Idit Harel Caperton – An Interview at the Edge of Change

picture of Bonnie Bracey Sutton and Vic SuttonBy Bonnie Bracey Sutton and Vic Sutton

ETCJ: Dr. Idit Harel Caperton, thank you for making the time to talk with us about Globaloria. Your research at the MIT Media Lab and association with Seymour Papert, as well as numerous awards, have made you a legend in the field of educational technology.

The awards include the 1991 Outstanding Book Award by the American Education Research Association and being honored, in 2002, by MIT and the Network of Educators in Science and Technology “for devotion, innovation, and imagination in science and technology on behalf of children and youth around the world.”

picture of Dr. Idit Harel CapertonDr. Idit Harel Caperton

As founder and president of the World Wide Workshop Foundation, you and your team have, since 2006, been pioneering Globaloria, a program to promote digital literacy, especially in areas and with populations that are underserved by current technology. You’ve defined digital literacy as the ability “to use… social media tools as both a reader and writer — that is, as someone who contributes as well as observes.”

Through Globaloria, you’ve fleshed out this definition to six contemporary learning abilities:

  1. The ability to invent, work through, and complete an original digital project for an educational web game or interactive simulation
  2. The ability to manage a project online in a wiki-based networked environment
  3. The ability to create digital media artifacts using wikis, blogs, and websites and to publish and distribute these artifacts online
  4. The ability for social-based learning, participation, and exchange across age groups and levels of expertise in a networked environment
  5. The ability to use information as a learning tool, to search for information purposefully, and to explore information
  6. The ability to surf websites and experiment with web applications and tools

In a nutshell, you’ve described Globaloria’s approach as learning by doing: “Practicing the making of games and simulations, not just playing them, within a virtual design studio embedded in a social network, helps students develop those contemporary learning abilities they need to be successful in today’s global knowledge economy.”


ETCJ: First, why have you decided to concentrate your energies on this problem of digital literacy among students who seem to be on the wrong side of the digital divide? Is there something in your personal background that moves you in this direction?

Dr. Caperton: The “digital divide” has different meanings to different people. There are historical definitions that speak to the problem of the underserved. The digital divide that persists today in Internet use is based on tools, income, education and community, and it means many people are not acquiring the digital fluency that is required to operate in today’s world.

I believe that conquering the digital divide is a moving target based on the development of technology tools. Rahul Tongia states the components as “Awareness, Availability, Accessibility, and Affordability. Others refer to the lack of rural access as the “digital dirt road.”

America is the birthplace of the Internet and home to many of its greatest ideas and innovators. But many millions of Americans still stand on the wrong side of the digital divide at an enormous cost to all of us. I am sure that all of the people need to be connected. I am passionate about delivering the opportunity to all.

My definition for this interview is based in educational use. The digital divide implies more than just the owning of the tools. In education, we describe the use of the tool in meaningful ways for education. It’s not sufficient just to be online; the locations, times, applications, and, of course, the speeds matter. Broadband matters, content matters, appropriate use matters.

Teachers would say technofluency matters. Having the tool is important, but being able to use the tool fluidly in education is just as important. Here is a diagram that teachers use to describe techno fluency:

Diagram showing the 3 overlapping components of techno fluency - Technological Knowledge (TK), Content Knowledge (CK) Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) - and other types of knowledge resulting from their overlap.

Teachers often also can identify with Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, which helps prepare our students for the future and change.

With broadband, we hope to conquer the digital divide that has long separated rural America from the use of technology. We hope to give rural consumers access to the same sorts of high-speed services and opportunities that others have had access to for years.

As FCC Commissioner Michael Copps stated on April 8, 2009, “Broadband can be the great enabler that restores America’s economic well-being and opens doors of opportunity for all Americans to pass through, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives” (source).

However, there are regional concerns about the digital divide. The state of West Virginia, where I work, is one of the states with a broadband problem.

ETCJ: What is the origin of the word “Globaloria”? How did it come about? Does it literally refer back to its Latin roots, a global meeting place?

Dr. Caperton: Exactly. Globaloria is a social network for learning web-game design and simulation production. Invented by the World Wide Workshop Foundation in the spring of 2006, it seeks to create technology-based educational opportunities through a flexible set of virtual learning networks for students in developing nations and for communities that are economically disadvantaged and technologically-underserved. Using a network of educational web 2.0 platforms, students develop 21st-century digital literacy, master social media technology, and gain a deeper understanding of curricular areas such as science, mathematics and health. (For Globaloria images, please see “The Best of Globaloria-WV” and “Student Creation Artifacts.”)

