashmobs are a good example)3. With the help of online tools, such as Facebook, and others, the nature ofgroups, social formation, is easier to start and sustain. And groups also dissolvefast .New cultures of participation emerge, which hold the potential of developingpointed, technical expertise in such diverse areas as digital video, fan fiction,anime, fashion design. They do so in any field the human mind can think of, reallywhatever . They also entertain a different rapport to the making and trading ofthings. From design to fabrication…. 16
  • 17. dominant traits breed new tensions that call for re-adjustment sharism - together / plugged in - on your own / detach / unplug plural identities, fluid selves - split / spread - whole / centered border-crossing - mobile / on the go - grounded / anchored cut-paste - annotate / borrow - put it your way / from scratch gaming/simuling - make it up / play it out - get real! makers- digital craftman. do it fast / do it well / let it last! 17As mentioned before, the generational traits just presented breeds new tension,which call for re-adjustments . We increasingly see people, young and old,reinventing their own clever ways to “push back” and restore inner balance. Goodexamples of this nascent counter-trend include the recent talk about physical andemotional well-being, caring for our environment, and a renewed interest in thequality of food, air, and land (to name but a few). Going back to our 6 areas ofchange, we observe the following counter-points, which should be taken seriouslyby educators.Starting with sharism, we know that conviviality comes with a price! boldly put,being perpetually connected calls for moments to unplug, and being dependanton others calls for moments of independence (the balance to achieve is betweenautonomy and attachment).Regarding 2. fluid selves: being open is great but feeling centred is equallyimportant: the balance to achieve here is between fragmented and rassembledself (people start to focus on issues of privacy)3. Etc etc…[ walk through other points, as shown on the slide]. 17
  • 18. 4. new contexts, new materials, new ways of getting things done: new look into programming, authoring, editing: DIY-Digi-Crafts what’s with the programming these days? paper computing ambient computing kits without parts arduino and lilipads mike eisenberg leah buechley singing fingers 18The changing faces of programming — make things / make things do thingsThe cultural and anthropological contexts in which today’s creatives’ usecomputation are changing both the adult talk about – and kids uses ofprogramming –as a means to animate, control, and/or give behaviors to theircontraptions. In Eisenberg’s words: For digital crafts-people variety oftraditional materials–fabric, paper–can now be employed as the backgroundsubstrate for programmable artifacts and displays. In a similar vein, one candevise means of placing small, informal chunks of programs within physicalenvironments, where they may be read or executed by mobile computationaldevices–a notion that we refer to as ambient programming, Finally there arenovel types of display surfaces that may be used as the backdrop for relativelyunexplored styles of programming, taking advantage of unorthodox geometriesand public settings.What’s true of programming is also true of editing and authoring. 18
  • 19. ambient computing - mike eisenberg spreading a program throughout a physical setting . 19The changing faces of programming 2 : Programming “in situ”.Kids drive along a small robotic toy car by creating a set of commands that itcan read and laying them out on the floor. The novelty? One can alter the‘program’ by physically messing about with cards upon the floor, changingpositions and putting down new cards. One may also just draw the patterns(using a felt-tip marker). No need to have a computer (or keyboard), just writeout a readable sequence of cards by hand. Ambient programming looks andfeels different from the traditional method of desktop composition. Programsmay (depending on the example) be placed around a room, drawn by hand,scrawled onto a wall, changed by whistling particular tunes. 19
  • 20. gimme the code, and I’ll do the craft- leah buechley paper/textile computing / conductive paints/threads . microprocessor battery, motor, speakr, switch, LED 20The changing faces of programming (2):The idea here is that we can construct small, flexible pieces of a ‘papercomputing kit’ that can be attached to paper treated with conductive paint tocreate full-fledged working programs. Figures 1 and 2 show the individualcomputational elements of a ‘paper computing’ kit. Figure 3 shows how thesecan be used. By painting the paper with conductive paints, one can create adecorated backdrop against which the kit pieces are placed, like easilyremovable computational tickers. On right, user has created a working paperprogram in which she controls light or sound by touching a skin conductancesensor that has been painted onto the page.The user, in this scenario, still writes a program using the Arduino system on adesktop machine; downloads it to the microprocessor; paints the backgroundfor the running program by hand, on paper; and then places the appropriate kitpieces on the paper to create the running program. 20
  • 21. To conclude, it’s not just the natives who are slowly but surely reclaiming their bodiesand a sense of place. People in general seem to echo the call: (I put words in thenatives’ mouths:): Make me able to explore and show my creative skills locally,globally, anytime, anywhere but please don’t forget: I do have a body, and I like to useit! I’m exuberant! I’m physical: so, let me unleash my imagination (transport, teleportme) but also make me touch, feel, and move (ground me)! 21