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May 19, 2008

A Crazy Idea

Worried about under-achievement in American education? The dropout epidemic? Teen pregnancy? Substance abuse and crime claiming the lives of our young people? All of the above? Here's a crazy idea: let teenagers solve their own problems. They don't listen to adults anyway, what have we got to lose?

Now that may sound like a flip and uncaring idea. No one in their right mind would argue that young people don't need the wisdom and experience of adults to help guide them. But let's face it. For all but the wealthy, it's only been about 70 years that we've been trying to control and protect young people past the age of 13 or 14. Before that, adolescents were on the streets, farms or in factories earning money to survive. The problem is that in American culture, teenagers never really bought into the agreement. Our culture does as much to promote rebellion as obedience. So why not try what companies and organizations of every kind are doing? Why not crowd-source the problem? Use wiki-wisdom? For every teenager out there with a problem that prevents him or her from focusing on building a future, there's probably another teenager with a solution. Maybe they'll listen to each other. It's worth a try, and there are good reasons to believe it can work. The Internet offers us, for the first time, a way to establish such a discourse among young people—the real stakeholders in the greatest problems we face. The Fieldtrip project is a way to get things rolling.

March 31, 2008

Welcome to the Fieldtrip Project

The Fieldtrip Project has successfully piloted, and now is building out an online community that uses cutting-edge media, created in collaborations between teenagers and professional media developers, to stimulate online conversations that can positively impact learning behaviors. Cell phone videos and games prompt teenagers to discuss the issues THEY believe impact their ability to engage in serious learning and thinking about their futures. The project, housed at the Imaging Research Center and funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, was active for one month in the spring of 2007. 76 short films, posted a-few-a-day, collected hundreds of voluntary comments from an online community of 70 teenagers. The project includes research professors from UMBC’s Psychology, Information Systems, History, Visual Arts and Economics departments.

Fieldtrip is a media-rich web community and research platform for 14–20 year-olds to express, explore and engage on issues they believe will affect them most profoundly.

The goal
, and this will take time, is to grow a community of co-created knowledge that is of great use to those wanting to survive and thrive as adults, and to those wanting to help them.

The rationale springs from knowing that the beliefs, attitudes and experiences that all but determine sustainable success in education and in life are largely formed outside school. Though this is well-established, school systems have been largely powerless to create and sustain dialog among families, communities and the larger culture(s). The Internet and mobile communication technologies now afford us an unprecedented opportunity to engage young people in their worlds.

The primary objective is to establish and maintain trust between the teenage community members and the adult media artists and researchers involved in the project.

The approach is to procure salient, authentic and representative content through collaboration with adults that are not condescending, didactic, or controlling.

The project was piloted in 2007, with a small, well-controlled population. Promising results established the feasibility of the approach. Now, a second phase is being planned that will make the web community available to a much wider population and for a much longer, perhaps indefinite time period.

The project was funded by the National Center for Research Resources, one of the National Institutes of Health (grant #1R41RR024089-01), and by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. It is collaborative research of the Imaging Research Center at UMBC, and InfoCulture, a social media development company.

Click on categories to the right to access more information about every aspect of this project.

March 30, 2008

Project Description

Fieldtrip Films
In 2007, we build an online community of 70 teenagers and 7 teenage filmmakers. The filmmakers applied for, and had been chosen to receive, high-end cell phone video cameras (donated by Nokia) to create video journals about anything they thought significantly impacted their journey toward adulthood. They worked with a team of professional filmmakers to learn as much as possible about how to liberate their voices and get to what they really cared most deeply about.

Then, in four short weeks they collaborated with a team of video editors to produce 76 short films. The films were posted on the FieldtripFilms website where the other teenage members of the Fieldtrip web community could watch, reflect and comment on the films. The site was designed to equally serve verbal, visual and social cognitive styles of members. (See the “Screenshots” post under the Fieldtrip Films category to the right).

Even though community members could have simply ignored the films and the site and still gotten iTunes rewards used as incentives to join, they watch the films and were engaged on a meaningful level--posting 450 comments during the month-long pilot. Importantly, the films were not frivolous or easy entertainment, they were about things that really matter, and the dialogs they prompted were about everything from relationships with mothers to social justice to the experience of school.

And this is the key. The films and the site refuted the common teen social networking experience that tends to avoid talking about the most pressing, important and sometimes painful aspects of becoming adult in favor of relative frivolity. It worked. We've discovered there’s a need out there. To make it safe, it was monitored and facilitated by faculty researcher-advised undergraduate students from our university, The University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The widely interdisciplinary team of researchers working on this project (see the category: Research Team to the right) has built fine-grained data collection into this site with the permission of its members. They are using analyzing themes that emerged in preparation for a report back to the National Institute for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, which gave partial funding to the project. The other major funder is the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.

Open the “Forethoughts” post in the About category to the right to see the foundational concepts this is all based on.

See an overview documentary with Project Founder, Lee Boot, and some of the films by clicking on the Fieldtrip Films category to the right.

Fieldtrip Game

A few months later, we in the Imaging Research Center at UMBC (the key group behind this project) went to the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to give a sneak preview of the prototype of their new game, Noetic.

