MAS.714J | Fall 2009 | Graduate

Technologies for Creative Learning


Reading responses for Week #4: New Media Literacy

Reflection and Questions

Posted by SL and MN

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, the white paper by Henry Jenkins, et al., does a terrific job of describing the new media literacies that will be required of our children (and ourselves) for future work and life. This is a long article, so to help you get through it in a reasonable amount of time, we’re suggesting that you read pp. 1-22, then skim the next 30 pages (just get the gist of the 11 new media skills), and read the last 3 sections carefully.

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of the Jenkins white paper to get you started on your blog assignment for the week.

New media literacies are currently learned in informal environments - our schools have been slow and reluctant to embrace the many challenges new media tools and content present to the educational system. Increasingly they are learned in participatory cultures. According to Jenkins:

“A 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 by the most experienced is
passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe
their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another
(at least they care what other people think about what they have created).” (p.3)

While these skills are being developed outside of the classroom in informal environments, Jenkins, et al. believe they need to be developed and supported within school structures to address three major concerns:

The Participation gap: more equitable access to the tools, technology, skills and experiences for all learners,

The Transparency problem: media should be assessed as to who, why and how it was produced, with what purpose in mind- that is, critical assessment of media,

The Ethics challenge: the breakdown of professional forms of and socialization that support learners becoming responsible future media producers and community participants.

The media literacies needed to become a full participant in these emerging online participatory communities (and by extension to participate in future work environments) include the following 11 skills: play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, negotiation.

According to Jenkins, there are two very important considerations that we need to keep in mind as we form approaches to developing new media literacies. First, that the construction of knowledge is a social process, it is built by communities rather than in isolation. Second, that these literacies should be understood as skills and competencies.

Please, share your thoughts on one, two or all of the following questions:

Question 1: Go to the internet and find a fun, interesting, participatory online activity (social networking, music, gaming, mashups, online community art project, etc.), tinker around it, and then share how it develops new media skills. Specifically connect it to one or two of the eleven skills Jenkins mentions in his white paper and comment on some possible caveats of using the particular activity in an educational setting. How might this activity fit into our current educational system?

Question 2: Would any of the eleven skills be developed better with or without computers, internet, or other technologies, based on your own experiences?

Question 3: What do you think the ideal mix of new media and formal education should look like in the future?

Question 4: Are there any critical new media skills missing from Jenkin’s list?

Good luck!!!

MN and SL


For those posting comments after Monday morning!

Professor Resnick recommended that we focus our questions a little better. Please answer both of the following questions, since we’re planning on basing our class activity around them:

For your blog assignment this week please go to the internet and find a fun, interesting, participatory online activity (social networking, music, gaming, mashup, online community art project, etc.), tinker around it, and be prepared to use it in class on Wednesday to talk about new media literacies. Please address the following in your blog entry:

  1. Share how your online site develops new media skills. Specifically connect it to one or two of the eleven skills Jenkins mentions in his white paper and comment on some possible caveats of using the particular activity in an educational setting. How might this activity fit into our current educational system?
  2. What do you think the ideal mix of new media and formal education should look like in the future?

Good luck!!!

MN and SL

Student Reading Responses

Posted by JC

In addressing question 2, I believe computers, internet, etc. serve as additional tools that encourage the development of the eleven skills outlined by Jenkins, et al. I would not say that these skills are better developed with or without these tools. However, the development is different; we are not limited to our physical space, objects, or physics. Such technological tools expand the world in which we can play and explore; it extends beyond our physical space and the characters in that space. This provides a different space in which to develop the skills. When I was a child, I would play out scenarios and stories with physical objects: dolls, toy tractors, etc. Technological tools, like a computer, allow me to draw out stories in any world I can imagine.

Posted by SL

My search brought up a couple of interesting sites that I thought were relevant to this week’s discussion. The first was the Twitter Opera performed at the Royal Opera House in London sometime in the last week or two. Many of you will be familiar with this, but the details are interesting. The Twitter Opera’s self description is: “Help create the first Twitter-written opera, 140 characters at a time.” (

This was an attempt to have writers, artists and the Twitter-ati put the same tools that create Wikipedia entries and other new media collaborations in the service of art-specifically collaborative art that bridges the digital/physical divide. A large community of Twitter subscribers contributed their 140 characters to construct the libretto.