Its activities help students sharpen their communication and critical-thinking skills for leadership online and offline, bringing them closer to the participatory and collaborative nature of work in the 21st century.

Globaloria aims to teach youth how to take control of their new-media world. Our teachers are supported along the learning journey by workshops, coaching, help online and collaborative communication with the teaching and learning community.

ETCJ: To begin the Globaloria process, you selected games and simulations as targets for learning, and now you’re branching out into other subject areas or fields of study. This progression seems to underscore your description of Globaloria as a general model for attaining digital literacy. How would you characterize or describe this general model? What are its philosophical roots? Please feel free to explain at length.

Dr. Caperton: We are creating a pathway to help students find professional success in the 21st century workforce.

Students and educators learn how to play and create their own STEM based webi-games, produce wikis, publish blogs, and openly share and exchange ideas, game code, questions and progress using the latest digital communication technology. Our R and D and pedagogical approaches to platforms and tools for cultivating computational thinking and computational inventiveness have their roots in MIT and Harvard research and proven educational theories about the value of project-based, multi-disciplinary, innovative and creative learning (of any subject) through software design and programming (reports).

We have partnerships with school principals and county superintendents to ensure support and to inform and educate those who create learning opportunities for teachers. That is vital for establishing a sustainable and scalable implementation model at each school. We provide hands-on workshops to involve staff and provide learning academies for professional development.

Globaloria is a powerful model for a year-long program on computational creativity, motivating and engaging project-based learning, using broadband and one computer per student.

We require educators who are passionate for new pedagogies, not technology experts. We have a time commitment, and we target middle and high school, alternative education, community college and/or university.

Teachers must have a personal laptop.

School PCs must support high-speed broadband Internet, Flash CS3 software, and photo editing software.

ETCJ: From much of the literature on educational technology, we get the impression that classroom teachers are fearful of technology and wary of change, that they’re simply not equipped, by training or propensity, to use the latest Web 2.0 communication tools and media. Yet, you seem to have succeeded very well with them in Globaloria. What’s your secret?

Dr. Caperton: Well, there’s no secret to it. We use a number of proven best practices, including the following:

  • We use the constructionist model for creating leaders.
  • We have “hands-on” training sessions.
  • We provide professional development through the Globaloria Academy, with three in-person intensive training events.
  • We have online mini webinars (web-based workshops).
  • There is a Globaloria mentors program in which experienced educators take on a leadership role by supporting other educators.
  • There is 24/7 virtual support and guided lessons.
  • We provide expert support via wikis, blogs, email and WebEx.
  • We create a community of learners who connect and collaborate.
  • We compensate teachers for their participation.

We have a learning formula. The Globaloria learning formula is daily, year-long, project based, student-centered, social learning. Its components are:

  • Self- led Learning — Student and educatiors learn by doing. They learn through game design and manage their own creative process.
  • Learning by Design
  • Expert Guided Learning — Professionals from around the country/world help inspire learning and help solve problems on demand on the Globaloria network.
  • Learning Just in Time.
  • Peer-to-Peer Learning — Students learn from other students and educators learn from other educators (online and offline)
  • Learning by Teaching
  • Co-learning — Students and educators learn together (online and offline). Educators are co-learners instead of didactic instructors, learning at the same time.

ETCJ: Please tell us more about the teacher professional development that Globaloria provides?

Dr. Caperton: The teacher professional development (TPD) model offered by Globaloria includes several features that a preponderance of scholars in the field agree are necessary to provide high quality TPD that may lead to durable teacher change and improved student outcomes (resource).

  • TPD is embedded in the school and in the classroom, as well as across classrooms and school systems across the state.
  • TPD provides ongoing support in the school that allows educators to see and share their own and student work reflectively and collaboratively.
  • TPD provides support for developing a teacher learning community both online and face to face that creates a safe environment for testing new ideas and new teaching ideas.

ETCJ: How would you respond to critics who say that the students are just playing games and not learning anything that will help them grow and advance in the academic world of schools and colleges?

Dr. Caperton: If you think of the process of learning that we are using, we like to think of it as from instruction to construction, using serious games.

