(The CFP closed on November 4, 2013)

Digital Media and Learning Conference 2014 Connecting Practices


Boston, Massachusetts
March 6-8, 2014

Conference Chair:
Nichole Pinkard (DePaul University)
Conference Committee:
Elizabeth C. Babcock (California Academy of Sciences)
Angela Booker (University of California, Davis)
Eric Gordon (Emerson College/ Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University)
Philipp Schmidt (Massachusetts Institute of Technology/P2PU)

Today’s networked and digital media demand that we reimagine the where, when and how of educational practice. In an era of online affinity groups, Q&A forums, Wikipedia, and MOOCs of different sizes and shapes, learners are encountering an abundance of choice, and learning is unshackled from conventional institutional bases, credentials, pathways, and players. Educators and learning institutions are facing a new landscape of challenges and opportunities. Researchers are struggling to define new objects of study and connect to an evolving set of practices and design challenges.

It is more important than ever that the DML community finds shared educational and societal values to rally around. How do we build new alliances and coalitions that will break down the walls between formal and informal learning, between diverse communities, and between research and practice? We need to reach beyond the roles we occupy as teachers, librarians, mentors, designers, researchers, and organizers to pursue a common purpose. We can’t default to given disciplinary identities, institutional roles, and well-worn forms of educational practice; we need to challenge each other to reconsider and reposition the contributions we can make to educational reform that will serve the needs of all learners. This year’s conference calls on all of us to build shared agendas and goals to reach across the boundaries that separate our disciplines, fields, institutions, and sectors.


We welcome panels, workshops and short talks along five themes listed below:

Connecting Learning Institutions: Building Learning Ecologies and Pathways

Chair: Elizabeth C. Babcock
Despite the sheer variety and number of learning spaces and channels available to youth today, connected learning experiences are often inadvertently restricted to youth who have parents, mentors, and peers who can help them locate and access high-quality programs. Informal and formal learning organizations such as schools, museums, libraries, and after-school programs sometimes focus on their own audiences without understanding or appreciating how youth move between their organizations and between different interests and opportunities. This siloed approach can result in barriers to access, fragmented learning, and missed opportunities for the youth in our communities.

Learning institutions are exploring new forms of collaboration, connection, and networked media use in order to address these barriers and fragmentation. For example, several communities and regions have set up learning networks of informal and formal learning organizations committed to linking their programmatic offerings for youth. Innovative schools continue to develop ways of connecting their students to offerings in the wider community. Online platforms offer new ways of finding, linking, and delivering programming; while badges and alternative credentialing can make learning visible and relevant across institutional boundaries.

Building networks, connectivity, and visibility between learning institutions requires extreme collaboration and a willingness to put the needs of the learner at the forefront of program design. This strategy has profound implications, for the ways in which partnerships are organized, how institutional agendas need to be negotiated, how learning experiences need be linked, the types of program staff that need to be hired, and the approaches by which success can be measured collectively. This track invites case studies that explore the format, design and evolution of such learning networks and collaborative models, as well as accounts that illustrate the intended and unexpected outcomes emerging from this type of multi-layered and complex collaboration.

Beyond Youth Voice: Transforming Adults, Youth, and Systems for Inclusive Social Change

Chair: Angela Booker
In recent years, youth media and media production have yielded a wide range of positive opportunities and outcomes that touch on multiple spheres of participation: creative expression, political organizing and democratic practice, knowledge development, social critiques, discipline-based investigations, etc. The needs for a “youth voice” component within youth media, and access to networked communities have been fully declared. At the same time, critiques have been raised that caution against techno-enthusiasm, highlight the persistence of systemic injustice and inequity, reveal the politics of access, and question long-term implications of this work. Because youth media and media production touch such a broad range of spheres (creative, technical, economic, social, geographic), there is a critical opportunity to engage multiple perspectives on the potential for revolutionary change in the face of persistent and growing inequality.

This track takes a provocative stance by inviting panels that will generate debate about the place of youth media and youth voice in systemic change processes. Panels that can engage shared questions and surface distinct commitments or paradigms are welcomed, from multidisciplinary research perspectives and/or varied orientations toward practice-based work with youth. Such debates might address community-based learning and systemic schooling, learning as a mode of humanization or as a driver of economic competition, etc. Where are youth media makers diverging and disagreeing about the nature and possibilities of digital media for communities and systems of social organization? What are the key critiques we need to take up in order to move forward in theory and practice? How is youth voice impacting the broader discourse of change? How can youth media and media production expand or clarify notions of equity, diversity, and justice? These questions are posed as loose guides to invite lively debate and dialogue that pushes us to consider how together we can build on our existing successes to push towards systemic change.

