New School News

New School Leads Conversation on the Future of Learning

Trebor Scholz, conference organizer and faculty member at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts.

It’s an educator’s dream: Gather people from all over the world who are on the cutting edge of digital teaching and learning. Get them talking about what works, what doesn’t, and what they’ve learned along the way. Attract an audience of a thousand to join the conversation. From October 10-16, that dream will be a reality at MobilityShifts: An International Future of Learning Summit, the 2011 presentation of The New School’s biennial Politics of Digital Culture conference series. Including faculty and students from all divisions, MobilityShifts reflects the university’s focus on the arts, design, and social sciences.

For universities, this conversation is a question of survival,, said Trebor Scholz, conference chair and faculty member in the Department of Culture and Media at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts. Over the past few decades, how people learn, where they learn, and what they learn has changed dramatically. This conference is an opportunity for us to think about what the university of the future can, and should, be.,

Featuring more than 100 events and 280 speakers from 21 countries, MobilityShifts is a massive undertaking that reflects The New School’s commitment to the digital education movement. Going beyond the standard topics of technology and education, such as online courses, MobilityShifts brings together educators, technologists, artists, policymakers, and learners to discuss what really constitutes learning and what role technology plays in the process.

Among its events, MobilityShifts highlights innovative projects by the faculty and students of The New School. PROJECT SHIFT (October 13), for example, is a multi-media performance piece created by youth groups across the United States who collaborated through video chats, blogs, and other online forums to create a piece about the future of tech and learning. It was developed under the guidance of Cecilia Rubino, associate professor of theater at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, Project Shift invites the audience to interact with its creators in a choose-your-own-adventure type piece about the future of technology and learning.

Policy Day (October 15) is a conversation among university faculty members and administrators and government officials. Its purpose is bridging the gap between the radical proposals especially surrounding accreditation expected to emerge from this conference and the limitations on the policymakers who could make them real. Participants will include Eduardo Ochoa, U.S. Under Secretary for Higher Education; New School President David E. Van Zandt; Karen DeMoss, director of the Institute for Urban Education at The New School; and Scholz.

MobilityShifts adds an international layer to the current debates about teaching and learning with digital media. Reversing the traditional flow of international development, John Ewing and Christopher Robbins will present recent work by their organization, Ghana ThinkTank, a worldwide network of think tanks that looks to developing countries for solutions to problems in the developed world.

The conference, hands-on workshops, science fair, performances, and other activities run October 10’16, one project is currently on view in the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design. The Assignment Book is an exhibition curated by Scholz and Christiane Paul, director of the graduate media studies program at The New School for Public Engagement and Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art, that poses questions for the audience. It features work by artist Luis Camnitzer that grapples with some unresolved questions about digital learning, and is solicited visitors to the gallery to add to the conversation, subverting the traditional role of the artist as teacher. There will be a discussion about this exhibition between Camnitzer and Paul on October 11.

In keeping with the theme of digital learning, the conference will live on long after the sessions end. Many of the key presentations and discussions will be videotaped and posted to the conference site, and a book documenting the conference’s outcomes is forthcoming from MIT Press.

In the end, while MobilityShifts focuses on the current and future landscape of education, it is also about something more analog: connecting people. One of the advantages the university is community. This conference extends our community by bringing together the people, theories, projects, and organizations that are doing the most exciting work in the area of digital learning,, said Trebor Scholz. And starting a dialogue that will rethink the future of learning.,

MobilityShifts registration is free for New School students, faculty and staff with ID. For more information and the full schedule of events, visit www.mobilityshifts.org.

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