Most people don’t give much thought to all the years and years they spent sitting and listening as children. Most kids are just glad it’s over if they can make it through the process of what we call “school” and not drop out.

We know that children naturally learn as they play. And while most play is good, there is some play that engages the child more strongly. Papert placed a high value on “social learning processes and having children activate their own minds and also make or construct things to shape their learning.”

If we’re trying to educate children who have at their disposal an ever broadening spectrum of consumer technology, even as they contend with ever decreasing attention spans, the time-tested methods of education are no longer sufficient.

I think students learn more effectively by creating and/or building an entity for public consumption and through collaboration, connecting a learning community and using their creativity — learning to problem solve. We are building and growing a program around applying the theory in an active school environment. I am a longtime advocate of 1:1 learning environments in which each student has access to his/her own computer and broadband connection.

I want to bring such opportunities to economically disadvantaged districts. These opportunities should be available to more than just a select few educational communities. Diverse student populations need to be involved. Underserved communities should not be steps away from the information highway with the tools but no facilitating learning environment to make their explorations and learning positive.

In Globaloria, the effect with networked technology is that the staff, teachers and students can easily share their expertise and knowledge across learning contexts. The effect of networked technology is that teaching and learning become visible in ways not possible in non-networked environments.

ETCJ: If you could begin a college’s teacher education program from scratch, what would it look like? How would it be different from the teacher training programs we have today?

Dr. Caperton: Quite often, we teach as we were taught. If we were taught by someone who was a playful, open-minded educator, who was a flexible thinker, we will do/become the same. If we were taught by a “rigid expert” who was only guided by what’s right or wrong, we will tend to do/be the same.

So, I would probably make sure to focus on creating contemporary teacher training programs that are driving constructionist learning among these prospective teachers, and make sure they use computational tools for innovation-centered projects.

All prospective teachers must first re-learn to learn in complex and challenging project-based contexts. To the point that I am not sure that I would even call it a “teacher training” college or program, but rather, a “learning learning program.” In my ideal teachers’ college, training teachers as learners and problem solvers will not be very different than what I want to see in all public school classrooms: long-term, project-based learning environments using networked social media technology and computational tools. The college experience for those future teachers should be as rich as the learning that we want these teachers to foster among their future students. Nothing less.

I would emphasize techno-fluency as a part of the teachers’ learning agenda, and facilitate multiple ways of connecting them personally and meaningfully with content. The teacher doesn’t have to learn/know everything, but rather, learn to know what are the most powerful processes for learning and thinking, and where to find knowledge, skills and expertise by using a variety of methods, materials, tools, media, peers, experts, and people on the Net.

Once again, I will focus on inserting learning through computational thinking, problem solving and construction of ideas and representations for knowledge.

Most important, I would break down the rigid school-subjects silos. Some of the ways in which we instruct teachers are only subject specific. Even that has little depth in many cases.

Maybe I will also add ways in which prospective teachers can learn about how to form learning partnerships, solving problems individually and in teams, and sharing their common work in a transparent networked environment.

Finally, I would cultivate among those future teachers-in-training as much creativity, imagination, and construction as possible. Because if they get hooked on the joy of being creative and imaginative and solving big real problems, and see themselves as learners with internal motivation and innovative minds, they will do what they can to give the gift of such experiences to their future students.

Acknowledgment: Bonnie Bracey Sutton, ETCJ’s editor of policy issues, is the moving force behind this interview. She initiated, conducted, and wrote it, working closely with Dr. Caperton over several weeks in many separate sessions. Once the draft was completed, Bonnie worked with her husband, Vic Sutton, a freelance journalist with extensive international experience and an interest in finding ways to tackle the international digital divide, to produce the final copy. We owe a special debt of gratitude to Dr. Caperton, who made time in her extremely busy schedule to work with Bonnie. -js

Added 9.2.10 by Bonnie: Idit Harel Caperton at Supernova Forum 2010 or see more Idit Harel Caperton videos.

18 Responses

  1. […] here to see the original: Idit Harel Caperton – An Interview at the Edge of Change … are-fearful, impression, latest, simply-not, […]

    • There is wonderful footage on her website. It is hard to translate her wonderful personality into an interview and also share the ideational scaffolding that is needed for sharing the strength of her work. Games to a lot of people are not educational work.

      I suggest that you look at one of the many little movies on the web site.In fact. we will post some with the next article.

