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Posts Tagged ‘Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture’

New Media Education

November 6th, 2009 No comments

The incorporation of new media in the classroom has been an ongoing process.  In the mid-1960s, bulky vacuum tube computers were establishing a presence on well-to-do universities, and smaller miniframes and minicomputers were starting to be used.   According to Catherine Schifter’s 2008 article, “A Brief History of Computers, Computing in Education, and Computing in Philadelphia Schools,” computers were often used in the 1960s for computer-assisted instruction.  Many teachers were hesitant to use this new technology and preferred educating with tools they knowledgeable with rather that this “alien” technology.

It wouldn’t be until the rise of Apple and their donations of computers to schools and universities would a class rely on computers as an educational tool.  In the 1980s, computer classes, or “labs”, became part of the curriculum.  However, the use of computers was still very constricted to the teaching of computer literacy.  This was so because computer skills weren’t needed in other classes, or if they were at all, they were used on a very basic level (simple math problems, science quizzes, etc).  Their use for higher level teaching was not popular outside of programming courses at universities.  Apple’s development of a decent word processing program, the Apple Works suite, became a common in 1984, but high school typing classes wouldn’t be until 1990.

Then textbooks began supplementing their material with 3.5in floppy disks and CD-ROMS.  The multimedia program, Hyperstudio, introduced high school students to multimodality in text.  Computer rooms in school were becoming more and more common as this “Internet” thing was slowly being realized as more than just a fad.

Now, computers and education have become integrated down to the elementary level.  The importance of computer literacy and teachers who are knowledgeable with computers have facilitated that integration.  A first grade teacher at Prairie South School in Central Saskatchewan, Canada, uses technology daily with her six to seven year old students.  They routinely use the Internet and even have their own blog, Blogmeister.  The following video was made by the class and is an example of just how fundamental new media has become in our schools.  (Pardon the music)

However, even though schools across the nation have created a multitude of computer classes and classes have worked computer use into their respective studies, there is still a need for a more systemic educational standards.  The participatory nature of new media presents many obstacles and questions that children, if left on their own, may or may not successfully navigate to became active and intelligent members of this new culture.  This is the argument Henry Jenkins et al. have constructed in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.  They stressed that young people need to develop a certain set of skills to achieve such a participatory status.  Those skills are play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation.

They ask and address three questions on page 56 to which the aforementioned skill set need be applied to:

  • How do we ensure that every child has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?
  • How do we ensure that every child has the ability to articulate his or her understanding
    of the way that media shapes perceptions of the world?
  • How do we ensure that every child has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that will shape their practices as media makers and as participants within online communities?

These questions raised by Jenkins and his colleagues are one that educators and scholars have been asking since computer technologies were seen as an important and ignored learning tool.  It would seem that teachers all over the world have been grappling with this problem and have been adjusting their courses accordingly, however new media have advanced incredibly fast in the last decade.  Administrations have be hard pressed to adjust so quickly and teachers may be more capable for impromptu adaptations, but the educational system is a slow giant.  We need to look at how schools are helping students become active participants in our “Web 2.0 culture” and determine what we can do to improve that transformation.

A look at Participatory Culture

November 6th, 2009 No comments

With advances in the internet and the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, individuals can better utilize digital recourses.   The features of this evolution according to Tim O’Reilly include; “Services… with cost-effective scalability, control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them, trusting users as co-developers, harnessing collective intelligence, leveraging the long tail through customer self-service, software above the level of a single device, and lightweight user interfaces, development models, and business models.” Users of Web 2.0 have greater ability to interact with content.  Thus, they have moved from a consumer driven culture to a participatory one where users actually produce content and inform others.

A participatory culture according to Henry Jenkins and the other contributors of Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture is “a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices… [a culture] in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection” (p. 3).  In this text Jenkins, provides an in depth look at how technology is impacting our culture. I was particularly interested in the idea that individuals that have moved from consumers of information to producers of information may have done so primarily because of popular culture and to some degree societal pressures not as much because of their education.

Jill Walker Rettberg also pointed to these changes in Blogging; Digital Media and Society Series. From the title of the text we can guess that Rettberg is talking mostly about blogs and their functions as a means of self exploration, citizen journalism, creating a dialog between the author of the post and those who wish to comment, etc.  However, these same ideas are relevant to other aspects of digital literacy.

Such is the case with Jenkins discussion of video games and their possibility to communicate valuable information to players. Jenkins states that “contemporary video games allow youth to play with sophisticated simulations and, in the process, to develop an intuitive understanding of how we might use simulations to test our assumptions about the way the world works” (p. 23).  Jenkins continues on to highlight a conversation between a boy and his father that shows that the game provided valuable historical and political information.  We can see this sort of participation in an ever growing number of spaces including but certainly not limited to music such as with youtube and sampling as is described in Copyrights and Copywrongs; The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity by Siva Vaidhyanathan.