EDU Talks: Play – Katie Headrick Taylor and Mobile City Science

Sorry, I just got to play this one
game on my phone. Actually, can you
hold this for me? It’s so distracting. I’m sorry. [LAUGHING] Does that seem familiar
to anybody here? So, my work for several years
has been promoting the idea that there are lots of playful
opportunities for learning and teaching in the
seemingly mundane activity of young people just walking
around their neighborhoods, or biking around
their communities, especially now that their
technologies, most of them, are mobile. And then something really
interesting happened this year. This very point
got national news and became a
national conversation when a couple of software
engineers from San Francisco developed and released
a mobile game. Does anybody want to guess
what that game might be? STUDENT: Pokemon GO? Pokemon GO, thank you. And I think I’ve got
another hand about to raise, how many people
play in this room? OK. And how many people have young
people in your lives that play? All right. So I get to answer yes to both
of those questions, as well. But what is it about
this technology that is so interesting, that
is so engaging, that has so many people– actually, so many
parents actually wanting their kids to play. Strange idea, right? Well, first of all,
it sounds simple. It’s mobile. You have to be moving
around to play the game. You have to leave the couch,
the bag of chips, the TV behind. And actually, the
more you walk around, the more area you cover, the
more engaging the game becomes. And you actually get
rewarded for that mobility. Secondly, the technology
is place-based. It’s using the GPS affordances
in your smart device, your phone, your tablet,
to precisely locate you in time and space. This means the game
can actually give you feedback about a place
that might be already very familiar to you, your
neighborhood or your community. It can say, hey, did
you realize this tree that you pass by going to work
every day is 200 years old and has a sister
seedling in Japan? Not that that’s happened to me. [LAUGHING] Or that there’s a bench outside
of your community center that was dedicated to a
really famous resident that lived in this place that
you didn’t even know about? So it’s actually
remediating your experience of a very familiar place. That means playing the
game outside in Manhattan, for instance, is very different
than playing outside the doors of Seattle Center, right? But there’s kind of
a darker assumption that the technology does, too. And that is there are
certain neighborhoods, certain communities in your
city that are more engaging to play in than others. And that’s where Mobile
City Science comes in. Mobile City Science assumes
that every neighborhood is rich with learning
opportunities. Mobile City Science
gives young people a six-week intensive experience
to learn digital literacies that are emerging alongside
these place-based mobile technologies. It gives them a chance
to collect and produce original information, original
data about their neighborhoods to then analyze and then
create new representations of their neighborhood that can
also live on a mobile device. And these representations
are called counter maps. So counter maps can live,
just like Pokemon Go lives, on your phone. And it can show adults,
or anybody else, a couple of things. First, it says, hey, from a
young person’s perspective, these are some really
important things to me about my neighborhood. I think these are really cool. Secondly, it can
show you that there are some aspects of the
neighborhood that they wish were there that
aren’t on the ground, but now live on this
digital platform. For example, something as simple
as a grocery store to walk to, or a protected bike
lane so they can get to school easily,
or a public library that were just a little bit closer. So counter maps can now be in
the hands of that public school teacher in your neighborhood
who wants to create a curricular design that is place-based,
and might actually address some
community-level issues and engage kids around
something that they thought was super interesting. Or that transportation
engineer who’s trying to develop a new
light rail station, right? Or a public– or
an urban planner. So now the expertise is shifted,
and adults are walking around, rather than having
their mobile devices populated by monsters
or cool things that the technology assumes
you should know about, now your experience is populated by
youth-relevant cultural assets that are rich with
learning potential. So my final pitch to you is,
while these technologies are great for playing
around, let’s also turn these same technological
affordances over to young people,
and let them show us the under-utilized resources
in their own neighborhoods that are rich for teaching
and learning designs. Thank you applause.

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