      One of the features of the Globaloria academy was that she had teachers to present the games they were developing. Then she gave us a segment of Ratatouille.. you know the mouse who could cook and became a chef! She used that analogy to spurt the participants on and to encourage them in their work. She firmly believes that everyone can learn these skills and is effective in communicating this to the teachers and students.

      Education can be dry, but she is not.

      Bonnie Bracey Sutton

      In journalism, in a data driven educational policy form it is hard to
      be as interesting, as entertaining, as bright and funny as Idit can be all in one article and show, as well the merits of the work.
      If you cannot find a good clip, I will find it for you. Her engaging personality is all over the place on the web site and in the comments and presentations for the National Science Board on the computational sciences.

      We have another section coming that is more engaging.

      Bonnie Bracey Sutton

    • Bonnie and Vic asked me to review the interview and respond. In 2000, the National Academies published the book, “How People Learn” which was an explanation of the most research on learning. Bonnie wanted me to evaluate Idit’s Globaloria based on those principles.

      Here are my comments:

      Expertise. The principles of HPL focus on problem solving as a pedagogical method. So the pedagogical methods contained within are designed to create expert novices among learners. Through their experiences as problem solvers, learners learn how they learn best, how to use those skills in other circumstances, thus they learn to learn which provides a them with tools to learn all kinds of skills and content.
      Why is this process important to learning? An expert is able to solve problems because they have developed mental models from which they can evaluate new problems and not get bogged down in the details of the problems. This mental model helps experts to notices the more salient features necessary to enable problem solving. These mental models they have developed over time through solving many many problems. So content knowledge is acquired and organized based on these mental models. Each new experience refines their models further. In sum, knowledge is based on authentic circumstances and is not a set of disconnected facts or propositions. Sometimes, experts mental models become so automatic, they are unable to unpack their knowledge into smaller meaningful proposition which is key when teaching others.

      Globaloria allows learners to develop expertise. Learners collaborate with each other in tackling the issues in problems centered upon the design, development, and testing of online games they have created based upon basic principles, propositions and facts in the content areas, math, science etc. Learners are able to learn about how they do and learn then apply those skills to new problems thus refining what they know about themselves as learners and at the same time learning about content areas in which they are designing game environments.

      Once a learner solves a few problems, they begin to develop their problem solving mental model. To be able to use that knowledge in new learning or problem situations the content must be learned in a manner which enables them to apply those skills in new contexts then learn content and add new information about problem solving to their repertoire. The problem in some classrooms is that learners get facts and concepts that have no connection with the real world thus they are devoid of the clues and circumstances that tell them when and where to apply the knowledge. The problem solving process provides the context and process necessary for learners to apply knowledge in new contexts. So the problem solving process helps learners to learn the methods, conditions, and processes that cue their memory of problem solving skills and alert them that this situation is similar to ones they have previously solved and thus the same skills may help them solve the problem. So they apply the skills solve the problem, learn the content, and any differences in context goes to extend their knowledge of problem solving.

      Globaloria provides a learning environment in which no two problems are the same. Thus, learners are always refining their knowledge of problem solving. At the same time, these learners are learning content and solving problems they are also becoming more aware of how they learn best and solve problems, so they are beginning to notice the conditions, their processes, and their understandings of how content works. Thus, the learning environment that is referred to as Globloria, facilitates these processes. Learners are then able to use these skills in any situation in the future requiring them to solve problems and/or learning content.

      In sum, learning strategies are crucial. So it is important that to be successful as learners they need to develop their own learning skills to use when faced with new contexts. So they must learn the conditions for learning to be able to apply those skills, this means they need to learn who they are as learners, how to go about planning, monitoring, revising then reflecting on what they have learned. Thus, these skills are perfected through their own failures and failures. Adults can play roles in which they help learners to attend to salient features of problems, help learners see connections between older situations and new problems, and structure the complexity of problem solving to support a learners learning attempts, etc.

      Globaloria provides the professional development for teachers necessary to adapt their teaching and learning practices to adapt to this model of instruction. For teachers, the learning process is much like their own students. Globaloria must create expertise within teachers who will teach within the Globaloria environment. In that, teachers are faced with instructional problems where they begin to develop a mental model of problem solving within this instructional model so they may then apply those skills in working with learners who are working within the Globaloria environment. Just like their students, teachers develop their expertise each time they work with a different set of issues that arise when working with learners.

