Since 2006, Mobile Digital Arts has used film and video to document best practices inside of schools and out – with a special emphasis on the ways that today’s gadgets and applications are used by young people to produce media, collaborate, and more actively engage in social and civic life.
Working exclusively in educational environments of all kinds, Mobile Digital Arts produces lively, vibrant films and videos that celebrate best practices, great teaching, innovation, and reform. Its work is designed to explain, start and nudge conversations, and advocate for the best ideas in education and learning.
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This series of videos features young people engaging in interest-driven STEM activities. There are many themes here: the learning power of failure, the resourcefulness and determination that derives from interest-driven work, creative problem solving, the value of leveraging informal educational organizations, and the potential for enabling a broad range of ways to share knowledge and expertise.
Eighth-grader Quin uses his passion for electronics to teach fellow students about 3D printing, arduinos, and other hands-on lessons in STEM skills.
An after-school program at a local science museum sparked high school student Mariah’s passion for teaching and learning about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Now she thrives in an internship where she mentors middle school kids.
Have you ever tried making music with potatoes? What about conducting electricity with your hands? Jay Silver, MIT PhD and the co-inventor of Makey Makey, shows how hacking everyday objects can help students practice curiosity and invention.
Members of the Loseke family use STEM skills each day to run their ranching business. See how Elisabeth, Erika, and Cort apply these skills in everything from veterinary science and nutrition, to agriculture and meteorology.
Building robots inspires such passion in high school seniors Violet and Kjersti that they’ve begun mentoring younger robotics teams to teach STEM skills — and save their school’s robotics program.
Texas 10-year-old Rhys uses Gamestar Mechanic to program and create worlds to play in, learning valuable skills in science, technology, engineering, and math along the way.
These videos show young people engaged in deep learning and creative problem solving around projects and passions that interest them. Many themes emerge: the power of leading with youth interest, sourcing both on-and offline communities for knowledge and expertise, and bridging in school with out.
High school student Shayanna develops her talents at Youth Speaks, a nonprofit that creates a safe space for young people to explore writing and performance skills in the service of bettering their communities.
Math used to be a struggle for 14-year-old Kathryn, until she fell in love with cars and started a hands-on project to build her own. Now the math matters and makes sense, and a whole new world of learning has opened up for her.
High school student Pierre combined biology, math, economics, and more to transform his campus greenhouse into a sustainable aquaponic system that provides fresh vegetables for the cafeteria.
Skate veteran and educator Bill Robertson, also known as “Dr. Skateboard,” teaches students who might have otherwise fallen through the cracks about speed, velocity, and momentum at the local skate park.
These videos highlight the benefits of setting opportunities for learning and problem solving in the world outside of school. Young people start with a known problem and work together to brainstorm, design, and implement solutions.
Teens in Philadelphia learn how to solve math and engineering problems while working together to build high-efficiency homes designed for disaster relief, as part of an alternative senior year program called the Workshop School.
Sixteen-year-old Alexa gains hands-on experience and leadership skills by collaborating on a play space for kids through Philadelphia’s Public Workshop, which promotes community engagement and innovation.
At People Serving People, a homeless shelter in Minneapolis, local design firms and educators work together to show kids how design thinking can help them make a difference in their neighborhoods.
THINKING ABOUT LEARNING
The twelve first-person films that make up this series explore three related themes – student-centered learning, technology and learning, and social equity and justice – each in its own way at the center of current debate about what works, and what’s needed, to help students succeed during school and in life.
Larry Rosenstock describes a vision for educaton that blends the head, the heart, and the hands. High Tech High embraces learning that flows from personal interests, passion for discovery and a celebration of art, technology and craftsmanship.
Notschool.net director Jean Johnson describes how and why Notschool works, and two of her researchers – Jamie and Jake – show how it has helped them turn their lives around.
David T.C. Ellis recalls how his personal story led to the realization that music can entice young people to become lifelong learners. Hip Hop High invites kids back to school to rap, write, produce and perform.
Architect Randall Fielding demonstrates the connection between where and how students learn in the 21st century.
Steve Barr describes how Green Dot, a charter school network in Los Angeles, is using the takeover of Locke High School to show how small schools with high expectations can fundamentally change how public education is delivered.
Veteran educator George McKenna ruminates on the fundamental ingredients of effective teaching – making direct connections with students, never giving up on them, and embracing teaching as a high calling.
Doug McCurry describes the ingredients that make Achievement First’s schools work: excellent teachers, high expectations, school choice, and a school culture that makes learning possible.
Veteran San Francisco principal James Dierke proves that leadership, tenacity, consistency, teamwork, and an array of student-focused programs lay the groundwork for success in an inner-city middle school.
Eliot Soloway and Cathy Norris take a road trip through Texas and Louisiana to see firsthand how mobile devices are being used in schools.
Yong Zhao, a university professor, argues for giving kids room to innovate by following their passions, not subscribing to a set of rules and interests dictated to them from the outside.
Stephen Heppell makes his way through London, describing his vision for schools, meeting with kids at the Be Very Afraid conference, and exploring ideas for classroom design in a technology pilot school in Teddington.
Alan November challenges some of the accepted wisdom about technology in schools and proposes a scheme for enabling students to become more active participants in a 21st century classroom.
