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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Distilling #DML2015


love how the DML logo’s line aesthetic fits with mine


I’m just thrilled that I was able to attend the Digital Media Lab Conference: “Equity by Design” in LA this weekend. During the conference I had a chance to meet up with old friends and form some new connections as well (fits the theme of connected learning!) People seemed to enjoy my hot pink and black artistic (and I use that term lightly) representation of the presentations and workshops.

They are all archived here on my Pinterest as tweets.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 7.17.31 PM

I really tried to distill the conference into a few words (playing on the #oneword idea)

During the conference, I developed a portmanteau – Connequity (Connection plus Equity). That had its merits but what truly were my big takeaways – aside from the obvious theme


The first word I came up with was


photo 5

Most of the stories and projects shared seemed to demonstrate an intent to give students (or anyone for that matter) a voice through creative expression, primarily. Jonathan Worth of Phonar Nation’s “Selfless” project for children with Duchennes Muscular Dystophry perhaps exemplified this best. You can watch his Ignite talk HERE (his instructions for the audience to keep their arms up for the full 5 minutes really created empathy).

I also thoroughly enjoyed the remix-centered hands-on workshop by the whimsical folks of Leimert Phone Company. Just thinking about giving the community and artists a “voice” by repurposing (or breathing new raspberry-pi-fueled life into) old defunct payphones made my heart go pitterpat.

Finally, Matt Williams of KQED shared about one of my favourite projects out there helping students with both digital fluency AND civic discourse –  #DONOW. Check out the site HERE.

The second word is



Many of the speakers – particularly in the keynotes and Ignite talks – discussed the notion of equity of opportunity and experience. I especially loved #DMLRealTalk panel (Hive Bay Area) sharing about ways in which they help students and transitional youth gain skills in project management (with Teen Science Night), media creation and marketing (with BAYMNfest) and BAYVAC ‘s career grooming (for want of a better term). Also,  the folks at YOUMEDIA Chicago continue to impress.

I’ve long been interested in Cities of Learning and really hope San Francisco does it and I can be involved.

The third takeaway word/ theme is



Control SOUNDS off-putting but what I’m talking about is user-control. That is, control of ones’ story, one’s future, and – dare I say – one’s data! At Alan Levine’s brilliantly hosted “The Open Show” we learned about the Known platform as well as more about reclaim hosting and a “domain of one’s own” Check out Alan’s blog post about the unique way they presented, as well as to get your hands on their stellar web site of tools.

I also attended Victor Lee’ s session on quantified self – something I’m very intrigued by in addition to the Internet of Things and my dreams of becoming a full-fledged cyborg. 🙂 My big takeaway from that is that wearables are bulky and unfashionable and makers of wearables should consult more Japanese teen girls.

If I can’t get it implanted yet it better have rhinestones.

Next is of course



This seems like an obvious choice, but a REALLY big realization (one that I’ve had before but it hit home during the conference – was that perhaps the best thing we can do for students is to help them cultivate a network. I loved the Howard Rheingold/ Mia Zamora sesh in which we talked honestly about the challenges of crafting and maintaining and open course, especially one in which the teacher is “co-learner”, as Howard says. The student in that panel reiterated what my students always told me – we need to help them network both on and offline (for example, with internships).

I loved the line someone said that “The Cloud is People” (cue in Soylent Green moment: “It’s PEEEEEOOOPLE!”)

I loved building my network with new leaves to my tree and seeing people in person that I’ve only interacted with online. Perhaps the greatest metaphor shared (and God knows I love metaphor) was from Jonathan Worth as he described the network being more of a fishing net with multiple synapses rather than like a spider web with a definitive “center” (i.e. the teacher).


Last but not least, the 5th word – and by far the most evident- is



This is always the most important word. I don’t think it can be overused, though my Wolfram Alpha Facebook Report tells me it’s my most used word in personal status updates.

There was a LOT of talk of mentorship and how crucial mentors (both adult and peer) can be. (Mimi Ito really elaborated on that in her session the last day).

There was a LOT of shout outs and collegial love to others who inspire us (even one to Prince!)

But most of all, it was glaringly evident that all the speakers and pretty much everyone I talked with personally had an ENORMOUS LOVE and compassion for the youth whose lives they touch – and even for ones they have yet to touch.

The most poignant moment for me was hearing Fabian Debora of Homeboy Industries share his heart-wrenching stories of his own past and those of the traumatized children and young adults he works with, and how the power of art triumphs over brokenness. I am not easily moved or brought to tears, but his honest, humble approach to storytelling and the strength and universality of his message utterly overwhelmed me. (thank you Fabian). He appears at 46 minutes IN THIS VIDEO.

Since we are distilling things, I’d like to share my 3 personal favourite sketches.


this is actual version 2.0 of a Chris Lawrence quote


because of this sketch I won a crocodile keychain good heavens

howard 2

#becauseHoward #becausepink


for the LeimertPhoneCo symbolizing raspberry pi


my 2nd fav – just ’cause I love Frida (inspired by Fabian’s talk)


of course, this Saul Bass-y thing would be my favourite

(to read more about my artistic influences, check out this post)

#sketches #edtech #network #connectedlearning #Hive #design #digitalmedialab #miazamora #jonathanworth #students #opportunity #ignite #mattwilliams #voice #open #dml2015 #CitiesofLearning #education #domainofonesown #YouMedia #love #BayArea #alanlevine #equity #kqed #selfless #mimiito #amyburvall #phonar #howardrheingold #fabiandebora

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