      Learning Environments
      HPL environments are Knowledge centered, Assessment centered, Learner-centered and community-centered. Each has implications within the Globaloria environment.

      In knowledge centered environments, teachers help or guide students in using their prior learning and problem solving skills to acquire new knowledge which they then add to their content knowledge. So teachers must focus on structuring learning in a way that facilitates a learners ability to transfer their old skills in learning or solving new problems. Thus, teachers must insure the problems are not too complex and that learners have the tools and information critical to solve new problems. So teachers focus on learners understandings, misconceptions etc, in making instructional decisions.

      In the assessment centered context of the learning environment, feedback is crucial in student learning. In the HPL learning environment instruction focuses on formative assessment. In these environments students have opportunities to revise and make changes to their thinking and understanding. For instance, the learning environment contains events that helps to make student learning and thinking visible. Through these methods, they are able to compare the information to what they know and understand and seek to make revisions to that learning. Teachers facilitate the process in providing these opportunities and providing feedback regarding student efforts.

      In learner-centered environments, the learner is the nexus of the learning process. The learning environment interacts with the learner and the learner builds his/her knowledge based on information learned from within the environment and it’s processes. This is in juxtaposition to traditional learning environments in which learning is dependent on the transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. It is based on direct instruction and learning materials provided at the discretion of the instructor. The learner learns information form resources but the information may be facts and propositions that lack any real world context and the information is learned and assessed based on memorization and testing.

      In the community-centered aspect of the learning environment, it is important that teachers facilitate the process or the degree that their learning environments promote community among learners. The power of multiple perspectives is powerful in learning. Community provides the opportunities for interaction, feedback, and learning. Opportunities focus on learning from each other and through learning resources that provide multiple perspectives on learning issues.

      Current research in instructional technology suggests that the power of technology in learning is it’s capacity for individualizing the learning process based on individual needs. The nature of technology also provides the ability for learners to interact with other learners, with content, with teachers. All of these qualities help to provide learners with feedback on their understanding and the development of new knowledge. Technology can also serve to help visualize or manipulate simulated data that would not be available in any other environment.

      Globaloria is a knowledge-centered environment in that learners are learning stem related content through development of games and programming. Learners collaborate with other learners in solving problems that crop up as the design, develop, and test their products. Thus, they are refining and testing their understandings and misconceptions then changing based on feedback from the interaction.

      Globaloria is an assessment-centered environment in that it provides multiple opportunities to make learners thinking visible. Thus, their prior knowledge, misconceptions, and understandings are modified based on working with their collaborations, the problems they fact within the Globaloria environment, and the guidance they get from instructors who facilitate processes within the Globaloria environment.

      Globaloria is a learner-centered environment where a learner is faced with problem solving and the problem solving involves an authentic context. Thus, learners learn about the processes of learning and how the conditions for how they learn best. Learners then use these skills in an interactive learning environment in which they gain knowledge from their collaboration with others, from the materials they work with, and from feedback they gain through working with games and the feedback from teachers and from the technology itself.

      Globaloria is a community-centered model in that learners learn to work with a team. They collaborate and share information. Instructors provide feedback that helps them to learn about themselves as learners and the their progress in acquiring knowledge regarding the content. So the learning environment proides opportunities for interaction, learner control, feedback, and learning.

      Globaloria is a learning environment in which technology helps to individualize learning. It facilitates the problem solving and collaborative process. It helps to provide the feedback necessary for adjusting and refining understanding and/or correcting misconceptions. The technology provides an environment in which learners learn more about how technology works then uses the technology in learning content. The technology facilitates the problem solving process that is endemic to the entire process.
      Legacy model

    • Because for years games were not taken seriously we may have been too academic in our questioning of Dr. Caperton.

      Here is an article that is lighter, and less academic with much of the same message. She also recently did a TED.. and it is fun to look at and think with her.
      See our voices from the field on

  2. Thanks to Dr Caperton, Bonnie Bracey Sutton and Vic Sutton for this great presentation of what techno fluency for teaching is made of, and how to foster its efficiency through games.

    Howver, how about accessibility norms in education, which I understand are particularly stringent in the US?

    I’m thinking of the DoJ’s and DoE’s letter to college and university presidents on e-book readers I quoted in e-Book Readers: Attempting to Bugger the Blind Is Bad for Business, but also of o a discussion on the WCETDiscuss listserv that Jim Shimabukuro pointed out to me, about implementing ADA/508-compliant multimedia resources (i.e. with closed captioning and possibly audio description if needed).

