Bridging a digital disconnect

Talk about a disconnect.

On one side are digitally advanced students who spend much of their time online, in virtual environments and social networking sites. On the other, seductive pressures from pop culture and industry. In the middle stand schools, who find it increasingly difficult to engage students.

One might think of schools as “the middle of a sandwich that is falling apart,” says Constance M. Yowell, director of education for the MacArthur Foundation.

Andrew Trotter’s story in the December 5 Education Week reports on research projects funded by the MacArthur Foundation that attempt to address the problem. Researchers like David Williamson Shaffer here at the UW-Madison are developing and experimenting with educational tools to help students engage with academic content.

Online learning environments are using strategies from commercial online and role-playing games and lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. The learning environments aim to teach academic material while building teenagers’ digital-age competencies and an ethical disposition to improve the world, reports Education Week.

Schools should see digital media from the perspective of young people, says Mizuko “Mimi” Ito, a research scientist at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

In the Education Week story Ito says schools should pay attention to the dynamics students experience in online spaces, where kids reproduce their peer relationships and create their own content and get feedback from their peers.

I’m inspired by what communicators in education are beginning to do. Social media are being incorporated into the communication toolkits of communicators in K-12 education and higher education. I’ll talk about what some colleges and universities are doing next week at the CASE V conference in Chicago.



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