MacArthur Doubles Down: Education and Digital Media Grants Foster Summer Learning

Although The MacArthur Foundation's education funding has historically focused on international improvements, it is doing a fair job of supporting learning initiatives right here in Chicago. MacArthur is currently supporting the City of Chicago and Mozilla to reward children for summer program participation through the Summer of Learning initiative. Over 140 additional organizations have jumped on board to support summer program offerings for thousands of children throughout Chicago. (See MacArthur Foundation: Chicago Grants).

Through this initiative, the city aims to help both public and private schools in the area keep young people learning and growing once school is out for the summer. The Summer of Learning initiative supports park district reading programs, library reading activities, and youth job opportunities.

"Summer programs help our children stay safe and engaged during the summer, but they also represent a robust opportunity to continue learning year-round," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "This initiative for the first time prioritizes learning as a critical piece of summer programming and we are calling on all organizations that serve our children to join."

Program affiliate, Mozilla, created the Open Badge software, which lets participating organizations issue online learning badges and track the progress of children participating in the program. MacArthur supplied grant money to Mozilla as to create these digital badges as part of their Digital Media and Learning program. Over 600 organizations have already signed on and are in the process of implanting the badge systems internally. The badges will serve as online representations of learned or demonstrated skills, similar to a degree or certification. (Read MacArthur director of education, Constance Yowell's IP profile).

Two heads are better than one, and two distinct but related causes are likely to win favor with the MacArthur Foundation. This combined grant award is a great example of how the education field can benefit from digital media funding as well. MacArthur focuses its digital media attention on shaping student learning with rapidly evolving technologies. If your educational organization is looking to MacArthur for an education grant, don't feel boxed in by the "education" category. If your program goals involve the advancement of educational technology (as many programs do) a Digital Media and Learning grant may be more within your reach.