    Video accessibility is fairly straightforward: you add text and audio files to the video and users choose which they want to use. And creating these extra files is becoming simpler and less time-consuming.

    However, how can these section 508 requirements for multimedia be implemented for the possibility to play games, and also, crucially, to create games? With a video, blind students could rip the audio and do the transcript with Audacity (which can be used with a screen reader, a blind friend told me) while deaf students could prepare the script for audio descriptions of the visual-only info with captioning desktop or online applications.

    Would it not be much more complicated to do something of the sort with a digital game where both sound and visuals are often of essence?

    It might be an interesting added challenge, though.

    • I suppose we made the interview more academic than anything. That is because in the US games have not been understood in the classroom. When in the NCLB world you said games, people would turn away.

      To get games accepted, and understood as a learning modality, was a purpose , trying to make sure that teachers and administrators got it that they weren’t just playing for fun.

      Games are newly being accepted in the US as a teaching strategy. Remember NCLB still exists and is not a ghost yet.

      Marc Prenksy gets it, Alexander Repenning gets it, and Idit Harel Caperton get it. But the training and the
      support, 24/7 and the funding have been short.

      I am sure that the additional ideas about making the games available for everyone will be addressed.
      But the first hurdle has been to get the games accepted.

      At E3 I remember addressing the gaming world asking for games in education as a part of their work to bring students forward. They laughed. I got it.
      Change has come, the army uses games to teach with and so do the other branches of the Armed Forces…
      There is change. Now to meet all of the demands
      is the task.

      I started out with MECC when games were simple to write and program.. it is a whole new world which is why I love the complexity of support, resources, training, philosophy, and followup of some of the programs, especially the Globaloria. They got flipcameras at the last session of the Globaloria academy. ( I am glad I already had one).

      I am not sure how Idit became so inspired, to take the message to the people of need, in the areas outside of MIT and Harvard. But she is passionate about sharing the knowledge,! Bonnie

    • Claude

      Howver, how about accessibility norms in education, which I understand are particularly stringent in the US?

      This is a lot of talk in the US. I first became interested in
      technology back in the day, when I had a student who was awaiting transfer to a special education class, when his IEP was to be completed. I could tell that this child was
      more gifted and talented than a candidate for “special education”, and his learning to use a computer to
      capture his thoughts was my introduction to the use of computers in education. In fact so long ago we were working to allow him to facilitate his learning because he simply had a difficult time writing.

      My work with gaming and ideas learning start from being involved in CILT . So we have been thinking about it.

      The work on gaming everywhere was stopped just about except at Concord by NCLB. The funding was
      taken away from the Dept of Education gaming research. Not sure if it has been put back.

      There were great legal cases to help students who need differential learning. I am not sure that it has trickled down to real change and involvement as Ray Rose discussed and pondered.

      I doubt that when people think technology in schools they even ponder accessibility unless prodded.

      This from Concord.

      Technology Serving Learners with Special Needs Resource List
      File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
      WAI, in coordination with organizations around the world, pursues accessibility of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools …

      Intended for Ed Researcher, Research News and Comment
      File Format: Microsoft Word – View as HTML
      by J Roschelle – Cited by 142 – Related articles
      Today’s web offers a primitive level of “accessibility”: standard protocols … And today’s audio and video conferencing tools are not practical for typical …
      Using Technology in Education – UDL Science
      File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint – View as HTML
      … in a voluntary National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). …. Level 5: Student sees a blank drawing tool and the following help: …

      I acknowledge that I was involved in the UDL project
      and CILT. I hope that my participation will not seem as if it is an ad. More than thinking about the ideas, I actually taught kids with special needs, and in communiities of diversity. I have always been aware of the push and pull of games, visualization and modeling and how it can transform, teaching, learning and understanding.

      I can make you laugh. I started using games and gamins with MECC. Minnesota Educational Consortium Corporation. I found that games got children’s attention and sustained it and I was able to build bridges with associated knowledge.

      I work with a friend in Southside Virginia, who has had several ITest grants that involve gaming, robotics and
      is a workforce readiness initiative.

      I always love it when Claude points out the differences in international education. She knows that I have traveled the world looking at what is education and who is educated.

