- Digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life, and these changes have important policy implications, according to a panel of experts participating in a Capitol Hill briefing today. The event, hosted by the Consortium for School Networking and featuring speakers from Common Sense Media and the National Writing Project, was held with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of its digital media and learning initiative.
“Learning is increasingly participatory,” said Julia Stasch, MacArthur’s Vice President for U.S. programs. “Digital media are not only changing how young people are accessing and sharing new knowledge —they are extending the classroom to more informal and unconventional spaces, such as libraries, museums and even online communities. Our support for the field of digital media and learning is designed to help these institutions take advantage of the learning opportunities presented by digital media and to help build an infrastructure for successful teaching and learning in the 21st century.”
Despite the potential benefits of new media, many schools are banning or severely restricting its use, reported Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), who presented findings from a recent survey his organization conducted about the learning potential of Web 2.0 software in schools. ”While school district administrators see the learning potential of these new media, few understand how best to incorporate it into schooling,” said Krueger. “School leaders need help in formulating policies and implementing leadership practices that enable the effective use of digital media.”
Teachers are also critical to the successful integration of new media into schooling, said Sharon J. Washington, Executive Director of the National Writing Project, a professional development network for teachers of writing. “The notion of what it means to write is changing,” said Washington. “Teachers must not only redefine writing, but also increasingly adapt teaching practices so that they are web delivered, user-managed and customized to individual learning goals.”
“There’s plenty of good news about what kids are doing with digital media, from volunteering with charities and posting their own creative work to joining online study groups and supporting causes,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an independent, nonprofit organization that provides ratings and reviews of media, entertainment, and technology. “But our surveys and focus groups this year revealed that parents don’t have a clear idea of what their kids are doing with digital media. We need digital literacy programs to teach the rules of the road, and to empower parents and teachers to embrace digital tools, as well as address the potential negatives.”
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