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January 09 2012


Daily Must Reads, Jan. 9, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Nathan Gibbs

1. Walking while texting: A guide for safety and etiquette (New York Times)

2. Glam Media will test appetite for digital-media IPOs (Advertising Age)

3. CES loses clout as as industry shifts (New York Times)

4. How people watch TV online and off (TechCrunch)

Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!

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July 28 2011


Is Digital Education a Luxury for At-Risk Youth?

For schools in low-income communities, the idea of investing money, time, and energy into a digital media program or mobile-learning program might seem superfluous. Administrators and teachers already have so much to contend with — safety issues in high-crime communities, chronic student truancies, debilitating health issues due to poverty, families in constant state of flux, not to mention blocked access to wide swaths of the Internet.

In those cases, the idea of investing precious dollars or the attention of already overtaxed administrators seems unlikely.

But what if some of these very issues could be solved by creative ways of using digital technology in schools? That’s the argument coming from S. Craig Watkins, author of The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future, and a professor of sociology, African American studies and radio-television-film at The University of Texas at Austin.

“My concern is that as schools are now struggling with budget cuts, digital media and digital literacy is looked as a luxury as opposed to a necessity,” Watkins says. “I understand the enormous pressure that teachers and administrators are under, especially in the public school system. But we need to build a more compelling narrative that digital literacy is no longer a luxury but a necessity.”


Watkins points to research from the recent Horizon Report, as well as the pilot study with Project K-Nect, which clearly show the benefits of engaging students (even those considered “at-risk”) through mobile phone programs and curriculum.

“They're already seeing the potential of mobile devices in science, art, and math classes,” Watkins says. “So it’s no longer a theoretical conversation — it's already happening, but only in ‘islands of innovation.’ The real challenge is, are those opportunities to encounter those types of learning being evenly distributed?”

Probably not, he says. So even though studies have shown that kids in communities that are considered marginalized are actively online with their mobile phones, and we’re seeing plenty of evidence showing the benefits of mobile technologies in learning, the discussion around the achievement gap gets pulled back into the “no money” conversation.


Beyond just allowing kids to use their mobile phones in schools rather than telling them to shut it off — which is already a blasphemous idea in most schools — Watkins argues in a recent article on his blog that at-risk students need to be taught how to use these important tech tools beyond just texting and posting updates on Facebook.

“The educational environments that will thrive, the ones that will be the most innovative, and the ones that have most impact will be the ones that create opportunities for kids to create digital media literacies that we all recognize as important and that have social implications, educational implications and civic implications, as well,” he says. “So we have to equip kids with skills that help them not just to consume, but to become architects of their information environment and that requires different skills in using mobile devices and using the Internet.”

Watkins witnessed the powerful impact of helping low-income kids use technology to create digital tools that are directly relevant to them: A group of high school students who were charged with designing a playable game about green technology and green architecture.

“Every single day during one of the hottest summers on record, they showed up enthusiastic, and with very little involvement from teachers, created this game,” he said. “The whole project was student-centered, totally collaborative, and it was pretty incredible to see.”

But could a short-term, summertime project result in any kind of lasting impact on these kids’ lives after the project is over?

“For some, it will ignite passion for learning that will translate to the formal learning space,” he says. “They felt like it was a powerful experience and one they could take with them into other endeavors. It gave them confidence, self-efficacy as learner. They felt like they'd developed a new skill, but more broadly, it influenced their disposition towards learning and as learners.”

All of which points to the importance of teaching students how to create content — not just consume, play with, or pass along to friends.

In continuing his work in this realm, Watkins is working on a number of initiatives.

  • Knowing the depth of impact of digital literacy on low-income kids, Watkins is now focusing his efforts on figuring out how to connect these skills to what he calls “civic outcomes” — issues that have a direct bearing on disenfranchised communities. “To teach them how to become community activists, and showing them how technology can be a powerful tool in problem-solving,” he says, such as conducting original research about health challenges in their communities, such as H.I.V., diabetes, asthma — “problems they face in real and tangible ways.”
  • With support from the MacArthur Foundation, Watkins and Mimi Ito, among others will be embarking on a three-year study that examines how kids from low-income communities are “craftily navigating the digital world.” “What are the learning outcomes, what are the learning potentials, what are the obstacles?” he asks. In addition to a national survey of up to 1,000 people, there will be three case studies involving 100 to 150 students in four areas: Austin, Boulder, Southern California, and London.

Tina Barseghian is the editor of KQED's MindShift, an NPR website about the future of education. In the past, she's worked as the executive editor of Edutopia, a magazine published by the George Lucas Education Foundation, as well as an editor at O'Reilly Media and CMP Media. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

mindshift-logo-100x100.pngThis post originally appeared on KQED's MindShift, which explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education. Follow MindShift on Twitter @mindshiftKQED and on Facebook.

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January 16 2010


4 Minute Roundup: Text Donations to Haiti; Google.cn Uncensored

Here's the latest 4MR audio report from MediaShift. In this week's edition, I look at the way social media and text-to-donate has helped to transform charitable giving in Haiti after the earthquake. Plus, Google announced it would stop censoring its search site in China after having Gmail accounts of dissidents and free speech proponents hacked there. And I ask Just One Question to Tribune Media's Kate O'Hare (@KateOH) to see if time slots still matter for TV shows.

