Let's use tech to close the education gap, not widen it: Mimi Ito - Technical.ly Philly


Apr. 3, 2017 10:55 am

Let’s use tech to close the education gap, not widen it: Mimi Ito

The researcher came to Philadelphia last month as part of Drexel ExCITe's speaker series.

Participants add to the conversation on learning innovation before Mimi Ito's talk at the Drexel ExCITe Conversation Series.

(Photo via Twitter)

Mimi Ito is challenging the common conception that games and social media detract from learning. At her talk late last month at the Academy of Natural Sciences, she spoke of her vision for technology to close the gap in education inequity rather than widen it.

The latest speaker in the ExCITe Conversations Series after former Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, Ito currently serves as a professor in residence and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning of the University of California, Irvine. She also cofounded a global online Minecraft community called Connected Camps, with year-round, summer and girls-only coding camps.

Ito acknowledged the increasing desire to engage students with technology, but pointed out problems in how it’s often done: “Simply providing technology is not enough to engage kids,” she said.

She has also written about this on BoingBoing: “To become real coders, kids need ongoing social support from peers and mentors, and hands-on projects and activities. In the learning sciences, we call this kind of social, project-based and relevant learning ‘connected learning.’”

We want technology innovation to close socioeconomic gaps for students (left), but it often only widens the gap (right).

We want technology innovation to close socioeconomic gaps for students (left), but it often only widens the gap (right). (Photo via Twitter)

An audience member tweeted a question on how cultural change in educators can be triggered to change perceptions of gaming and social media, and Ito cited the success and changing perceptions of Minecraft. “Having games that are non-violent, creative and popular — that will help,” she said.


Drexel University School of Education professor Brian Smith, who helped bring Ito to Drexel ExCITe, said Ito’s research as part of a newer movement: “A lot of research in learning sciences used to be ‘in-school stuff versus out-of-school stuff,’ and Ito is helping bridge the gap by saying that it’s not different stuff.”

Indeed, Ito frames her research as an opportunity for everyone to participate in the mission of better education for all.

“In an era of abundance of social connection and information, it means all of us are part of the solution of learning,” she said.

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