Though no final video of the event exists, here is a taste of the resulting performance:

The opera, it seems, was not terrible, and served as the platform for a very interesting experiment in socially constructed art using new media competencies of distributed cognition (interacting with tools that expand mental capabilities), collective intelligence (pooling knowledge toward a common goal), and negotiation (traversing diverse communities, with multiple perspectives and norms). I think this points toward a very powerful and potentially productive path for building communities of learners who can create as they construct knowledge. While the educational applications to art and culture are apparent from this instantiation, I can see where this approach might be applied more broadly across the educational spectrum to include, for example, role playing in historical subjects, writing, literature, and possibly foreign languages. I think it would be important to have disciplinary expertise involved to help guide the creative process. The participation of professionals in the process would add both applied motivation to the process of learning and creating, as well as some experience with the norms of a community of practice.

Related to this approach is a tool I found that is not new, but is an especially engaging platform for small communities to build and share knowledge using many of kinds of media and input to explore and document a topic. Please see VoiceThread. VoiceThread helps develop several of the skills and competencies that Jenkins points out as important for the next generation: distributed cognition, collective intelligence, transmedia navigation, negotiation, and networking. This tool is particularly engaging as it does have several simple input modes: video, photo, audio recording, text, etc. You choose what inputs work best for you and add to the collection of information that the community builds around the topic at hand. I can see this tool supporting multiple modes of learning in multiple disciplines in a very engaging way. This tool would likely require extra support for handling intellectual property and appropriation issues.

While you’re browsing, add your personal art to this gigantic collaborative art piece, The One Million Masterpiece. It’s just fun.

Posted by MN

I just visited the Twitter-opera site. What an interesting idea!

Putting aside the artistic value of this libretto, I think it’s a great way to involve laymen into the thought-provoking and fulfilling process of artistic creation. I definitely think this is a legitimate step towards the kind of new media learning Jenkins, et al, was envisioning.

Posted by FG

I was very interested to read about Heartbeat, a game I didn’t know about. Last semester in Pattie Maes and Iroshi Ishii’s “New Paradigms for Human-Computer Interaction” class I designed a “State of the Heart Brooch,” as an example of heart rate sensoring technology. My argument for its possible applications was that it could not only give out useful information in medical, sports or other practical situations, but also be useful in social settings so as to facilitate communication among people. By seeing someone’s heart rate and other data [since it would be displayed on their chest/garments through the brooch], people could see who is a sports/fitness fan for example and start a conversation with that person on that topic. Or the fluctuations in our heart rate, which would be visible through the brooch, could show other people our emotional state at a given moment - if we are nervous about an upcoming job interview, or excited to see them, etc.

One criticism that was voiced in that class after my presentation was that most people are still not used to- and would be reluctant to show the world their emotions, that it is too invasive and eventually would lead to issues of privacy. But as the amount of personal information that people pour out onto Facebook shows, I think this new practice of being more open about our emotions in social settings is just a question of getting used to it and adopting it. Perhaps this could also be useful in educational settings, where for example a timid shy who doesn’t dare ask questions about what he doesn’t understand before is peers/classmates, could have the done job for him by ’letting his heart speak for him.’ I remember that throughout my 12 years of school in Belgium, much of the time I didn’t dare ask the math teacher to repeat or explain something out of fear/shame or feelings of hopelessness. Maybe these sensoring technologies could help in such situations and also to simply to facilitate communication among collaborating classmates and learners through their social applications.

Some research on these sensoring jewels has been done before at the Media Lab. Here is another link about a beating heart brooch

Posted by VC

Up until this year, one of my HGSE classmates taught “Introduction to Technology” at a public high school in Roxbury, which meant he ran the school television news show. His pedagogical strategy was brilliant: the whole year, he pretended he didn’t know any Final Cut Pro, telling the kids that his job was to make sure the scripts were written correctly. Though this sometimes meant he had to stay until 9pm watching a student agonize over a technical problem that could have taken him 20 minutes to fix, he says that this hands-off method gave the kids a lot more ownership and pride over their work-they’ve even won regional awards for their work.

