News for NMU Employees

Digital Learning Lab Opens

Research suggests that young people progress through three stages of learning with digital media: they “hang out” with peers in social spaces; they “mess around” or tinker with technology to explore ideas, play games and create projects (videos, art, photo galleries); and they “geek out” in online groups that allow them to delve into their core interests. This hang out-mess around-geek out (HOMAGO) philosophy is the basis for a growing movement to create transformative learning spaces outside of traditional classrooms.

NMU has joined the effort with its new Digital Learning Design Lab in West Science. The room is equipped with 3D printers (pictured below), iPads, Go Pro cameras, robotics, a machine that sews circuitry into clothing and other devices that will help education students and practicing teachers more actively engage youth. The lab was supported by a $100,000 gift to NMU in honor of alumnus and former teacher Florence Hagberg-Hannewald.

“YOUmedia in Chicago is the driving force in this effort, which takes hands-on learning to a digital level in a workshop environment,” said Michael Donhost (Education). “It is based on research by the Connected Learning Alliance that shows children learn most effectively when they have a say in programming that is interest-driven, allows them to collaborate with peers and emphasizes making and doing rather than passively receiving instruction.”

The space is used for Donhost’s educational media and technology course and last week was the site of a bustling Maker Faire (pictured above), a festival of innovation that provides a platform for NMU students to share their unique digital creations. It also will be integrated into the NMU Seaborg Center’s mission related to STEM professional development and educational programming for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

“The latest science education standards include engineering standards and will require that engineering and design be infused in traditional science and math classes,” said Chris Standerford (Seaborg Center). “That’s where I entered into this, though the applications are much bigger than that. There is a clear shift away from text- and teacher-centered curriculum design. Students continue learning after they leave the classroom and this space allows for it to occur spontaneously with support from adult mentors. We hope to secure a National Science Foundation grant to study learning in this environment.”

The Digital Learning Design Lab is located in room 2702 West Science. For more information, call the Seaborg Center at ext. 2002. For details on YOUmedia and its effort to reimagine 21st century learning, visit