Thanks to Yuri for pointing out Slashdot's coverage of the announcement of our big Macarthur grant.

Of course, the Slashdotters by and large got it very, very wrong. Slashdot is full of people saying things like 'we need more teachers over more computers' and 'technology in the classroom is a waste of time.' But this is not a study about adding high technology to the classroom. Not at all.

Let me sum it up in two points, the first research-related and the second applied:

1. There is practically no research on how youth in the United States use, perceive, and value ICTs. It's a gigantic gap. We aim to fill it. How can we design learning technologies that work unless we understand the real relationships between youth, formal and informal learning, social networks, games & play, etc.?
2. Educational technology has been stagnant since about 1990. There have been practically no new developments in teaching software. Through our study we hope to provide the ammunition to develop educational software that works, and which capitalizes on the new, digital, networked environment in which many kids are growing up.

We do not advocate high-tech when low-tech is what we need. We do not advocate replacing teachers with computers. What we aim to do, in fact, is to address many of the concerns that the Slashdotters wrote about. Much of ICT in education today is useless or perceived as useless because it is not informed by the ways that kids actually use and view technology, and it does not recognize the ways that kids learning happens outside of the classroom through informal learning and social networks.

At our kickoff meeting the other day, Mimi Ito, one of the project PIs, put it this way (I paraphrase): a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea that the schools are no longer the gatekeepers of growing up. (end paraphrase) But kids are doing it themselves. The solution isn't to reinvent schools or kids lives, but rather to learn to integrate the two.