The administration begrudgingly gave the kids a lot of editorial freedom and in one instance, these kids used that freedom to get at the transparency issue. At this school, students use the N-word the way most of us would use the word “man” or “dude” (as in, “What’s up, dude?”). With the administration’s hesitant blessing, the kids produced a newscast attacking the use of this word. They started with a famous image (I can’t remember the name) of a crowd of white people smiling and then panned the camera such that it revealed that the crowd was smiling at a black many being lynched. When the slideshow ended, the anchor-the class clown and football captain-went on air and gave an impassioned speech not to call him n***. “If this is what N***** means, I’m not your n*****”. The rampant use of the N-word ceased for several weeks.

From what I can tell, the process of producing this television show helped kids develop a critical eye towards popular media-fortifying their judgment and appropriation skills. They were suddenly aware of how much their media consumption habits shaped them in ways they didn’t like. I was dumbfounded when my classmate relayed this story-it takes a lot of thought to challenge a habit that is conventionally cool, especially when you’re an adolescent.

To answer Question 2 more directly, I think that this school-wide behavioral change wouldn’t have occurred if the kids’ only creative outlet was through print writing. Perhaps it reflects poorly on society, but television is a medium for the masses and these kids’ message would not have had such a huge impact on school atmosphere without this medium. In a time when young people are struggling to distinguish between advertisement and fact, perhaps every student needs the experience of producing some form of mass media. In the production process, students can better understand how much power the media yields and also have a better sense of when they’re being played.

Posted by SL

Production is a really good way to develop some of the skills and capacities that Jenkins describes. As a former producer, I can point to several that it utilizes: multitasking, transmedia navigation, negotiation and collective intelligence. They all come into play. I would think editorial responsibilities in just about any medium would also develop these same skills. And again, this approach allows learners to experience first hand some of the standards and practices of a professional community. As you mention, it also helps them judge and critique information- very important, and very difficult skills which we haven’t quite figured out how to develop in the online environment.

Posted by JC

My personal experience with participatory online activities tend to revolve around producing something for work. Tools, like Google Docs, allow me to collaborate with remote authors in a near real-time capacity. Virtual whiteboards are becoming more available as well. Dabbleboard is one that I have come across. The interactive whiteboard tool would encourage development of play, simulation, collective intelligence and networking.

I don’t believe there is an ideal mix of new media and formal education; but there should definitely exist the option to blend formal education with new media. Current education could certainly benefit from media that exist today, like collaborative whiteboards. If the formal education evolved to a set of core skills, like those mentioned in the ready, then the methods of which the skills are obtained become centric to the student’s ideal learning environment. This may be any combination of hands on, formal, apprenticeship, etc.

Posted by AL

I’d like to answer question 2, regarding the ideal mix of new media and formal education in the future. Three things come to mind:

  • A foundational awareness of patterns of new media use among youth
  • Thoughtfully working to close the new media literacy divide
  • Encouragement to use forms of new media in the context of further exploring ideas, especially in “interest-driven genres of participation” (Ito, et al, 2008)

I co-directed a seminar today on new media and civic participation for a class at the Education School at Harvard, and noticed several repeated threads during the conversations surrounding the question I posed “Should new media literacy be taught in schools? If so, what should this look like?” A noticeable one was a certain trepidation of teaching new media literacy, which stemmed from a misunderstanding of the reaches of youth new media uses. I wondered if perhaps the teachers themselves should be educated in new media literacy, and “digital fluency” (Resnick, 2002) before teaching. I felt that this prerequisite understanding of the possibilities as well as the mechanisms of new media for educational purposes would be an important foundation for future education. It occurred to me also that youth new media uses in schools are currently portrayed negatively and are therefore regarded as marginalized activities. If their capabilities were embraced in more holistic way, incorporating other forms of developmental pedagogy, they would aid in many wonderful aspects of education, including the development of inquiry, enabling curiosity and the pursuit of strong interests, developing questions, project-based learning that could span the globe, and so on. Educating for new media literacy should include not just technical skills, but should also teach students how to use new media with quality. I’m very interested in learning more about this, but at this point in my understanding, it seems that the use of new media in formal education should incorporate teaching for its ethical use as well. I am also very interested in understanding the ways in which new media uses will shape our evolving views of education. It seems that one of the great lessons to learn from the peer-based learning practiced by so many digital youth is a more dialogical rather than hierarchical way of classroom (teacher-student, student-student) communication.

