Digi Notes is a monthly digital learning newsletter put together by our Director of Digital Learning, Hillary Kolos. Each Digi Notes offers examples of digital learning-focused program examples, articles, and resources.
IRL (in real life) Examples
DreamYard Spotlight: Maker Institute
DreamYard hosted its second annual Maker Institute in April. Maker Institute is a three-day training for educators to learn about and practice the integration of art and social justice into maker programs. The cohort this year was a dynamic and diverse group of educators, artists, and technologists from across NYC (and Philly!). We had amazing guest artists, including Salome Asega - an innovative artist and research based in Brooklyn - and By the Flamingos - a 3D design and printing company. To learn more, check out this article about Maker Institute on the Educator Innovator website.
DreamYard Spotlight: Allied Media Conference, Detroit, MI
A DY contingent was able to attend the always eye-opening Allied Media Conference a few weeks ago. We participated in sessions on a range of topics including data security, hip-hop for healing, pop-up radio, and anti-oppressive facilitation techniques. The plenary sessions were also an inspiration including talks by Malkia Cyril from the Center for Media Justice and Alicia Garza of the Movement for Black Lives. If you have a couple minutes - check out the program to see what folks were talking about at the intersection of art, technology and activism! Also feel free to ask Chelsea, Denisse, Hillary or Joselina about their experience.
How Indigenous Millennials Are Using Tech to Save Their Dying Languages - Broadly
Lydia Prince, a young indigenous woman from Vancouver is using technology to revitalize the use of indigenous language in her community. This article explains how technology has often been seen as a tool of oppression by indigenous communities in Canada. With the leadership of the First Nations Technology Council though, these communities are finding ways to use technology under their own terms to teach each other, preserve their culture, and connect to needed resources.
Using Baltimore’s dirt bike culture to get kids interested in engineering - The Renewal Project
A chemical engineer from Baltimore, named Brittany Young, has created a program for young people that teaches STEM through a passion for dirt-biking. Inspired to "meet people at their point of interest," Young saw the connection between engineering and the popular local hobby of maintaining and riding dirt bikes. She also noticed rising interest in a police crackdown to "solve" the problem of dirt-biking and knowing that would mean more young black men interacting with the police, she decided to come at it from a different angle. Check out this article from Young herself to learn more about her program called B-360.
Balti Gurls use social media to connect queer & POC artists - Red Bull Amaphiko
Have you heard of Balti Gurls?? They are an all-women of color arts collective based in Baltimore who are using social media in new and innovative ways to share knowledge, invites, and calls for work. Learn more here about their work and how they are building community both online and in-person.
The Antidote to Authoritarianism - Malkia Cyril, The Atlantic*
In this article in the Atlantic, Cyril connects the dots between surveillance techniques used during slavery in the Americas to how they are used today to "catch and control black dissidence." In particular, she discusses the need for an open internet so that we can "watch back" - and how that freedom is under attack right now by the Trump administration and FCC.
*Bonus track: Can't get enough of Malkia's brilliance? Me either! Check out this talk - called "Will You Harbor Me? To Fight Police Violence, Demand Digital Sanctuary" - Malkia recently gave at the Personal Democracy Forum.
Coding for What? - Ben Williamson, DML Central
Most coding programs focus on teaching the technical skills of different programming languages. Some teach more theoretical concepts like logic or computational thinking - but what about learning the social consequences of coding? How do we teach how fake news is perpetuated by algorithms or how to have a respectful conversation with someone online? Aren't these skills just as important?
"The reality, though, is that coding in the curriculum, and many other learning to code schemes, have tended to overemphasize either economically valuable skills for the software engineering sector, or high-status academic computer science knowledge and skills. There has been far too little focus on enabling young people to appreciate the social consequences of code and algorithms."
Read more in this article that explores the balance of technical and social aspects of coding.
Dr. Christopher Emdin's SXSWedu Keynote
Dr. Christopher Emdin, the Columbia professor and author of the new book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Ya'll Too, gave a provocative keynote at this year's SXSWedu in March. This conference is the education innovation extension of the SXSW music, film, and interactive festival. It's known for being a gathering place for educators and ed-tech folks who want to find out about the latest new tools and digital learning practices. Dr. Emdin flipped the script this year though and asked the audience to think about pedagogy before technology and to focus on the deeper equity issues we must address before seeking technological solutions.
Five Questions around Technology and Stories for Social Change - Thenmozi Soundararajan, Eyebeam
Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a transmedia storyteller and technologist and director of Equality Labs "the first South Asian women/gender non-conforming/trans technology startup." In this interview with Eyebeam, Soundararajan talks about the power of storytelling in activism and the importance of digital security for artists and activists. Soundararajan also talks about the fight against the caste system in India for the liberation of the Dalit people, who have traditionally been placed in the lowest caste. Storytelling and social media are two of the tools being used to organize and raise awareness about the Dalit people across the world.
How Hip-Hop Producer Steve Lacy Makes Hits With … His Phone - Wired
Musician and producer, Steve Lacy, is 18 years-old and already has a Grammy-nominated album. You may know him from being a part of the band The Internet or being featured on Kendrick Lamar's song "PRIDE." It was a surprise to me to learn he makes most of his music using GarageBand on his iPhone! Lacy plugs his guitar into the phone using an adapter and sings directly into the built-in iPhone mic even though he now has access to fancy studio equipment. Check out this video from Wired to see how he does it. It might be a good video to share with your young people to debate which is more important: technology or creativity and dedication?
Learning Music from Ableton - New Free Online Tutorials
If your participants are ready to take it to the next level of beat-making or music production, try out the new tutorial site from Ableton, a popular software used by professional producers and DJs. While it is helpful to have the Ableton software loaded on a computer, anyone can learn basic music production skills from this free web-based tutorial including lessons on chords, melodies, and song structure.
Above the Noise - PBS
PBS launched a new web series for young people (but really we can all watch it) that "empowers teens with the facts behind real-world issues that affect their lives." The videos are short and well-made and might make a good conversation starter in your class one day. Check out their channel on YouTube.
Things to play with!
And here's some new stuff that came across my radar that looks fun to play with:
OMG someone is making Legos that light up! They aren't in stores yet but you can order them through an IndieGoGo campaign. The blocks conduct electricity so you can build creations that sense sound or motion, move, and light up. So exciting!!!!
Game Design with Piskel and Stencyl
An email list I'm on recently sent around some information about simple ways to make video games. They suggested using an app called Piskel to create pixel-based characters (called "sprites"). Then you can put those characters in a game using a free game-design program called Stencyl. Who wants to make a game this summer????