Digital Media and Learning Conference 2015 Equity By Design

Accepting applications: Monday, September 29, 2014 – Monday, December 1, 2014

Accepted applicants will be notified late Monday, March 16, 2015. Other notifications will go out Monday, March 23, 2015.


Los Angeles, California
June 11-13, 2015

Conference Chair:
Kris Gutierrez
Conference Committee:
Samuel Dyson
Glynda Hull
Ernest Morrell
Audrey Watters

This conference reframes the debate over equity and educational technology, moving us from access to tools toward new practices and forms of engagement, narratives, social supports, and networks. We will examine issues of equity, nationally and globally, across economically developing and developed countries, and a range of settings and purposes in which rich, meaningful, and relevant learning and engagement are re-imagined. We hope to dedicate special attention to the ingenuity and creativity that already exist in the everyday practices of groups often thought to be marginal to technology innovation and learning, including women and girls, nondominant families and communities in the U.S., and outside stereotypically high-tech regions. In addition to showcasing the most current research, the conference will engage participants in discussions, demonstrations, performances, screenings, and designs that promote equity and address inequity. We also will draw on grassroot, community, and activist efforts to use digital media in productive and empowering ways, and on new research and classroom practices designed to create a new pedagogical imagination about the ways tech tools can be used, repurposed, and redesigned in the service of robust and equitable practices.

Social inequity and increasing economic stratification limit opportunities to engage in rich, meaningful, and relevant learning. Attempts to address educational inequity, limited opportunity, or perceived “deficiencies” — particularly for historically marginalized populations — often focus primarily on promoting access to educational institutions and pathways. In the domain of digital media, the focus has traditionally been on technology access framed in terms of a digital divide. Too often, these approaches fail to fully appreciate the local capacities, social networks, and cultural repertoires of nondominant groups. Further, by framing the problem as a question of access to dominant institutions, technology, and culture, we run the risk of deflecting attention from the underlying economic and social structuring of inequity.

This conference seeks to engage the following questions: How do new technologies and networks offer solutions or exacerbate inequity? How are different genres of engagement with technology intersecting with enduring forms of economic, cultural, and social stratification? How do we need to adapt public policy and educational practice to respond to the new challenges of promoting equity, given the ascendance of networked and informal modes of learning? In what ways can equity become part of the logic of design, implementation, and assessment? How can we build more expansive discourses and representations of young people’s full cultural repertoires and digital media’s role in shaping new practices and opportunities? What leading-edge design grammars or structures are needed to imagine new social futures for today’s youth, locally and globally?


We welcome panels, workshops and short talks along five themes listed below:

Blurring Boundaries: Broadening Equitable Access Within and Between Learning Institutions and Networks

Chair: Samuel Dyson

One of the promises of connected learning is the ability to equitably broaden engagement by connecting youth learning experiences across otherwise separate domains. Youth are learning across multiple contexts — academic, social, interest-driven, in-school, out-of-school, mediated — but with limited opportunities to integrate this learning into one connected learning experience. Even when youth are engaged in meaningful learning in specific programs, making connections across programs, domains, and institutions poses challenges to learners, learning institutions, and networks.

This track invites proposals that explore theory, research, and practice of bridging and blurring of boundaries between traditionally separate learning domains in ways that, by design, broaden equitable access to connected learning experiences.

  • How do you design for equitable access to connected learning within and between learning institutions and networks?
  • How are digital media enabling (and not yet enabling) equitable access?
  • What challenges are confronted by learners and the designers and facilitators of learning in the effort to connect learning for more youth?
  • What types of equity-broadening innovations are emerging at the adjacencies between distinct learning contexts?
  • What aspects of these successful practices are potent for spread to diverse contexts elsewhere throughout learning institutions and networks?

Session outcomes will include: illumination of the complexities, opportunities and successes of blurring the boundaries toward connected learning; greater empowerment of youth to access and construct learning pathways; sharing of exemplars for broadening of access to a greater number and diversity of youth empowered to traverse these boundaries between distinct domains of learning.

Expanding Freedoms through Digital Media Design and Practice Locally and Globally

Chair: Glynda Hull

Economist Amartya Sen saw development as expanding freedoms and removing sources of “unfreedoms,” such as poverty, intolerance, and oppression, equally for all people. This DML strand asks, what can the proactive role of creators and practitioners of digital media be in the project of expanding freedoms the world over? This strand invites local, indigenous, international, and diasporic participants and perspectives, broadening the DML conversation to include knowledge of new communities, movements, programs, schools, and individuals around the world where media practice intersects with struggles for equality and a greater social good. To give one example, great strides toward gender equality have been made all over the world during the last quarter century, as more women have achieved gains in education, health, and legal rights, such as property ownership and inheritance. At the same time, grievous gender-based disadvantage persists. Progress in gender equality has been hard-won, and it remains uneven and incomplete.

  • What are examples of digital media being used in the design of spaces for learning, making, and creativity that take gender, economic, and sociocultural equity into account?
  • What other “unfreedoms” might we set our common sights upon, aiming through the theorization, design, uses, and sharing of digital media to nurture self-determination, the collective good, and freedom and equality on a global scale?  
  • How can our educational uses of digital and networked media enable greater voice, visibility, equality, and agency for groups marginalized for economic, geographic, linguistic, cultural, and other reasons?
  • Conversely, how do educational practices of digital and networked media use reinscribe existing forms of social, cultural, geographic, and economic marginalization?