      The ITEST program responds to current concerns and projections about the growing demand for professionals and information technology workers in the U.S. and seeks solutions to help ensure the breadth and depth of the STEM workforce. ITEST supports research studies to address questions about how to find solutions. It also supports the development, implementation, testing, and scale-up of implementation models. A large variety of possible approaches to improving the STEM workforce and to building students’ capacity to participate in it may be implemented and studied. ITEST projects may include students or teachers, kindergarten through high school age, and any area of the STEM workforce. Projects that explore cyberlearning, specifically learning with cyberinfrastructure tools such as networked computing and communications technologies in K-12 settings, are of special interest.

      This program is interested in addressing such questions as: What does it take to effectively interest and prepare students to participate in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce of the future? What are the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students need in order to participate productively in the changing STEM workforce and be innovators, particularly in STEM-related networked computing and information and communication technology (ICT) areas? How do they acquire them? How can the Nation’s burgeoning cyberinfrastructure be harnessed as a tool for STEM learning in classrooms and informal learning environments? What will ensure that the nation has the capacity it needs to participate in transformative, innovative STEM advances? How can we assess and predict inclination to participate in the STEM fields and how can we measure and study impact of various models to encourage that participation?

      Manorama Talaiver works with ITEST grants that are
      robotics, games, and visualization and modeling in the areas where Virginia closed the schools to minorities in Brown vs the Board of Education. She took 8 teams to the Robotics competition. Games are a part of her portfolio. She calls her students Digispired.

      I am passionate about creating these opportunities for teachers, community, in after school space or in
      school with new technologies and visualization and modeling which includes gaming.


      Or Agent sheets!

      Bonnie Bracey Sutton

      If it sounds like a push for involvement of students and teachers in types of learning , or Marc’s ideas , or Alexander Repenning, or the ideas of NOAA, and AAAS. These are my areas of particular interest.

      Bonnie Bracey Sutton

  3. This is an interesting question. I know that Dr. Caperton has a set of researchers meeting and that she is in Israel. I will call the question to her attention.

    Good question. We did not include this in the questions.

    Since they are meeting in September it can be a question for discussion if it has not already been discussed.

    She should be featured on Larry King.. as she is hard to define in a one dimension media explanation she is very dynamic. Here is a recent video.

  4. Claude raises an issue which has been a concern of mine since technology has been introduced as an instructional approach.

    There are a variety of ways to provide access to students with disabilities and sometimes the solutions take a different form. I’ll challenge Claude to think about alternatives to graphical displays of information. The most common solution is to make a three-dimensional print out of a graph, but that’s not changing the basics of a graph. There are other ways to communicate data sets that require some different thinking. And it may take a game designer with the disability to solve that.

    The games today are being created by people who aren’t thinking about users with disabilities. Put someone familiar with the range of adaptive devices and a different way of thinking and we will have games that appeal to a much different, and varied audience.

    • Yes, it is an important challenge, Ray, and one I am clearly not up to, unfortunately, because I know almost nothing about present electronic games, nor do I have a sensory or motor disability.

      Your example of a 3D print-out of a graph might perhaps be delved into further, though. What if the visual info of a game could be rendered onto a small enough surface with moving raising parts, a kind of pseudo braille pad where the points would stand for characters and events instead of letters, and actions could be taken using arrow and enter keys, or a joystick, with the other hand?

      Of course the “rising” conventions should be explained verbally/textually first, and playing this way would require a greater capacity for abstraction – but then does not moving around in real life also require that if you are blind? There could also be verbal description clues, highly accelerated, as when a blind person uses a screen reader, and more care given to the audio-for-all part.

      This challenge kind of reminds me of when I was teaching French as a foreign language in high school. One problem was that students had got this very rigid idea of grammar “rules” from their middle school years, and got baffled if a language phenomenon got explained differently. So in the first lesson, I’d ask them to prepare in groups a verbal description of Tetris (1) , then to present the group’s description to the whole class. Of course, the descriptions differed, but they were all correct and usable. I’d then point out that the same obtained with describing how a language works.

      Of course the analogy with the challenge of making accessible games is imperfect, but in the end, that too is a matter of conveying meaning with different means.

      (1) See – even then it was a bit old hat, but the students accepted that it was the only game I knew.

  5. the graph problem is a real one. the device you describe is real and is in use today. But that’s not fundamentally changing the presentation of data, just a way for someone visually impaired to touch the representation.