Posted by FG

I will be taking liberties here and divert a little from the assignment, but I thought I would post a very relevant and recent article:

Glader, Paul. “Online High Schools Test Students’ Social Skills.” Wall Street Journal (September 24, 2009).

I found interesting that although the piece says there are huge advantages to a new media-rich online education, it also says that it may lead to social isolation for those students who learn from home. Nothing is perfect I guess…

Posted by SK

Question 1:

I recently watched Will Wright’s TED talk and became interested in his video game Spore. Because I don’t really want to buy the game, I’ve just been looking at the free creature creator and the sporepedia.

The game might help develop many of the 11 skills Jenkins talks about, but perhaps most interesting is its relationship to simulation and appropriation. Jenkins mentions Wright’s earlier SimCity series of games as examples of educational simulation. Spore falls in much the same category because of the way it simulates biological evolution over many time scales. However, there is perhaps more transparency into the model being used in Spore than that of SimCity because users are engaged in creating the organisms that will involve by manipulating various parameters. By giving players the ability to assume a role they could never obtain in real life (freeform control to create an organism, versus the unlikely but possible role as mayor of a major city), players can gain some additional understanding of what parameters matter to the simulation they are working in.

Appropriation factors in with the use of the sporepedia to download other players’ creations for use in one’s own world. This allows players not only to create more diversity in the simulations they have created but also to learn what is possible with the tools available.

If this game were used in an educational setting to, for example, teach about evolution or taxonomy, its use might be limited by the fact that it is primarily a commercial entertainment product. The concepts embedded within its gameplay might have potential to be educational, but they are first and foremost designed to be entertaining. Creating a creature always begins with a blob with a backbone. While this starting point allows for many different possibilities, it immediately constrains the creations to one real-world class of animals (vertebrates) for the sake of a simple and fun-to-use creation tool. Still, it might be beneficial and engaging to use this game in conjunction with more traditional learning about the animal world and ask students to point out the similarities and differences between the game and reality. The advantages gained by doing this sort of comparative analysis would likely outweigh any confusion caused by mistaking the game’s parameters for the real world.

Question 2:

I think the skill of appropriation might be better developed in a local, face-to-face situation rather than through the mediated experience of the Internet. If students were encouraged to borrow from and remix their local classmates’ work (as opposed to the focus on standing apart and being “creative” in an individual sense), they would not only gain skills in the technical aspects of such appropriation, but their classmates reactions (good or bad) would help them develop an ethical sense of when and how it was okay to borrow.

In many cases, a student’s use of copyrighted material without attribution for a class assignment will have no real negative impact, and insistence that this is still “wrong” and constitutes plagiarism will cause the student to feel as though the issue is one of choosing to follow authoritarian rules rather than a matter of ethics regarding ownership and the value of creativity. If, however, the student borrows from a classmate and that classmate’s reaction is negative, the social causes of the situation are much more real and relevant and the issue is more likely to be considered deeply for what it is.

Question 3:

I think Jenkins makes a good point about new media literacy not being a replacement for traditional literacy such as reading and writing. However, I think there are places where new media can be used in place of old media to accomplish both goals at once. One example is with writing reflection essays. In school, I was encouraged to do this in a journal that might be handed in to the teacher on a regular basis. Recently, I have found it more helpful to write this sort of content as a blog, including links and images from relevant sources around the web, fusing new media skills with traditional textual reflection. In a classroom setting, students who do this could selectively choose to make content viewable to only themselves, their teachers, the whole class, or the whole web and therefore keep their thoughts organized while opening themselves up to feedback from various sources.

Question 4:

Two new media skills I could imagine being added to Jenkins’ list are safety and commerce. Though I don’t necessarily feel these need to or should be taught in schools, navigating the new media landscape requires new ways of thinking about safety, privacy, identity, and economics. Perhaps it is tied in with Jenkins’ idea of “transparency,” but I believe it is important for people to understand the economic models (or lack thereof) used to support various new media services, especially when the model is not obvious (Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc). I might also argue that new media cannot be truly participatory unless everyone understands how they might turn their content into profit, if they wish to do so. Understanding the basics of buying and selling physical goods is embedded in curriculum from the beginning (math problems involving arithmetic and money are common), but understanding how writing content for a period without receiving any compensation may, eventually, lead to a book deal for example is not a skill currently taught.

