29 February 2008

Sour Grapes or Sour Grants: Judging the Judges

Filed under: education,ICT,SL — admin @ 1:50 pm

There was a contest. (It has “winners” – so that makes it a contest.) It was called DML – Digital Media and Learning Competition or HASTAC initiative, and it was supported by MacArthur Foundation (which does many cool things – I checked!) It was supposedly for innovators who have new ideas to improve the education of our young people. Money for the little people with big ideas.

But that wasn’t so. What they really wanted was to brag that they had over 1000 applications for <20 grants and then change the rules and give the grants to their cronies in higher education. Not grants for innovators – just typical university grants. Say it up front. Don’t lie.

Let’s look at what they said they wanted.

As early research begins to illuminate changes occurring in young people who are “growing up digital,” the time is ripe to translate this research into concrete designs for new kinds of learning environments. …

Innovation Awards support pioneers who are exploring new digital models of learning that build upon and enhance the informal, networked, and collaborative styles today, especially but not only among youth. These projects demonstrate new modes of learning in many environments.

Now look below at the judges qualifications*. We don’t need names – this information alone would have been enough to tell us the story.

Look carefully. There are no teachers* - incredible isn’t it. You want experts? Where are the “teachers of the year”? The experts in the field – the ones actually working with kids and teens. NOT ONE! Look again. There is no one from math or economics or physical sciences. Jeez-louis, how is this possible? Why don’t we just stop teaching this stuff in our schools if it isn’t important.

Look again. There are 7 judges who develop and design computer games. That is, 7 out of 35. Unlike so many of our young people, I am able to do math so I will translate: 20% of the judges are gamers. Look again. There are 23 judges who are either university professors or directly related to higher education. Again I will translate (okay, I did it with a calculator): 65% of the judges are in higher education. The other 15% – OMG as we say in SL.

Now it is reasonably easy to deduce what they are after – others need not apply. NP. Just tell the truth.

And then, the unmitigated gall to blog jovially about the 980 who didn’t get a grant applying again – like our time, our dreams and our real innovations for educating youth are games. Absolutely disgusting.

* The initial 35 judges. I won’t even bother with the finalists judges.
** I myself am a university professor and teacher, but you know EXACTLY what I mean! (BTW: not the PI on the proposal.)

The Judges:

University Professors

1.Professor of African American Studies, American Studies and Sociology
2.Professor of Anthropology
3.Professor of Asian American Studies
4.Professor of Behavioral Sciences
5.Professor of Cinematic Arts
6.Professor of Communication
7.Professor of Composition and Computer Music
8.Professor of Early Adolescent Literacy
9.Professor of Education
10.Professor of Film and Media Studies
11.Professor of English
12.Professor of English
13.Professor of Literacy
14.Professor of Media Studies
15.Professor of Political Science
16.Professor of Sociology
17.Professor of Teaching and Learning
18.Professor at Center for Science, Technology and Society
19.Professor at School of Information (social aspects of building and using digital archives)

Directly connected to higher education:

20.Director of CADE, University of Illinois at Chicago
21.Senior Advisor, Ithaka
22.Project Manager, Ithaka (quote from Ithaka website: “Ithaka promotes innovation in higher education”)
23.Executive Director, Coalition for Networked Information (quote from CNI website: dedicated to … scholarly communication … intellectual productivity


24.Creative Development Editor of Fantasy Flight Games
25.Freelance Game Designer and Writer
26.Game Designer and Writer
27.Founder Storytron – computer games
28.Online Operations, Lucasfilms Ltd.
29.Freelance Writer and Game Developer
30.Game Developer and Designer


31.Founder and CEO, Viewpoints Network (quote from website: “be the envy of your fellow beauty junkies”)
32.Co-Founder, Fundable Group, Inc. (motto: We Help You Collect Money Online)
33.Assistant Managing Editor, Yahoo! News
34.Program Director, Social Science Research Council
35.Program Director, Social Science Research Council (quote from SSRC website: “to advance understanding of critical social issues”)


  1. [...] Frederic wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThese projects demonstrate new modes of learning in many environments. … Professor at Center for Science, Technology and Society 19…. [...]

    Pingback by New Technology » Blog Archive » Sour Grapes or Sour Grants: Judging the Judges — 29 February 2008 @ 3:24 pm

  2. Hey Linda,

    I want to comment on two fronts:

    1) Thank you for commenting on our Swift Kick blog and caring about the work we do. It means a lot to us/me.

    2) I think the HASTAC crew themselves learned a lot in running this contest. Hopefully we will see next year. We always thought of it as our lottery ticket strategy, but when we would match up their tag cloud to ours, we were a perfect fit…in our eyes. Oh well, we’ve moved on and are getting our funding elsewhere. Tough to swallow, but we have to move on.

    I’ve locked you into my RSS and can’t wait to keep up. Thanks!

    P.S. You might always want to check out The Student Affairs Blog and The Student Leader Blog. They are two blogs we help with as well and have lots of good content.

    Comment by Tom Krieglstein — 20 March 2008 @ 6:52 am

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