New Media Consortium Summer Conference 2016

From the opening plenary to the Idea Lab, the people of the NMC Summer Conference explored many great ideas and initiatives from “gaming the systems” of learning to envisioning the role of education in 2032. This article will summarize a selection of sessions we attended in the hopes of sharing some of the exciting trends and sparking new conversations of our own.

Games, Learning, and Society: The Intellectual Life of Digital Play

The first speaker of the conference guided us through her research into gaming and learning and why games are so successful in promoting literacy. She challenged the audience to see the potential of games to change the way we teach reading to boys as well as the way we approach other areas of education and assessment. That didn’t overshadow her other important message: that girls are gamers, and good ones, too! You can learn more about Constance Steinkuehler’s work here:

The Robot Storyteller: When Automation Hits Narrative Creativity and Education

A breakout session with Bryan Alexander is like discussing the plot of a science fiction novel…But wait, what will happen when we’re no longer writing them? In the session, we took brief journeys into the world of AI and robot technology. We looked at the Deep Dream Generator that takes any photo you upload, and using artificial intelligence finds and enhances patterns in images to create a new dream-like representation of that image. We also watched a team of actors act out a science-fiction script written by artificial intelligence (AI). While some AI, bots, and automated assistants can be beneficial to learning (e.g. spell check), how could AI and robot writers augment or even redefine educational experiences? For more information about Bryan’s work, check out his site: https://bryanalexanderconsulting.com/

Class of 2032

This session was a facilitated ideation exercise about what education would look like when the kindergarten students of 2016 reach the end of high school. As a thought exercise alone, it’s exciting and challenging, but with facilitation from Matt Worwood, crafty groupings, and a beach ball, we found that we could generate a wide range of ideas in a very short time. One lesson I gleaned from this exercise is how easy it is to put the future of technology and education in the context of the past. The exercise helped participants to broaden that context and think outside the classroom, think outside the internet, think outside…
Read about Matthew’s work here:

The Internet of Things: Live!

The perils and promise of the internet of things (IoT) was played out in this session. See this for a quick overview of IoT. Audience members took on the roles of the devices that in 20 years might be commonplace in the classroom and our world. Not only was the room a distracted cacophony of beeps, messages and fidgeting, we gained a sliver of insight into a possible future reality among the internet of things. Reactions from participants ranged from feelings of discomfort and discord to insights into how these “things” could, in fact, bring more learners into the fold (learning without place). Connected technologies could become so prevalent and everyday that they seem to disappear (rather than interfere), their function working seamlessly among users and learners. David Thomas and Brian Yuhnke facilitated this session.

Art School Demystified: Everybody Gets Whatever They Want

Providing technical education, equipment, space and support to art school students and faculty can be both exciting and challenging. The team approach at SAIC was presented in this session. Successful support of art and technology requires knowledgeable staff, strong leadership and a creative customer service approach. Taking this approach led the team to the guiding mantra: “Never say no, just how….” And then it hits you–it’s not that easy to say “yes” to things that may have never been done before…ever! In order for everybody to “get whatever they want,” SAIC instituted an interdepartmental art school considerations committee to tackle the tough art-making and exhibition questions involved in creating an art-making culture without boundaries. Craig Downs, Brad Johns and Alan Labb presented this session.

Student Makers of Makerspaces: A Silo-Busting Project

This session outlined a project by which art students in a furniture design course took part in the design of Mobile Units for Science Exploration (MUSE), a unique makerspace initiative at the California College of the Arts (CCA). Through collaboration among students and other stakeholders on campus, teams prototyped and implemented a “science in the studio” makerspace at the school. From a learning perspective, the initiative highlighted project-based learning and real-world experience at its core and at the same time had campus-wide benefits. Annemarie Haar, Director of Libraries at CCA led this session.

Experiencing the Buffalo State Insane Asylum: a 3D Construction and Game Narrative

This session touched on the implications of using 3D modeling and game development for documenting and teaching architectural and historical accuracies. With this technology, historically accurate models can capture an in-depth time capsule of a location. These models can easily be preserved with greater detail and accuracy compared to still photography. This allows the user to explore each room and location within the given space and gives the user the possibility to view every structure from a great (virtual) distance. This could lead to 3D modeling being an excellent teaching tool, letting students travel all over the world without leaving their classroom. Presenters were Shaun Foster, Lisa Hermsen and Trent Hergenrader.

Welcome Reception: 3D Spaces in Unreal 3D Game Development Engine (highlighted project)

One of the highlights of the NMC conference was the welcome reception in RIT’s Media Arts Games Interaction Creativity (MAGIC) Center where you could meet with RIT students and faculty involved in “making as a mode of inquiry.” One project highlighted the Unreal 4 3D game development engine that was used to create a 3D educational environment inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” A user is immersed instantaneously into a 3D representation of a home as you might see in the late 19th century and view and interact with art, questions and tasks that illustrate the myriad of influences on a woman’s life during that time. We could immediately see the application to teaching and learning such as: interactive online exhibitions, student and faculty 3D learning spaces and, of course, games…so we immediately set out to learn how to use it! Check out Elizabeth Goin’s blog for more information about this and other projects she is working on!

Idea Lab

One of the last sessions of the conference was the lunchtime poster session NMC-style…where you could meet and talk with educators and artists and the projects in which they are involved. Some highlights from that session include 3D printed poetry for blind students, interactive collaborative video initiatives, reimagined teaching and learning spaces and an interactive “mirror” installation memorializing black lives lost to police violence. See this link for more information!

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