Playing for Keeps: Gameful Design for Real-World Action and Social Change

Chair: Eric Gordon
Games are fun. They can teach. They can connect people and compel them to participate in new things. They can also help facilitate public processes, motivate people to organize politically, and cultivate personal or community practices that can save lives. This track explores how teachers, organizations, and/or loosely joined networks of players are using games to make a difference in the world. How are people playing games to produce consensus, source ideas, or to organize/collaborate towards political or social change? How are organizations (governments, NGOs, schools) practically incorporating play into the “seriousness” of their work? And what are the practical or perceptual barriers to using games to get civic “work” done?  When the outcomes of a game are tied to externalities of social and political life, do they challenge the assumed “magic circle” of play that theoretically sits outside of the rules of everyday life? This track invites case studies, projects, critical questions, and theoretical assertions that explore the interconnections between play, games, and the “work” of civic, social and political life.

Learning Identities and Pathways for All: Serving Non-Dominant Youth

Chair: Nichole Pinkard
Every day, youth are engaged in learning experiences that build upon prior understandings, reveal emergent interests, and deepen existing passions. The entry points to involvement are multiple: self-navigated, through friends, with assistance from parents, teachers, and mentors, and even by chance. Over time, these individual experiences can coalesce to shape specific learning pathways that lead to the development of hobbies, identities, skill sets, relationships, and careers that provide on-ramps to expanded futures and better life outcomes.

We have powerful examples of engaging non-dominant youth in technology-powered, interest-driven pathways, but we struggle with more systemic and sustained change. What kinds of research—longitudinal, and focused on broader structural issues—can help us understand the bridges and barriers to supporting learning pathways for non-dominant youth? What kinds of technology infrastructures, affinity spaces, activities and practices can broaden access to these pathways in a sustained and meaningful way?

This track seeks case studies, papers, demonstrations, designs and theoretical frameworks, that contribute to making learning pathways more visible, tangible, and accessible for youth and the adults in their lives. Particular consideration will be given to submissions that focus on design principles that address issues of culture, identity, and social capital for groups historically under-represented in digital practices and related learning pathways.

Open Technologies for Learning: Putting the Learners in Charge

Chair: Philipp Schmidt
The tools we use shape the way we learn. The Internet’s fundamental openness turns it into an amazing tool for learning. As an open platform, it enables new ways to connect, to collaborate, and to learn with others. We can find people who are equally passionate about the topics we are interested in, however unique these interests may be. We can pose questions to communities and to peers, and receive answers within seconds. And we can share our work with thousands, to get feedback and encouragement, or to let others build on it.

Yet so much online learning still looks like the old classroom model. Every learner is expected to learn the same things. Lectures are delivered and consumed. And standardized tests measure the ability to remember and repeat.

In this track, we will highlight innovations and innovators that make learning work like the open web. We invite those who seek to raise questions about the learning design in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and seek inspiration from projects that offer new, novel ways to think and define teaching and learning, as well as applications that place the learner in charge of navigating the vast and abundant learning opportunities of the open web.

This year we will be accepting proposals in three formats: panels, workshops, and short talks.

Panels typically include four participants or presentations representing a range of ideas and topics together in discussion. Panels are scheduled for 90 minutes and are ideally comprised of a mix of individuals working in areas of research, theory, and practice. We also encourage the use of discussants.

Workshops provide an opportunity for hands-on exploration and/or problem solving. They can be organized around a core challenge that participants come together to work on, or around a tool, platform, or concept. Workshops are scheduled for 90 minutes and should be highly participatory.

Finally, we welcome short, ten-minute talks where presenters speak for ten minutes on their work, research, or a subject relevant to the conference theme and/or sub-themes. The conference committee will organize panels comprised of four to five short talks centered around a common theme. This year, we will also combine panels, workshops, and individual talks to create thematic sessions.

Note: Proposals for Ignite sessions will be announced in January 2014.

The DML2014 Conference proposal system is now open and full proposals will be due on November 4, 2013. To enter a submission, participants will be required to register with Fastapps at, the submission system at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Participants will be able to edit their proposals up until that final deadline.

Panel and Workshop proposal abstracts should cover the theme, format (e.g. discussion, interactive, presentations), how the session addresses the theme of the conference, and/or sub-theme in 500 words or less.

Short talk abstracts should cover the theme, format (e.g. discussion, interactive, presentations), how the talk addresses the theme of the conference and/or sub-theme in 250 words or less.

Lists of participants, affiliations, emails, and titles of talks/presentations (if applicable) should also be included. We will not be soliciting full papers or publishing conference proceedings.

Technology needs must be outlined in the proposal. All conference rooms will be equipped with standard Wi-Fi broadband service, AV projection, and sound. You will need to provide your own laptop and VGA adapters. Should you require additional bandwidth capacity or special arrangements (for example, ability to conduct Skype calls during your presentation, demo games, engage participants in heavy multiple-media use), please state so in your proposal.

Note that each applicant will be limited to participation on no more than two panels at the conference.

Accepted participants will be expected to pay for conference registration, and to fund their own travel and accommodation.

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