Officials from the nonprofit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced that the organization has set aside a $50 million grant to be dispersed over five years to help examine the impact of technology on children and the ways in which they learn, both inside and outside the classroom.
At a press conference today, MacArthur president Jonathan Fanton announced that some of this money has already been allocated for specific projects, such as a new portal website
on digital media and learning, as well as a series of six online and print books covering a range of digital media and learning topics. The foundation will also allocate $2 million annually starting next year for projects dedicated to research, writing and demonstration projects.
Fanton also announced the first in an upcoming series of papers on digital learning topics, authored by MIT Professor Henry Jenkins, which according to representatives will “describe a participatory culture for young people and addresses the potential benefits and educational implications.”
The MacArthur Foundation has already provided grants in the field of digital media and learning, including research at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Southern California, both of which are conducting studies of young people and their relationship with technology. The university researchers plan to examine technology's influence on their social networks and peer groups, their family life, how they play, and how they look for information.
Other funded research includes the development of “Game Designer” by the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Laboratory at The University of Wisconsin-Madison. This software aims to afford students the ability to create their own games, while at the same time educating them on topics such as ethical judgment, aesthetic design, systemic thinking, and collaborative problem solving.
“This is the first generation to grow up digital – coming of age in a world where computers, the internet, videogames, and cell phones are common, and where expressing themselves through these tools is the norm,” commented Fanton. “Given how present these technologies are in their lives, do young people act, think and learn differently today?”
He added: “And what are the implications for education and for society? MacArthur will encourage this discussion, fund research, support innovation, and engage those who can make judgments about these difficult but critical questions.”