“Our goal for this report is to encourage reflection and public discussion on how we might incorporate these core principles systematically across curricula and across the divide between in-school and out-of-school activities.” –Jenkins, 57
Jenkins’ “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” offered great insight into “participatory culture”. I found myself really engaging in the text and connecting a lot of the examples to my personal life. I think the authors did a great job really explaining the purpose of their article, what each term was, and how they could be translated into the classroom for teachers or future teachers.
This article poses the idea of a participatory culture, which is defined as a “culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing ideas one’s creation and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices” (3). Basically, it’s a “community” with limited rules or instructions on creative expression and engagement because there is a strong support of making and sharing ideas. The people in this community feel safe and they believe that their contribution matters. They feel connected to one another forming a close bond allowing them to learn and grow. They talk about four different participatory cultures: affiliations like Facebook or message boards, expressions like fan fiction writing, collaborative Problem-solving like Wikipedia, and circulations like blogging. These are all ways that participatory culture can exist. Can they co-exist in the classroom?
As with everything else, there are downsides or concerns with this idea. The participation gap meaning there is unequal access of the Internet for all students, which is probably a big issue for most teachers, the transparency problem, which challenges the youth to see clearly how media shapes our perceptions, and the ethics challenge, which traditional forms of professional training that prepare youth for roles in media the media or public. I’m not sure how teachers would deal with these issues. Is there any way to get around them?
Everyone today worries so much about the dangers of using technology in the classroom and how it will make students reliant and dependent—that they might not know how to read and write “correctly” anymore. Jenkins writes, “It matters what tools are available to a culture, but it matters more what that culture chooses to do with these tools” (8). I think this is key in integrating technology into the classroom—choosing how and when to use the tools that will help engage students in the learning. This worry about endangering traditional forms of reading and writing is highlighted when Jenkins says, “Much writing about twenty-first century literacies seems to assume that communicating through visual, digital, or audiovisual media will displace reading and writing. We fundamentally disagree. Before students can engage with the new participatory culture, they must be able to read and write” (19). Students won’t forget or abandon reading and writing, they will be using them in a new way—a way that they are accustomed to and a way that will help them to really connect with the text. I agree with Jenkins that traditional forms of reading and writing won’t be pushed aside; they will be expanded on and used in different context for our fast-changing world. Students should learn to work around all the modes of media since it plays a major role in our society even the world today.
Why are educators afraid of new technologies? They are after all the remediation of older concepts even classic authors like Homer used and adapted ideas from Greek mythology to construct The Iliad and The Odyssey. How can students in this day and age stay engaged in a text that they think they can’t relate to? One of Sara Kajder’s students said, “I don’t get the words, and they don’t matter to anything I care about” (48). How do we make them care about the text? Is this even possible? Jenkins offers a valid point about engagement. The article talked about how in order for students to be engaged, they have to participate in play because fun leads to engagement. They state, “Play, as psychologists and anthropologists have long recognized, is key in shaping children’s relationship to their bodies, tools, communities, surroundings, and knowledge. Most of children’s earliest learning comes through playing with the materials at hand. Through play, children try on roles, experiment with culturally central processes, manipulate core resources, and explore their immediate environments. As they grow older, play can motivate other forms of learning” (22).
Obviously I’m not saying that school should be fun and games, but how can we make it fun for students to engage them so they can think critically about texts that “don’t matter to anything they care about”? I find this interesting because anything that has really stuck with me over the years has been something that I had fun doing or engaged in finishing. I did a reenactment of a battle in World War II and I still remember the facts from the video. I wrote a paper on the physical and psychological effects of drunk driving because my friend nearly died in a drunk driving accident—I actually liked researching for that paper because I was interested and engaged in learning more. What kinds of “games” can English teachers adapt? Kajder gives one example of having students create board games to walk readers through the plot or a theme. I think other creative assignments other than games could work well too. Kajder used storybooks, the redesigning of book covers, or collages with images or text. Games and performances allow students to identify with characters and immerse themselves in the story like with blogging or character journals.
Although I like the idea of shifting the focus of literacy from individual expression to community involvement, I am wary of making this a permanent decision. I do believe we accomplish tasks and acquire new ideas or knowledge with the help of other people or the remediation of past ideas. Jenkins talks about the collective intelligence and how it gives people the ability to come together to compare and share to reach a goal. This reminds me of another aspect of Jenkins’ article when he talks about how we are taught to think of knowledge as a product when in collective intelligence, knowledge is about process. This brought me back to last week’s class discussion about group work and grades. Group work doesn’t work because of the “importance” placed on grades, so would it work better in collective intelligence because process counts over product? Don’t we learn through process? The steps we take in reaching a goal, finishing a product, researching, and of course making mistakes teach us, guide us, and direct us. It’s a learning process in itself. So shouldn’t the process of getting somewhere count over the finished product since our learning stems from the steps that got us there?
Lastly, this article really tied into the other articles we read for this week through webquests. Jenkins discusses how this online resource connects to participatory culture through networking. It exposes students to several opinions on the topic they’re researching and trains them to produce their own perceptions in a guided way.
Some questions to consider:
What do you think about participatory culture? Could it work in our education system, why or why not?
How would educators deal with the three major concerns that participatory culture has? Are there ways to get around them?
Have any of “you” teachers used webquests in the classroom? How effective are they? What are the drawbacks?
What are your thoughts about product vs. process?