Thursday, February 28, 2008

What 'No' Means

Cathy Davidson hopes that the 990 or so people who didn't win a Digital Media and Learning Award will "try again" in the next DML competition. I know, as skeptical as I've been about this competition, that I encouraged quite a few people involved in "digital media" in primary and secondary education to give the first contest a shot, in part because I read in this "competition" an effort to reach out for innovation outside the standard circle of grant-receiving academics and non-profits. How much I was imagining that is hard to say in retrospect, in part because of this detail Kevin Prentiss flagged:

So I tried to go back to the innovation contest explanation to see how they described it. I wanted to see how much I was projecting what I value/ believe on to the words they used to describe what they were looking for. When I was reading the page, it sounded completely different from what I had in my head. It sounded like their description fit the winner pool pretty well, actually, so clearly I had just read my own meaning into what was there. Then I saw the "Updated" note at the top: February 21, 2008.

The description of what they were looking for was changed on the date they announced the winners. No wonder the description and the winners match up nicely.

So anyhow, when you look at the results, of 17 winners, by my count, eight are connected to universities (6 from Duke, USC and University of California), and six are from reasonably well established non-profits. None are directly connected to schools. Nor were any of the judges teachers or people who primarily work with kids as their job.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is exactly what you'd expect from a collaboration between academics and a large grant-making institution. It is business as usual. And that's why I for one am disappointed with the results of the contest, the list of award winners does not seem substantially different than the list of grantees from the "regular" Digital Media and Learning grant winners. I was hoping for a little more risk taking and innovation in the selection process.

So, no, I'm not going to be encouraging, say, Bud Hunt to give DML II a shot. He's got better things to do with his time.

1 comment:

Janita said...

Thanks for this blog. I am not so sure that the words changed, but for sure the intent changed. When I saw the judges qualifications, I was flabbergasted! Like you said - business as usual in higher education - no innovation there.
I actually did some statistics on the judges:
And I certainly was offended by the blithe blogs of "try again" as if we all have months to waste writing "lost cause" proposals instead of using that time to actual improve education.