Digital Media Learning Grant

When eleven educators in four school divisions across America build 1:1 Learning Labs containing Livescribe Pens, a FabLab station, and iPod Touches, and have a business partner’s innovative technology to create “apps” for any mobile platform, we are able to scaffold our students’ understanding as they use, design, build and improve upon robust tools for meaningful learning and collaboration.

So begins a MacArthur grant I am involved in with some of my PLN folks. The most powerful part about our proposal, for me,  is the collaborative and sharing aspects we have built in as we support STEM thinking in elementary and middle school classrooms across four different divisions with the tools for creativity and exploration we have chosen.

The whole grant proposal is an interesting process, though, because you can only submit 300 words to describe your project, and part of the process is to solicit comments on those 300 words. You submit, comments are opened for about a week, then you revise and resubmit, and then the proposal is once again open for comments, this time for only a few days.

Judges then have several weeks to read everything and invite the top entries to submit the full application. After that is done, the public gets to vote on the best entries. Thus, the whole process is quite impacted by people outside of the specific grant process itself. Grant proposers are encouraged to blog and tweet about it to solicit responses.

We are currently in the process of soliciting grant responses–questions, comments,and/or suggestions for additions or changes, as we still get to rewrite it if we are chosen to submit the full proposal.

Some people have expressed that it’s a pain to have to register for the DML website in order to comment, and others have wished for a streamlined way to comment. Please probe us (either here or on the DML site) to get more information if you’d like– we can certainly go beyond our 300 words to flesh out our descriptions for you, and your questions and comments will help us think through our proposal.

Here you go, friends–please read our proposal and then put your comments here if you choose not to register for the DML site.   I’ll add a link there to the comments we get here.


(people involved: Becky Fisher, Chad Sansing, Michael Wacker, Cathy Brophy and Laura Diesley)

And, we’d like to say a HUGE thank you to those who have already responded and or given us help!!!

4 thoughts on “Digital Media Learning Grant

  1. Hi Paula – thanks for allowing me the opportunity to respond to your proposal. What an opportunity you have! I know that I echo others when I say that I love the idea of student involvement in developing this project. The process itself is a site of rich learning and it would be interesting to see if the project process could be emulated as a learning process along with its outcomes.

    Another thought. I’m very much a systems thinker and I can’t help but ponder on the larger picture: the structures within which such a project and its outcomes could exist. In our school (and I know we are not alone) ‘personal electronic devices’ are outright banned. I am not allowed to allow a student to bring in a personal laptop, let alone an ipod or cell phone. We got around the laptop issue by receiving a huge donation of money to our department and used it to purchase 18 netbooks. Not ideal, we share them amongst 50 students, but definitely helpful. The thing is, we are always wondering if the internet will work, and when it does if the connection will be fast enough to do what we need to do.

    So my second thought has to do with the structures in which your project can exist. Has any thought gone into how it will be inserted into existing educational structures? ie – on professional development for teachers, admin, and IT departments? Not to mention the school boards and individual schools that ban electronic devices?

    In my experience, projects and programs that are developed before PD happens around it too often do not get adopted by teachers. An example is a program called epearl, a free digital portfolio program which was developed by Concordia University Educational Technology Researchers. It’s a theoretically and pedagogically robust program. It matches recent education reform in Quebec that dictates students must develop learning portfolios throughout their school careers. After a number of years of trying to get schools to use it I know that one of the research questions is now ‘why aren’t teachers using it?’ I think the answer lies in how its development preceded PD and learning around it. It became just another program that someone wants us to use.

    Your project is different in that educators and students are working together, though I wonder how the benefits of the learning process will affect more than the 11 educators and their students. Has thought been put into how you will feed research results back into the educational system on a timely basis so that a wider group of people can benefit from the learning process on a deeper level than they would with an after the fact presentation about it?

  2. Tracy-
    Thank you so much for responding. My district and the districts directly involved in this proposal have changed or are in the process of changing policies to allow at least Division-owned handheld electronic devices to be used at school and, in my case at least, even taken home by students. As we attempt to empower kids more and more, we are going to encounter the need to change long-standing policies and practices.

    It is expected that the teachers and administrators involved in this project will use their project-related experiences and resources to serve as seeds of innovations within their own schools and districts. We plan to engage traditional media as well as social media to help bring attention to the project and share. Each classroom involved will serve as a demonstration site, allowing visitors to see first-hand the power of empowering students through technology.

    We also hope that our friends-local and virtual- will continue to stay engaged with us, probing, questioning, challenging, sharing ideas and trying out the products our students create. Thank you so much for your questions and sharing your concerns and thoughts! All of these help us think through the parts and pieces we’ll need to address in the longer formal proposal if we get that far in the process!

  3. urgh…forgot to enter the anti-spam word and all got erased… let’s see if I remember what I wrote! 🙂

    I had a feeling that this project wasn’t being done in a vacuum! I like that you are thinking about the larger system. You wrote: “It is expected that the teachers and administrators involved in this project will use their project-related experiences and resources to serve as seeds of innovations within their own schools and districts.” Have these expectations been made explicit, concrete, and specific? So that systemic outcomes are sure to happen and it’s not just a let’s hope it happens kind of thing? I love the idea that classrooms will be open as demo sites. I live far from them so I’m hoping it will be virtual as well as physical.

  4. Hey, Tracy, a total trick–I’ve found if I hit the back button, my entry can often be recovered that way. 🙂

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