Educators and Participatory Culture

When reading this article, I first had to define for myself, participatory culture, as I felt unfamiliar with the term. The definition I paraphrased for myself became: people connecting with one another and engaging with one another which creates a space where individual contributions matter.

The article stresses the need for Educators to take a role and responsibility in leading their students into a successful participatory culture that is the digital world. Jenkins stresses that Educators are the ones who can help children best navigate this space because of both the participation gap and the transparency problem. (defined below)

The Participation Gap — the unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.

The Transparency Problem — The challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shape perceptions of the world.

I took away some notes on the goals of media education that I liked. I like to keep quotes handy in order to remind myself of my intentions as a teacher. “The goal of media education: to encourage young people to become more reflective about ethical choices they make as participants and communicators and the impact they have on others.” I like this goal because it goes deeper than the goal I would’ve given at the start of this class before reading the articles so far and having the discussions we have had in class. Before, I wouldn’t have thought about the reflection aspect or even the responsibility factor. I thought it was all about teaching technical skills. But this goal really brings digital media back around to the fact that it is within this participatory culture that we are leading students.

Of course, I can’t help but to reflect on my own educational background. We took computer classes in order to learn how to save files and write word documents. We dabbled in internet search in a few of my high school classes, but ideas such as networking and social and ethical topics in digital were not included in the lessons. Those are the kinds of things we had to find out for ourselves through exploring the internet in our free time at home. I started blogging while in high school using a site called Xanga, although we didn’t call it “blogging” yet. I believe it was just referred to as online journaling. The group of friends and I that used Xanga had many experiences, trial and error, in learning about ethical issues of posting- public pictures, or using someone’s name, or making negative comments. There was some drama between friendships and even backlash from “anonymous” posters. But this was all something we learned for ourselves. Another form of digital expression that we learned through was Instant Messaging. The Away Message feature is much like today’s Facebook Status and there was usually a lot of weight behind posted away messages and I learned once again not to be defamatory or to give too much information.

But fast forward to today, and Jenkins says that literacy today goes beyond the print, and it includes digital social skills, collaboration and networking. These are now considered important skills that children need to learn at an early age. While I agree that I think it would be fantastic to teach kids such skills, from what I know about our education systems, I just don’t see it integrating soon or easily into current curriculums and with current teachers. With pressures brought on teachers from testing, standards, parents and administrations, it is barely all they can do to keep up with what “needs” to be taught. Jenkins does acknowledge that digital would be easiest to teach through integration rather than as a new subject, however I believe it becomes more complicated than that when it actually comes to carrying this out in the classroom. As we discussed in one of our first classes, our wave of teachers will be the first to be truly digital, having “grown up” with computers and the internet. So, I do think this will help to bring digital into the classroom. I think it may be integrated easiest by organically coming from this new generation of teachers. Digital communication and ethics is difficult to learn coming from a teacher who isn’t savvy and might think a “Facebook poke” necessitates a trip to the principal’s office. So I think we will continue to see progress being made more organically as new generations of tech-savvy teachers arise. I liked the example of integrating multiple technologies into a project as suggested in this article. It seemed like a great example of integration and for encouraging children to use the variety of media in compelling ways:

An exercise developed by MIT’s New Media Literacies (Jenkins, 2006b) asks students to tell the same story across a range of different media. For example, they script dialogue using instant messenger; they storyboard using Powerpoint and images appropriated from the Internet; they might later reenact their story and record it using a camera or video

This also raises questions in my head about parent involvement (which is always an issue in education). Can we educate parents to be influential in this digital move? I think this comes back around to the participation gap- do all parents have a computer at home that they know how to use effectively? do homes have internet access? And do parents allow their children to participate in the digital world? and if they do- can they/or will they monitor a child’s activity levels to keep them ethically sound and effectively communicative? From my personal experience, I see a divide between children’s internet savvy and their parents’ and I think they like to keep it that way. With the wide and far-reaching use of acronyms, children have a way to communicate without parents being able to decipher the messages. Maybe schools can offer classes or resources to parents in order to keep them up to date on internet lingo and trends so that they can more effectively work with their child in creating a positive, creative, and active involvement in the digital community. I  think the more that the families can participate together with this digital world, we ensure that this digital age does bring us closer together as a community and that it can help communicate between one another.