Noetic is a multi-player game for Xbox and PCs in which players arrive in the decaying infrastructure of a dying consumerist world in which the party that would never end is still going on—barely. Among the rubble, they discover mini-games that test their music-making, unicycle-steering and logic abilities. Upon succeeding in each they are presented with parts of masks, which unite to form a whole mask and permit entry into a gated area. There they discover a vehicle, which requires all that the diverse skills in the mini-games be applied simultaneously and collaboratively by at least 3 players in order to drive. They take the vehicle out of the city, across the barrier and the desert beyond to a new world, which they will build.

The concept behind the game is to provide a world where players are valued for whatever unique combination of strengths their mind has, rather than the comparatively narrow and predetermined range of strengths emphasized in most games and in most school experiences for that matter. Loosely based on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, the game keeps a constant database of players evolving achievements and rewards them with wearable accessories that are symbols others can decode to understand a players strengths for recruitment onto teams.

Play is eclectic ranging from growing crops to zombie killing and barbecuing. The team is seeking funding for the alpha version. See the “Noetic Screenshots” post in the Fieldtrip Game category to the right.

March 29, 2008

Overview Video

This short documentary shows what Fieldtrip Films is about:

March 28, 2008

Current Fiedltrip Team

Fieldtrip is being jointly developed, researched and produced at the Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and by InfoCulture, a culture-based media research and development studio in Baltimore, MD.

Lee Boot, Project Director
Lee is Research Associate Faculty and Associate Director of the Imaging Research Center at UMBC, and CEO of the media company, InfoCulture. He oversees the project.

Dan Bailey, Director, Imaging Reseach Center, UMBC
Dan directs the center and oversees the relationship between the project and UMBC.

Linda Baker, Investigator
Linda is Professor of Psychology and Chair of UMBC's Pscyhology Department. She is researching the potential of the project to increase older teens' engagement in learning and school.

Susan Sonnenschein, Investigator
Susan is Associate Professor of Psychology in UMBC's Pscyhology Department. She is researching the potential of the project to increase older teens' engagement in learning and school.

Dongsong Zhang, Investigator
Dongsong is Associate Professor of Information Systems at UMBC. He is assisting with data collection and analysis.

Stacy Arnold, Executive Producer, InfoCulture
Stacy is in charge of the business plan development that can make the project sustainable, as well as logistics related to management and payroll during production.

David Gurzick, Graduate Research Assistant
David is Doctoral Candidate at UMBC's Department of Information Systems and teaches at Hood College. He is a co-designer and programmer of the FieldtripFilms website, as well as data analyst and design theorist.

Colleen Sullivan, Graduate Research Assistant
Colleen is Masters Candidate at UMBC's Department of Psychology. She is working with Dr's Baker and Sonnenschein to shape and analyze research questions associated with behavior change.

Kris Lindenmeyer, Consultant
Kris is Professor of History and Chairperson of the History Department at UMBC.

Wayne Lutters, Consultant
Wayne is an Associate Professor in UMBC's Department of Information Systems and consults on design theory and online communities.

Shane Lynch, Lead Game Programmer
Shane is Technical Specialist for Interactivity at the IRC and is programming the multiuser game, Noetic to be included on the Fieldtrip site.

Eric Smallwood, Digital Artist
Eric is Technical Director at the Imaging Research Center and is in charge of building modeling and animation for Noetic.

Dr. Jay McTighe, McTighe & Associates, Education Consultant & Author
Jay is a leading authority on differentiating instruction to accommodate the full range of learning preferences.


The project is based on these observations:

The beliefs, attitudes and health young people need to thrive as adults largely form outside of school—education institutions reflect, rather than establish, who we are.

About 70 years ago we extended the protected period of childhood from the early teens to the age of 18, partially, to better educate young people. Because of who we are as a people: independent, suspicious of authority, practical, high school has had limited success. Too few achieve, too many drop out.

It requires more than most education systems can accomplish to turn around students not oriented or prepared to take advantage of school.

People do what they think will help them satisfy what they perceive as their needs and desires. They do what they believe is worth the effort and what they feel capable of doing. The classroom often fails such criteria in the eyes of students.

People make decisions based on a negotiation between personal attitudes and beliefs, and those of the cultures around them. Young people’s families, peers, communities, cultures, often channeled through media, powerfully impact their behavior.

Cultural wisdom is something that is built, not something that happens by accident.

Young people want to know how to live. They believe some adults can help them.

Sustained dialog between people who share circumstances and/or care about one another does more to inform beliefs, attitudes and decision making than anything else.

Older teens confound families and educators alike, often causing both to give up on them at a time when their potential has never been greater, nor the dangers closer.

The Internet and mobile technologies finally provide an opportunity to reach out to young people and do what no school has ever been able to without the principal going door-to-door.

March 27, 2008


Fieldtrip Films Screenshots





March 26, 2008

Noetic Screenshots

Noetic Screenshots (Fieldtrip Game)
(Note: these display a screen where 3 players are playing on the same Xbox)






March 25, 2008

FieldtripFilm 1: The American Way

The American Way: Julian

March 24, 2008

FieldtripFilm 2: Probability

Probability: Ryan