Years of research in neuroscience, organizational learning and other disciplines have given us great insight into how humans learn, while advances in technology, particularly information and communication technologies, allow for better ways to process information and generate new knowledge.
This is a meeting point for ideas that aim to enhance learning taking advantage of innovations in education and focusing on the design of learning environments. Below are some concrete efforts that show the potential or this endeavor.
Using mainly Legos in a playful one month Robotics Design Studio course at Wellesley College at the dawn of this century, Rachel Schwartz and I designed a Touchlator as a solution to the very complex problem of communicating with a person going blind and deaf at the same time.
SoundStage, a project developed with Jen Carlile for our Multimedia Design & Programming course in 2002, gives the user a unique and creative way to look at color as related to sound, fostering a new appreciation for everyday sights and sounds. For a small taste check out the Sound Palette (please note that this project may not run without a plug-in).
In 2007, before iPhones and iPads made it to the market, Maciej Sudra and I envisioned the future of textbooks and built a prototype for the beta version of the OLPC's XO to show the potential. It is now possible to create an interactive multimedia textbook and collaborative notebook at once, that feeds from online content from multiple sources and is presented in a self-contained library that is easy to update. See the details in our paper "Textbooks for the 21st Century" written for Chris Dede's Emerging Educational Technologies course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Knowledge and great ideas are not enough. What makes a difference in countless lives are the changes that are actually implemented. In "Possibilities at the Convergence of Government, Industry, Academia, and Society, Enabled by 21st Century ICT Policies" I analyze a successful initiative to bring Manizales, a medium sized city in Colombia, into the knowledge economy. I also suggest a social learning framework useful to identify precise points where good intentioned policies fail to have the desired impact so that corrections can be made over time to bring policies back on track. This paper came to life thanks to the brilliant guidance from my professor Calestous Juma at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
In 2008, through a research grant from the Colombian Ministry of Culture, Israel Tanenbaum and I created Musia (featured briefly in this clip from the event Experiences of the Future that we designed for Cali teachers in 2015). In Musia we coded videos so that the user can zoom in and out at will, not only the image but also the sound of each instrument, without interrupting the music. We also superimposed videos of experts who alert the learner to focus on key details of the music performance that can be turn on and off at will while the video is playing.
An initial exploration of a global online community for youth that I worked with for 9 years "The Computer Clubhouse Village: a virtual meeting place for an emerging community of learners" was published in the Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics in 2004 (abstract).
Another aspect of my work with over 100 Clubhouses in 21 countries around the world was reflected in "Going Global: Clubhouse ideas travel around the world", second chapter of The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities (Edited by Yasmin Kafai, Kylie Peppler and Robbin Chapman, Teachers College Press, 2009).
In 2012 I wrote "El Cambio Posible en la Eduación" (The Possible Change in Education) a chapter for the book "Learning and Educating with 21st Century Technologies", published by Colombia Digital, where I argue that digital technologies have had such an impact in society that education needs not only to adopt them but to be restructured from the base in order to adapt to the new paradigms.
Over the years I'm enjoying more public speaking and I noticed that many of my past engagements have not been properly documented. Here's a video of a recent keynote on "Innovative Knowledge and Learning Labs" at Somece's international virtual syposium in 2015 that Somece graciously made available in their website.