Exploring Art Educators’ Blogs

Teacher Blogs

After reading Weblogs: Learning in Public by Jill Walker, I am further intrigued to see how this blogging phenomenon may be useful to my developing teaching styles and methods and how it may play out in this class with my fellow classmates. My favorite quote from the reading, that I plan to keep in mind throughout this process is, ” [Blogging is…] taking control of your own learning, finding your voice, and expressing your opinions. It’s about responding to the world around you and listening to the responses you receive in return.”

In looking out for some teacher blogs that I find useful, I realized that I already had a couple on my Bookmarks list. I don’t “follow” these regularly or anything, but I have found them interesting when surfing “teacher stuff” in the past. I will use this opportunity to dig a little deeper.

First off:

This is a Blogger blog that is hosted by the School Arts magazine editor, who is an experienced teacher herself in all levels from elementary to graduate. I found this because I was being cheap and didn’t want to pay for the magazine subscription and was hoping this blog may be an interesting substitute. (that’s a plus for blogs- they are CHEAP resources. and by cheap i mean FREE).

This blog contains all kinds of blogs and resources for teachers and pre-service teachers. There are some blogs that are personal reflections of teachers- such as the most recent post from a teacher encouraging that students are prompted to find artistic connections to nature. Other posts contain advice, lesson ideas, professional development topics. In the editor’s profile she notes “I am here writing for my like-minded compatriots, aiming to share your world of art education by providing timely art news; entertaining or thought-provoking artists, ideas, stories, and issues; professional opportunities for you; and project and lesson ideas and exhibition possibilities for your students.” I think she does an adequate job here on the blog- especially with the links to other websites and other blogs that she advocates and/or follows.


This blog is from a local teacher in Bowie, MD. I like her site because she seems to keep it updated and her teaching position is unique since she is an “art-on-a-cart” teacher with 3 elementary schools that she teaches at. She posts lessons and pictures of student work which is always helpful. I found this when looking for photos of classroom setup. Since I have no space of my own yet, I like to research ideas. I feel like this blog is most helpful because of all the photos that she includes. Since art is so visual and we as art teachers are likely most easily stimulated by visuals, I think her blog could have wide appeal for art educators and may be why I enjoy the blog so much.


Again, a blog by a female teacher that incorporates lots of photos. BUT I do enjoy looking at this blog more than the last simply because I find the design, layout and colors so much more pleasing. I guess that is definitely something to consider when creating a blog! not only should your writing be relevant, but neon green letters on a black background are not that appealing. also, the labels she provides along the side of her blog make navigating to specifics SO easy. She also encourages interaction and community by posting questions to fellow art teachers- such as “when do you have students dump their dirty paint water during a lesson?’ I love this example b/c it is SO geared towards art educators. No one else would find this questions remotely interesting, yet it’s completely relevant and even important to her audience, making this blog very much geared to a specific audience. She received 11 very involved comments to this post- proving that the question was very engaging to it’s audience.

SO, in conclusion, I believe that there are a few key factors in making a blog useful and helpful for teachers. First, I think that the writer needs to have some kind of credentials in their field, and I think they should make their goal clear in their profiles. I found that blogs that were just labeled “all things art” were just not engaging enough because they didn’t have a clear purpose. I preferred that the person spoke from clear experience and had clear intentions. Second, the layout/format of the blog has a big influence on the page’s “stickiness” or how long I, as a reader choose to spend on their site. A site can only be helpful if people look at it and spend time reading the posts and linking to a blog roll or commenting on posts. If the layout is not user-friendly, you are likely to have users leave your site and not take in any information. Lastly, I think that for teaching specifically- pictures are very helpful. Just because of the nature of art and teaching art, step by step lesson photos and finished student work photos are extremely interesting and helpful.

peace, love and art,



Jill Walker, Dept of Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen, Norway. Published in On the Horizon, Vol 13, Issue 2, 2005. Pages 112-118.


***UPDATE*** Found a new blog to follow!