Posted by SL

Hi SK,

I really like the concept behind Spore. Unfortunately one has to have a very up-to-date OS to run the trial program, so I couldn’t try it out. But it sounds very much like it’s based on similar ideas that were experimented with at the Media Lab in the early days, a program that allowed you to evolve animals. I have also seen a similar concept used more recently in an exhibit at the Museum of Science. Kids loved it, and they did actually learn something about evolution. I think it’s an interesting application of new media skills, incorporating as you say, somewhat social skills- in that you can download other people’s creatures- and simulation. The simulation aspects have very powerful learning potential. And the subject of evolution, should a school choose to teach it (Ouch! My home state of Georgia has chosen not to…) is an important dynamic model to help students construct.

Your idea of exercising appropriation skills at the local level - helping students gain a sense of intellectual property and appropriateness from their peers- is a good one. Your vision for this is particularly interesting as it would facilitate socially constructed behaviors, similar to those used in professional communities of practice. This approach would also bring into focus some judgment skills-how much you can trust a piece of information, where it comes from, and the the underlying motivation for creating it.

Posted by JL

I watched the TED talk on Spore, and I am wishing that I had this game when I was in high school. My biology teacher had a difficult time explaining how evolution worked. And without a model, it was very hard to imagine and even comprehend. Eventually, we all watched a documentary on evolution which cleared up some of the confusion through detailed graphics showing the progression of animals through time. But a game like Spore can really engage a learner and have them walk through the steps of evolution themselves, and thus gaining a deeper knowledge.

Posted by FG

I think your point on teaching economic awareness and understanding is very valuable in this discussion. I totally agree with you that one should understand the mechanics of the larger economic context into which these educational activities take place and this goes for the students and people who use the educational tools. The only ‘danger’, however, that I see in this is that it may carry the risk of turning the users/learners into cynics:).. I have to say that reading Pr. Jenkins’ “Convergence Culture - Where Old and New Media Collide” has opened my eyes in not always good ways about how viral marketing and other commerce-driven tactics and ways of thinking literally rule the development and application of these cool participatory digital technologies and their supportive social services practices. It does make you wonder if the formation of free and informed citizens is really the goal behind them, or if it isn’t simply the good old dollar…

But so yes, people [and school children, students and teachers/educators] should be aware of this.

Posted by JP

I used play Spore last year. I had an unusual experience with the game that I thought useful in teaching children to know the life of people with disability. Accidently I made a creature with no eyes. At that time, I did not fully understand how to play the game and I choose expense carnivore mouth instead of eyes to get higher points. I naively thought it would simply accelerate the growing speed of the creature. On the contrary, my wrong choice changed my screen brightness very low. It seemed like the game forced users to have the same kind of disadvantage, the dark sight, of creature with no-eye.

It would be difficult to educate the life of disabilities in formal education. Sometimes, I saw a group of MIT students walking in line on the infinite corridor with their eyes covered to experience the difficulties of a blind. However it would be dangerous if young children to do the same practice. I guess the potential of game is lie in which it can allow people to experience something dangerous and rare in real life.

Posted by KA

You might be interested in checking out Project NML’s site, and their new Learning Library project.

According to the site, “the Learning Library is intended as a multimedia activity center where people can come to learn more about the new media literacies, acquiring skills and practicing them through challenges, and ultimately, producing and sharing their own content with other members of the Learning Library.”

Posted by DG

Question 3: What do you think the ideal mix of new media and formal education should look like in the future?

I think that mix media will come to dominate well defined skills such as reading, arithmetic, history, etc. Traditional formal education will still be needed in areas, in a dominant paradigm is not yet defined, where the instructor and students are exploring the field together to figure out what works and in which the field is highly specialized or rapidly changing. Of course even this formal educational system will take advantage of the new media techniques. Of course I think that students should be able to have access to instructors, but I think it’s best to let children explore and learn on their own with guidance here and there to help them reflect and to ensure their progress.