Digital Media and Youth Civic Engagement: Designs for Learning, Teaching and Action

Chair: Ernest Morrell

Technological affordances are making possible a participatory media culture where youth have productive and distributive capabilities at their disposal that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

  • What are we learning about how youth are using new media technologies to speak the truth to power in youth-initiated, youth-led spaces, and what we are learning about how adults in classrooms and community-based organizations are using digital media technologies to work differently with young people?
  • How are youth using media to advocate for equity and justice?
  • What programs and projects serve as exemplars that can push our thinking?
  • How have teachers taken up digital media to promote civic engagement and academic development across age groups and subject matters?
  • What are community programs and other third spaces where youth and adults have come together to use digital media to promote an equity agenda?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities when youth and adults work collaboratively via new media technologies?
  • How are traditional roles and ideas about teaching challenged?
  • What can we learn from these explorations to reimagine designs for learning and for equity in our multimodal world?
  • How might we need to think differently about theories of social action and pedagogies of change in the new media age?

This track welcomes workshops, panels, and short talks from adults and young people that speak to how we can leverage youth engagement with participatory media to foster an equity agenda and how such engagement innovates the design of learning spaces in schools, in community-based organizations, and in virtual communities and networks.

Open Learning/Educational Technologies

Chair: Audrey Watters

Although some talk about learning — the acquisition of specific skills or credentials — at an instrumental level, open learning tends to frame learning in a much broader manner: It isn’t simply a matter of institutional expectations. Open learning involves self-directed and open-ended exploration of new ideas. It involves the construction of new connections — among ideas and among people. It involves the support for both curiosity and community.

Technologies like the World Wide Web and its open design might serve us well to that end. Yet, we continue to struggle for equitable access to technologies and to learning opportunities. Furthermore, we recognize that technology, despite any potential for “openness” is not a quick fix on the path to equity. Indeed, new educational technologies carry with them their own ideologies, and many of these are difficult to reconcile with equity.

  • How do we move beyond debates about “the digital divide” and talk about technology as a transformative force for equity and justice, one that works at both a systems and individual level? How do we build and support technologies and experiences that open rather than foreclose opportunities?
  • How do we help make sure that educational technologies foster learner agency, so that learners are the subjects not the objects of technology?
  • How can we build initiatives so that ed-tech isn’t something done to learners but something they can seize to reshape personal, local, and global systems?
  • How is open learning a key to all of this?
  • How do we leverage new tools to build a more equitable and participatory culture?
  • How do we make sure these opportunities are open to and expanded for everyone?

Equity By Design

Chair: Kris Gutierrez

As with past years, we welcome submissions that address research and practice in the field of digital media and learning that do not pertain directly to this year’s conference theme. This track is open to submissions in all areas of digital media and learning. We would welcome, in particular, proposals that address the following areas:

  • studies, designs, and methods that contribute to robust and equitable pathways for digital and connected learning;
  • theoretical frameworks that promote expansive views of the ways youth and communities use and engage with digital communication tools;
  • studies that partner with communities to carefully examine youths’ learning trajectories, and robust pedagogies in face-to-face settings and through digital learning platforms;
  • critical explorations of the meanings, purposes, and potential of digital and networked media tools;
  • digitally-mediated disciplinary learning (e.g., science, mathematics, literacy, social studies) and/or civic and critical approaches to education;
  • policies and practices that support innovations to explore and develop the potential for digital media and learning within both formal and informal settings;
  • policies and practices around digital and networked media that create sustained opportunities and support, expanded networks and life-wide and life-deep learning.


This year, we will be accepting proposals in three formats: panels, workshops, and short talks.

Panels typically include four participants or presentations representing a range of ideas and topics together in discussion. Panels are scheduled for 90 minutes and are ideally comprised of a mix of individuals working in areas of research, theory, and practice. We also encourage the use of discussants.

Workshops provide an opportunity for hands-on exploration and/or problem solving. They can be organized around a core challenge that participants come together to work on, or around a tool, platform, or concept. Workshops are scheduled for 90 minutes and should be highly participatory.

Finally, we welcome short, ten-minute talks where presenters speak for ten minutes on their work, research, or a subject relevant to the conference theme and/or sub-themes. The conference committee will organize panels comprised of four to five short talks centered around a common theme. This year, we will also combine panels, workshops, and individual talks to create thematic sessions.

Note: Proposals for Ignite sessions will be announced in January 2015.


The DML2015 Conference proposal system is now open and full proposals will be due on December 1, 2014. To enter a submission, participants will be required to register with Fastapps at, the submission system at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Participants will be able to edit their proposals up until that final deadline.

Panel and Workshop proposal abstracts should cover the theme, format (e.g. discussion, interactive, presentations), how the session addresses the theme of the conference, and/or sub-theme in 500 words or less.

Short talk abstracts should cover the theme, format (e.g. discussion, interactive, presentations), how the talk addresses the theme of the conference and/or sub-theme in 250 words or less.

Lists of participants, affiliations, emails, and titles of talks/presentations (if applicable) should also be included. We will not be soliciting full papers or publishing conference proceedings.

Technology needs must be outlined in the proposal. All conference rooms will be equipped with standard Wi-Fi broadband service, AV projection, and sound. You will need to provide your own laptop and VGA adapters. Should you require additional bandwidth capacity or special arrangements (for example, ability to conduct Skype calls during your presentation, demo games, engage participants in heavy multiple-media use), please state so in your proposal.

Note that each applicant will be limited to participation on no more than two panels at the conference.

Accepted participants will be expected to pay for conference registration, and to fund their own travel and accommodation.

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