* MacArthur and HASTAC press release
* Digital Democracy Contest
* Digital Literacy Contest

April 29, 2009

Purdue students, alumnus win national new media and learning competition with Digital Democracy Contest

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A team of three Purdue University students led by a 2008 graduate won the young innovator division of the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Competition.

The team, which proposed a free Web-based contest to help high school government teachers educate students, was awarded $9,000 as one of five winning projects.

In the project, called the Digital Democracy Contest, students will compete in teams to answer questions using U.S. government Web sites.

Daniel Scott Poynter, the Purdue philosophy department alumnus who led the team, said there is great potential to increase civic engagement through the information available online.

"We want to help students benefit from new government transparency efforts," Poynter said. "Information overload is real, and though it can cripple, it can also empower students. We are looking for high school government teachers to pilot the contest this fall."

The team includes junior in computer science George Tebbetts, sophomore in computer science John Bohlmann and junior in electrical and computer engineering technology Amit Pahwa.

In 2007 the team created a similar collegiate-level contest called the Digital Literacy Contest, in which participants compete to find and evaluate information online. The contest has been used by nine universities and continues to expand, Poynter said.

Bohlmann offered advice to students looking for such success.

"There are many resources available to students, but you have to apply yourself to be successful," he said. "Purdue provides an excellent shoulder to stand on as you reach for success. The contacts available and the learning environment are excellent, but in order to reap the full potential of the experience, you have to apply yourself and find people that will help push you forward. The value you get from college greatly depends on the amount you proactively search for opportunities."

Purdue Libraries, the College of Technology, Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship and the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition funded the team's efforts.

The Digital Media and Learning Competition, which is in its second year, is designed to find the most novel uses of new media in support of learning. The competition awarded $2 million to individuals, companies, universities and community organizations for projects that employ games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, social networks, wikis and video blogs to explore how digital technologies are changing the way that people learn and participate in daily life.

This year's competition was expanded to include proposals from people ages 18-25 within the young innovators category.

The competition is funded by a MacArthur grant to the University of California, Irvine, and Duke University and is administered by the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, a virtual network of learning institutions. The competition is part of MacArthur's $50 million digital media and learning initiative designed to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.

Writer: Elizabeth Gardner, 765-494-2081,

Sources: Daniel Poynter, 765-425-6033,

Amit Pahwa, 914-419-3517,

John Bohlmann, 765-495-4509,

George Tebbetts, 847-274-2141,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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