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.

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About Maybe It's Time

yogi-runner-artist-gardener who is a food-lover and cooking-enthusiast, while teaching art and being a parent of two pups, spending free time camping and studying urban homesteading.

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