This month, winners are being announced for the third annual MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition, who will share over $1.7 million in funding to pioneer the use of games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, and social networks in education and learning.

Launched in collaboration with President Obama’s Educate to Innovate Initiative, the Learning Lab Designer Awards will fund learning environments and digital media-based experiences that encourage young people to grapple with social challenges using activities rooted in the social nature, contexts, and ideas of science, technology, engineering, and math. The Game Changers Awards, to be announced at this month’s Games for Change Festival in New York, will recognize creative levels designed for either LittleBigPlanet™ or Spore™ Galactic Adventures that offer young people learning opportunities and engaging game play. 

The Learning Lab Designer competition challenged designers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers to create learning labs: digital environments that promote building and tinkering in new and innovative ways. The ten winners announced earlier this month included a project to show youth-produced videos on 2,200 Los Angeles city buses; the next generation of a graphical programming language that allows young people to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations; and an online game that teaches kids the environmental impact of their personal choices.

  • Conservation Connection: Using webcasting, video blogging and social networking sites, this project connects kids from Chicago’s West Side with kids in Fiji to work together to protect Fijian coral reefs;
  • Mobile Action Lab: Combining the expertise of social entrepreneurs and technologists and the knowledge and ideas of Oakland, CA-based teens, this project helps develop mobile phone applications that serve Oakland communities.
  • Click! The Online Spy School: Designed to encourage girls in the sciences, Click!Online is a web-based, augmented reality game for teen girls to solve mysteries in biomedical science, environmental protection, and expressive technology.

“Digital technologies are helping us to re-imagine learning,” said Connie Yowell, MacArthur’s Director of Education. “In the digital age, the learning environment is turned on its head—it’s no longer just the dynamic of the student, the teacher and the curriculum. Today, kids learn and interact with others—even from around the world—every time they go online, or play a video game, or engage through a social networking site. This Competition is helping us to identify and nurture the creation of learning environments that are relevant for kids today and will prepare them for a 21st century workforce.”

The competition is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and administered by the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) and is just one part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative. The initiative also supports empirical research projects to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. For the past few years, these findings, reports, and white papers have been published by MIT Press Journals, and many are available for free online. A few titles are even available for the Kindle:

Click here for more Digital Media and Learning Intitiative publications available for free online.
Click here for more information about previous Learning Lab Designer winners.
Click here for more detailed information about the Digital Media and Competition.