Part of MacArthur's five-year, $50 million digital media and learning initiative, the competition is designed to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. The winning projects, which were selected from more than a thousand applications, are expected to produce promising innovations in the use of digital media for formal and informal learning. They include a mixed-reality game that teaches high school students in Los Angeles and Cairo about the real-time impact of air pollution in their neighborhoods; a Web application that aggregates news and nonprofit needs in which every news story is linked to real-world actions that users can take; and a mobile musical laboratory that allows students to explore new ways of making music with laptops and local area networks.
Competition winners will receive grants ranging from $30,000 to $238,000, along with support from consultants in areas ranging from technology development to management training. Awardees will also document their results on a Web site that will be showcased at a conference attended by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, educators, and policy makers seeking the best ideas related to digital learning.
Administered by HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), the competition considered two types of projects: those that use digital media such as cell phones, computers games, and virtual worlds to create both formal and informal learning environments; and those that use digital media to connect, mobilize, circulate, or translate new ideas related to the growing field of digital media and learning.
"The ubiquitous nature of digital media has profound implications for learning that we are only just beginning to understand," said MacArthur Foundation president Jonathan Fanton. "An open competition was an excellent way to inspire new ideas and collaborations, and the amazing number of applications we received speaks volumes about the untapped potential in the field of digital media and learning. The seventeen winners represent the best thinking from many disciplines and professions working to harness the power of the Web for learning, and we look forward to the insights they will provide."