Participatory Culture

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about participatory culture surrounding digital literacies. The article “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” defines participatory culture as “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.”

I’ve been building toward greater participation in digital communities this year with my students. However, it always reaches a point when you wonder where to go next. My students have been introduced to blogs, they’ve been commenting on blogs of their peers, and they’ve been utilizing blogs to ask questions about the world around them (such as gender bias or media analysis). However, if I don’t continue to build on what they’ve been doing with blogging, the blogs will begin to lose their novelty and the students will become less and less engaged with the process.

Reading this article has made me consider where to go next. What are the goals of blogging and what are my students ready to try next? Thinking about the big picture is most important here. I want my students to be able to engage in conversation, discussion, or even debates online while being safe, respectful, and informed. The future is online and my students need to be able to navigate that.

When looking back to the article’s definition of participatory culture, I found myself using it as a checklist.

  • Artistic Expression: I haven’t put restrictions on what they are allowed to blog about as long as they’re being safe. Some have chosen to pursue poetry and music in their blog posts.
  • Civic Engagement: The students have been looking through advertisements for companies that they enjoy and analyzing the ads for gender bias. The students have also been blogging about the election and Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Creating and Sharing One’s Own Creations: The students have been sharing their writing and research, have been reflecting on their thoughts and emotions, and have been answering questions from their peers surrounding what they’re choosing to post.
  • Informal Mentorship: not yet.

This is where I need to focus now. Informal mentorship. I would love to look into working with students at different grade levels through blogging. By allowing my students to blog and comment with students from older grades, my students will be able to benefit from mentorship. On the other side of this, my students could also serve as the “experts” to younger grades that are pursuing blogging.

This is where I want to go now. I want to try to find ways to open up my students to the informal mentorship process and see how it influences their blogging and their participation in an online community.


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