Check it out:


Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Haiti in Rubble - Marketers, Aid Groups Rush To Help at MediaPost

Mobile giving to help Haiti exceeds $7 million at MSNBC

In Haiti earthquake coverage, social media gives victim a voice at Guardian

Haiti and New Media - How NPR is Using Twitter and Facebook To Report on the Earthquake at BayNewser

Social media help find quake survivors at CBC

Haiti - Search for missing loved ones leads friends and relatives online at LA Times

Best Online Resources for Following Haiti News, Taking Action at PBS MediaShift

A new approach to China at the Official Google Blog

What's at Stake With Google's Threat to Withdraw From China? at ClickZ

Why Google Wasn't Winning in China Anyway at AdAge

White House, Beijing Joust Over Censorship at WSJ (paid subscription required)

Why Google is quitting China at Silicon Dragon

Conan O'Brien Statement - I Will Not Follow Jay at Huffington Post

Here's a graphical view of the most recent MediaShift survey results. The question was: "What do you think about 3D TV?"

3d tv grab.jpg

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about Google and China:

What do you think about Google's intent to run an uncensored site in China?(online surveys)

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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January 15 2010


Best Online Resources for Following Haiti News, Taking Action

In the face of devastating news happening far away, there is comfort in making connection. And those connections often are made online, among strangers, who are sharing video, photos, stories or just tweets, about the devastation around them. Such is the case in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a city that was devastated by an earthquake last Tuesday, with tens of thousands feared dead.

While Twitter has had a growing role as a first-responder medium with breaking news, that role has grown this week into a major booster for giving. When the Red Cross said people could donate $10 by texting the word "Haiti" to 90999, those instructions were passed along virally via Twitter, helping to raise more than $5 million for relief efforts. The Yele Haiti Foundation similarly used text messaging to raise more than $1 million; you can donate $5 by texting the word "Yele" to 501501. A search on Google's real-time feed from Twitter for "90999" brings up more than 48,000 results, meaning it's been mentioned in that many tweets.

And the spirit of giving became infectious online. The cell carriers said they wouldn't be taking their customary cuts of those charges, nor would they charge users for sending the text messages. Even the credit card companies got into the act, waiving their fees for donations to Haiti. Plus, I noticed at one point today that the home pages of the major U.S. cable networks had removed their most lucrative ad slots and replaced them with Haiti relief pitches. (Commercial ads came back later tonight.)

The only downside to all this kindness was the confusion that so many free offers brought. According to AdAge, UPS offered "in-kind services to Haiti," which somehow became interpreted to mean that people could send free packages to Haiti if they were less than $50 in cost. When American Airlines offered free miles for donations to the Red Cross, people misinterpreted that to mean free flights. "It was misinformation that got picked up, and we got information back out on Twitter saying that it wasn't the case," an American spokeswoman told AdAge.

With so many people missing in Haiti and communication systems down, social media has played a surprising role of life-saver in some cases. The CBC reported that a Montreal woman got a Facebook message from someone in Haiti saying that their neighbor was trapped in rubble next door. The Montreal woman contacted the Red Cross and the neighbor was eventually saved. These are the stories that give us hope, even when we're thousands of miles removed from the disaster zone.

Online Resources

Here's a list of online resources to follow the news, tweets, find missing people, see satellite imagery, and take action to help out in Haiti.

Special sites and pages

Wikipedia page on 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Miami Herald's Disaster in Haiti

Ushahidi's 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

Global Voices Online Haiti Earthquake

Huffington Post's Haiti Earthquake

CNN's Voices from Haiti reports on the ground

Twitter feeds

Red Cross




Wyclef Jean








Twitter lists and searches

NY Times haiti-earthquake

LA Times haiti-quake

FoxNews haiti-earthquake

CNNbrk haiti

MSNBC's BreakingNews haiti-quake

Google real-time search results for #haiti

Facebook pages

Earthquake Haiti

Haiti Earthquake Relief

Support the Victims of the Earthquake in Haiti

Photo Sets

Boston.com's The Big Picture Haiti 48 hours later

Google Maps with satellite image overlay

Google Earth Library's links to satellite images

BBC's Haiti after the earthquake (from GeoEye)

International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Society Flickr set (not Creative Commons; must get permission to use)

boy gets treatment.jpg

UN Development Program Flickr set (under Creative Commons)

Disasters Emergency Committee Flickr set (all rights reserved, mainly from Reuters)

NPR's Photo Gallery


YouTube's CitizenTube channel

YouTube videos geo-tagged in Haiti

iReport videos on Haiti earthquake

Take action

Google crisis response page with various ways to donate

CNN Impact

FoxNews How to Help

Huffington Post's How You Can Help

NPR's How to Help

Find people

Miami Herald's Haiti Connect

Red Cross FamilyLinks for Haiti

CBC Help people find loved ones


This list will be updated over the coming weeks, so please add in your own favorite online resources in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

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