Themes from DML 2013

Had a great weekend at DML 2013: met a ton of excellent people, heard excellent talks, and had some excellent dinners in Chi City. A few resonant themes and takeaways:

Civics are not in crisis, agency is.

It seems like civics are the problem because of widely popularized (and hilarious) media showing ignorance (Jaywalking). The stats actually haven’t changed, our expectations have. College degrees are much more prevalent now so we are dealing with a larger pool of people. The problem lies in the fact that this demographic feels that they have no influence in the antiquated legislative system (Ethan Zuckerman).

Chicago is cool.

While this wasn’t explicitly stated at the conference, it’s certainly true. What a great city, I hope to go back in the near future and have more time to explore.

Green River
Green river for St. Patrick’s Day!

Students are expected to be better than perfect.

The average high school GPA of incoming freshman at UC Irvine is 4.1/4.0 (Cathy Davidson).


Badges are all the rage right now, but they aren’t necessarily the answer. The danger in badges is that learners will be motivated because of the badge, rather than what they are learning (Barry Joseph, Mitch Resnick).

No one is taught how to author a question.

…and in a class you have to be invited to ask questions (i.e. “are there any questions?”). In his classes, Lee Thomason uses software that displays a stream of students’ questions on one side of the screen and a place for note-taking on the other. That way he can address questions as they come up in the lecture (Lee Thomason).

Failure builds resilience.

And we need resilience. Failure should be common, relatively inconsequential, and we need to benchmark success (Kevin Mikslaz).

Fun and learning are not opposed.

But are hard to get to work together. The connections between fun and learning are often shaped by adults, and fall into these philosophies:

  1. All learning should look like learning.
  2. Fun should not look like learning.
  3. All learning should be F-U-N, i.e. we impose what fun means.
  4. It’s not just fun, if you are having fun you are learning.

(David Cooper Moore)

How can we make games facilitators of connections to the world, not just activities?

In reference to Studio K, a research project at the University of WI (Gabriella Anton, Kurt Squire).

Links to a few fantastic projects mentioned over the course of the weekend:

  • GlassLab: Transforming learning and formative assessment through games.
  • Studio K: A game design curriculum, online community, and set of teacher-support tools to help teach programming with Microsoft Kodu.
  • A community for young Makers. Lots of badges over here.
  • PASA: The Providence After School Alliance.
  • Mozilla Open Badges: “Get recognition for skills you learn anywhere.”

For much more, check out the hashtag #DML2013, and a list of @dmlconference’s favorites. Looks like favoriting tweets is useful after all!

Finally, I think the most important thing I took from the conference was an affirmation of my own thoughts and research. I am totally self educated on these topics, and it was a great to see my opinions reflected in others. But even more than that, I am more confident about my own ideas for how to improve learning and education, and plan to write more about them soon.