MacArthur President Robert Gallucci Introduction Remarks at the Spertus Institute: "Re-Imagining Learning"
March 31, 2011 | Speech | Digital Media & Learning

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Good evening. I am Bob Gallucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation. I am pleased to welcome you all – thank you for a remarkable show of interest and support. This is the latest in a series of public events in Chicago that MacArthur is organizing to share aspects of our grantmaking with the City.

It is a particular honor to greet Chicago's Mayor-elect, Rahm Emanuel, who joins us this evening. Mr. Emanuel has taken time from an overwhelming schedule to be here. His presence signals both a commitment to the cause of education in our City, and a determination to put Chicago's schools at the forefront of innovation and achievement.

We also welcome Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. Department of Education. Ms. Cator has spent her career creating environments that nurture learning; she is now spearheading similar efforts at the national level. We appreciate her effort in coming to Chicago for this event, and we acknowledge the continuing support and encouragement that the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has given to MacArthur's work in digital media and learning.

Some of that work is represented in the PBS feature Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century, a portion of which you have just seen.

We are grateful to PBS for doing a superb job of the documentary and the additional materials you may access on their website. Along with MacArthur, the Pearson Foundation was a major funder of the film; we are pleased to have Mark Nieker, the foundation's president, participating in this evening's discussions.

MacArthur entered this field because we realized that digital technology was bringing fundamental changes to how young people learn and interact. We funded both the first large-scale studies of what these changes were and some of the ways schools and other learning institutions changed in response.

You will learn more about these from our panelists and demonstrations later.

Some of the early findings are encouraging. You will have heard worries about the distractions of multi-tasking, about information overload, about verifying internet material, about polarized online communities. These concerns are real. I share them. I am also convinced that old literacies – being able to read well, write effectively, analyze, express opinion and engage in debate – are more necessary than ever.

But we have found that, in the new environment, young people can master these traditional competencies in new ways. Instead of simply consuming information, they are investigating it using digital resources. Instead of separating knowledge into academic disciplines, they are exploring the connected intellectual systems and social systems in which we live. And all this is happening in a highly participatory way, with kids linked to others who share their interests, in school hours and throughout the day (or indeed night).

How this can be put to work in the classroom is seen at the "Quest to Learn" School in New York City, which MacArthur supports. The school encourages students to learn through games designed as intellectual challenges; to understand how systems function as networks of information and behaviors; and to link theory to practice not just by studying subject matter, but by actually being young biologists, or mathematicians, or historians. It is an exciting place to be.

Next fall, a similar school will open in Old Town, called ChicagoQuest. It will be a campus of the Chicago International Charter School. The first class of sixth and seventh graders will join one of the most innovative learning programs in America. In this project, MacArthur reaffirms its commitment to Chicago, and to re-imagining education for the digital age. We expect ChicagoQuest graduates will be exceptionally well equipped to succeed in the 21st Century. Information about the school is available here tonight, and online.

This event is being audiotaped and will be broadcast on Chicago Public Radio's Chicago Amplified series; it is also being videotaped for airing on CAN-TV. We thank both organizations.

Please stay after the program for the reception that follows and to see the demonstrations of digital media and learning projects. This part of the event is on the 9th floor.

And now it is my pleasure to introduce Chicago's Mayor Elect, Mr. Rahm Emanuel.

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