DIGITAL MEDIA AND LEARNING
These films present profiles of the leading thinkers and researchers who are examining the role that digital media plays in young people’s lives. Each of our profilees see digital media – social networks, online games and media production – as the transformational tools of the 21st century. They enable all of us – but young people especially – to pursue interests, form networks, interact with experts, and communicate in new ways.
Games scholar Constance Steinkuehler describes how games are well designed for learning and to capture interests.
University of Madison’s Kurt Squire makes the connection between video games, learning, and civic participation.
The National Writing Project’s Elyse Eidman-Aadahl talks about how new digital tools are extending our ability to tell stories and to communicate across time and space.
Joseph Kahne, Professor of Education at Mills College, discusses the affect of digital and new media practices on political participation.
Diana Rhoten, Formerly Program Director, Digital Media and Learning at the Social Science Research Center and currently Associate Partner and Design for Change Lead at IDEO, describes the role that digital media can play in helping young people explore their interests especially when deployed at informal learning environments like museums and libraries.
Nichole Pinkard, founder of the Digital Youth Network and associate professor of computing and digital media at DePaul University, describes the importance of media literacy as an essential component of a 21st century education.
Katie Salen Tekinbas, professor at the DePaul University College of Computing and Digital Media and founder of the Institute of Play, describes the importance of designing games as a way to engage students in the exploration of systems.
John Seely Brown, Co-chair, Deloitte Center for the Edge and Visiting Scholar, University of Southern California, describes the importance of play, tinkering, and the new role that collaboration and collective expertise – all made possible by digital media – will have in solving complex problems in a constantly changing world.
James Paul Gee, Professor of Literacy Studies in the Department of English at Arizona State University, describes how complex gaming environments can help young people solve problems and innovate in a world that is constantly changing.
Henry Jenkins, a leading media scholar at the University of Southern California, describes digital media’s role in creating greater opportunities for creativity, civic engagement and political participation.
Mimi Ito of the University of California, Irvine, describes how new media practices are transforming the ways that young people interact, play, collaborate and learn outside of school.
In the summer of 2015, Mobile Digital Arts documented a series of workshops for teachers that were held in Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Each workshop focused on a practice – citizen science, design thinking, or problem-based learning for example – that teachers could take directly back to the classroom.
Teachers are introduced to the practices of the Exploratory, a Los Angeles-based maker space dedicated to developing and producing education products, services, environments and curricula that provide children opportunities to sustain the love of discovery, celebrate the rigors of inquisitive, joyful learning and become students of innovation, prepared to solve future global challenges. The Tinkering and Making toolkit can be found on Learning is Open here.
Teachers are introduced to a design thinking protocol called D3 – Dream It, Design It, Do It. D3 was a co-developed program of CommonStudio and the New Learning Institute. The Design Thinking toolkit can be found on Learning Is Open here.
Teachers participate in a workshop designed and implemented by the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, an applied research lab reimagining civic engagement in a digital culture. The Engagement Games toolkit can be found on Learning is Open here.
The California Academy of Sciences offered San Francisco’s teachers the opportunity to learning about and engage in a workshop about how to use citizen science with students. The California Academy of Scinece citizen science toolkit can be found on Learning is Open here.
This workshop combines design thinking with problem-based learning to help teachers think more critically about how to invite their students to address Detroit’s most pressing issues. The problem-based learning toolkit can be found on Learning is Open here.
Teachers participate in game based workshop to help them think about how to constructively connect the real world to the classroom.
STRONG PERFORMERS AND SUCCESSFUL REFORMERS IN EDUCATION
After the 2009 PISA assessment, a test that measures the language and math competence of 15-year olds around the world, Mobile Digital Arts was commissioned to profile 12 countries that were high performers or had improved significantly since the PISA assessment in 2006.
Flemish education authorities set minimum attainment targets for school students and impose regular inspections to ensure that schools comply.
In a centralized system dogged by uneven teacher quality, poor infrastructure, and low student commitment, Brazil is using benchmarking to identify problems and drive reform.
Provincial governments run education in Canada, and Ontario shows how high-school students can do well whatever their family background, first language, or place of birth.
A drive by Shanghai authorities to help low performing schools and students took the city’s secondary-school students to top place in the 2009 PISA tests.
Finland’s schools are well integrated in communities and teachers are highly committed to making it a top PISA performer with little variation among students of different backgrounds.
The 2001 “PISA shock” sparked a nationwide debate in Germany about the nation’s school system and how to improve it.
Building on strong traditional values and the achievements of a high-quality education system, Japanese education authorities are encouraging more independent thinking and discussion in classrooms in order to help students develop 21st century problem-solving skills.
Building on the successes of its fast-developing ICT sector, Korea is using digital technology to stimulate a creative approach to learning that gives students access to education materials wherever and whenever they want.
Dutch education authorities are striving to ensure high student performance by raising teachers’ professional qualifications and enhancing their teaching skills.
Poland overhauled its school system, raising performance to similar levels to the United States and Norway, despite spending less than half of what those countries spend on education.
Faced with widespread underperformance and inequalities of opportunity and outcomes, Portugal is reorganizing and modernizing its school network, grouping schools in “clusters” that offer better facilities for all.
A strong education system has enabled Singapore to develop a modern vibrant economy. Well trained and highly motivated teachers are central to its success.