    Explore for a minute, alternative representations. Could we use sound to express data, What about actually feeling the data — doing something with a haptic mouse for example.

    Have you ever been in a Cave — the 3D environment used by researchers for data visualization? There’s got to be ways to convey info that summarizes large data sets in new and different ways.

    If you’re not familiar with they, with had a small project to begin exploring this issue.

    Back to your basic issue, yes! Educational publishers and schools need to pay more attention to access and equity issues, and I love it when others raise the issue.

    • Love the CAVE

      A Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (better known by the recursive acronym CAVE) is an immersive virtual reality environment where projectors are directed to three, four, five or six of the walls of a room-sized cube. The name is also a reference to the allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic where a philosopher contemplates perception, reality and illusion.

      I have been to NSCA and been immersed in the CAVE
      and the research has moved on, but not to schools … so far.

      Some of the research for electronic visualization has become a tool for students who have little or no sight.
      Currently, nearly 94,000 children in the United States who are blind or visually impaired are being helped by some form of special education. These students are an extremely diverse group ranging from infants to young adults through age 21.

      The nature and degree of their visual impairments are equally diverse, as are the ways they adapt to their vision loss. Some students have other disabilities in addition to visual impairment. Their level of academic functioning spans a great range. And in every way they are as disparate as any other group of individuals in terms of ethnic and racial background, religion, geographic location, and income. Given this diversity, it is important to remember that each child needs to be viewed as an individual with unique needs.

      Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees visually impaired students a “free and appropriate public education,” children who are blind or visually impaired still face many challenges educationally. There is a worsening shortage of personnel who are trained to teach children with visual impairments, and in addition many of these children receive their textbooks and learning materials late if they get them at all. AFB is committed to addressing these critical issues on the local, state, and national level.

      NOAA is working with a different project , Science on a Sphere.

      Full disclosure. I am working with a group to bring this project to the attention of professors training teachers.

      I live in DC so I can walk to several of these new ways of displaying knowledge. The SANT Hall of Science is one wonderful display, but it is also used at Goddard NASA for space science education. Science On a Sphere (SOS)® is a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe.

      If you ever taught Earth Science… you can sit in the Smtthsonian and wonder how can they learn this so fast. Plate Tectontics, an understanding of fault lines and so on. Unbelievable visualization and modeling.

      Bonnie Bracey Sutton

  6. “What about actually feeling the data — doing something with a haptic mouse for example.”

    That’s what I had in mind but expressed badly with “a kind of pseudo braille pad where the points would stand for characters and events instead of letters”.

    An audio-only game would be fascinating for non-blind people too, I think – but would exclude the deaf. However, an audio-only version of an existing deaf-accessible game – or viceversa, starting from the audio-only game and producing a version accessible to the deaf from it – would such solutions be more easily feasible than the tactile translation?

    • Interesting discussion. But I am just a newbie to the upper levels of gaming, though I have had several types of classes and mashups, as Ray said , this topic was not one of the things I learned. But at there was the discussion. That would be another interview and another person.


    • Computers Assisting The Handicapped

      Much more than I know, but explanations.

      The problem with the schools and technology for students is the same problem in regular education. There has been little in the way of teacher/administrator involvement.
      A lot of regular students are on a digital dark road.

      Assistive Technology is emerging but through foundations for the most part. There are funded state programs to help teachers and students understand the tools available.

      When I worked on the NIIAC, the World Institute on Disability convened a meeting to share best practices, products and devices. Here is their web page.

      At NCSA I heard a lecture by a Dr. Mark Humayun uses a small external camera to transmit images to an implanted 4 mm x 5 mm retina chip with 16 electrodes, which is positioned near the ganglion cell layer of the eye. Six blind patients have been implanted with the device, one has had a device installed for more than three years. All images: USC/Doheny.

      On a plane ride I saw a video in which they showed how some vision was restored to Stevie Wonder.. but I did not know the name of the movie, or the research scientist who created the movie.. nor was I able to track down the video.

      By Richard Adhikari
      12/31/09 5:00 AM PT

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed technology that could help fight blindness. It’s aimed at the millions of people impacted by two of the major causes of blindness: age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa.

      The MIT project is one of several that use a physical prosthesis — a chip implanted directly into or onto the eyeball, coupled with a pair of electronic glasses that provide assistance. ( eye chip).

      Bonnie Bracey Sutton

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