Making the Most of the Medium: A Response

What I like most about Keith’s post is that it asks precisely the right questions about how to best use an emerging medium in public outreach and education. Too often we can become fixated on new technology and try to use it as much as possible because it’s new, or because it seems able to fit (albeit often awkwardly) into an existing paradigm. Instead we should be thinking about how these technologies work, how they are changing our social habits, and develop our uses of them appropriately.

Frontispiece to A Pretty Little Pocket Book

Children’s media has been trying to provide “instruction with delight” since we’ve had media content designated specifically for children. The celebrated children’s publisher John Newbery (called the “Father of Children’s Literature”) promised just this combination in A Little Pretty Pocket Book in 1744. But every medium has different properties, so understanding what kinds of delight a medium can afford is crucial to being able to make it educationally effective.
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Doubling Down on Experimental Public Education

If we were creating Sesame Street from scratch in 2012 would it use Scratch? A Scratch-based Facebook? A Pre-school-MOOC? If we wanted to create a large publicly-funded 21st century education equalizer — what would that look like?

At Bard we like to experiment, particularly with education. Bard runs various public high school early colleges throughout the country and is involved in higher education throughout the world. Later this week, Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies (the program that gets the CS acronym on campus, computer science is shortened to CMSC) is hosting a conference on experimental education. Maria Sachiko Cecire, who will write a follow-up to this post, will speak at this conference about Bard’s new Experimental Humanities concentration she directs, and if distilled to a single quote:

“…provides students with the historical context, theoretical background, and analytical and technical skills needed to engage productively with new forms of humanistic inquiry in our digital age”

The concentration emphasizes the need to think critically in many modes at once, e.g. text, film, and digital media. As my first blog post indicates, my participation stems from an interest in promoting digital literacy and reforming our “read-only” digital culture, as Larry Lessig might put it. Ultimately, we hope literacy in experimental media can push the boundary in terms of thinking and education.

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