In regards to how teachers should employ the use of computers in their classroom and what students should be allowed to do, I find myself once again with a great Wozniak quote:

“Allowing some level of mild pranks - with a rule that it’s not going to harm anyone -
would be a good policy

I [did] that in my own computer classes with young kids. If you could get on to
someone else’s computer and hide things from them and get them all excited, it was
okay - as long as you could restore it easily. And they never once disobeyed that rule
in eight years.”

Here he is emphasizing that children need to be able to pull pranks on each other, experiment, and break some rules - not be restricted in their exploration. Reflecting on last week’s class, I’ve come to realize, at last for me, deep & lasting learning has a strong exploration element - I’m driven by the desire to explore the topic.

Posted by SL

Pranks and experimentation point to two issues that have come up for us in weeks past. Permission to pull pranks reminds me a lot of the idea of permission to make mistakes-that you don’t have to get it right the first time, or every time, and that through mistakes you learn. Pranks are a way to do that same experimentation. And because they are firmly anchored in play, they are very engaging and absorbing. What’s unusual in Wozniak’s quote is that this happened IN school. In our class a few weeks ago, we described important learning objects in our lives. They were all engrossing and they all happened outside of school. Maybe there is promise in this approach!

Posted by DL

Thanks for the link to the article. I haven’t thought much about pranks, but your comment got me thinking of how pranks definitely develops many (if not all) of the skills mentioned in our reading-a prank is basically a really cool project that guarantees interest by the participants. Thinking about all the mind-blowing MIT pranks as a source of reference, I think that pranks doesn’t only “encourage” students to experiment and break rules, it forces students to break rules (i.e. think outside of the box and challenge default assumptions), and that is something we should see more of in schools.

Posted by FG

Question 1:

This is far from new, but as I read about it in one of Pr. Jenkins’s classes and it has great relevance to our discussion, I thought I would post it: it’s one of the pioneering alternate reality games called “I love Bees.” It was extremely successful in bridging the gap between the physical and digital and in engaging participants to collaborate and work on solutions together in both worlds. I could see such a game/activity being put in place in some schools’ curricula.

Question 2:

The most attractive and laudable aspect of Pr. Jenkins’s white paper in my view is its strong support of a democratic foundation for education. Indeed, democratic practices are embedded in the various skills and activities it supports, from participatory forms of activities to full and diverse representation of participants. However, the kind of skills he promotes seems to have evolved from the use of computers and Internet services and social trends themselves and to be best developed and practiced with them too. It is hard to imagine their emergence as core skills for our times without the use of the Internet or other technologies. In other words, perhaps unlike more traditional and intrinsic skills such as listening attentively, the ability to summarize and being driven and motivated for example, it is hard to dissociate the new media skills from their social, technological and temporal contexts. They are very much dependent on them.

By the way, for anyone interested, Pr. Jenkins expands on the use of these new media skills in young people’s education through the Project Zero in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. [See Young People, Ethics, and the New Digital Media: A Synthesis from the Good Play Project, 2/22/2008].

Question 3:

My response will be quite vague as I do not have a specific model of education or classroom experience in mind. I just know that whatever form education takes in the future and whether or not it uses technology, it should foster creativity and critical independent thinking in children and students - two skills that I see as crucial in one’s development, whichever academic path one takes.

Of course education can only be enhanced by the use of technology, as long as it’s not dependent on it, and access to individual computers and other equipment for all students is an ideal scenario, as long as they do not have to bear the costs.

Andrea A. diSessa seems to place great emphasis on the number of computers per student and the “infrastructural influence” they have in forming a successful educational experience. Given that in Russia, technological infrastructure is crumbling, [as in many other spheres], with still minimal Internet penetration and computer access in schools, and that despite all this, that country produces some of the best programmers in the world, this might lead diSessa to re-assess his theories and proposals.

All this to say that I don’t think technology alone can support a successful educational system, it must come with teachers and educators who guide and suggest ways of learning and thinking, without imposing their views and while respecting diverse opinions and cultures among their learners.

Such a new, reformed system of education as has been proposed by the authors we have been reading must also be recognized and supported by society and socio-economic structures at large, so that the student doesn’t feel like a fish out of water once he hits the big world out there, because the real world may be technology-driven but it may not always support the type of activities and behaviors encouraged in the new participatory educational system [having fun, exploring, few restraints, etc]

Question 4:

As I mentioned above, I think that the ability to think critically and independently is essential, and perhaps more so in today’s technology-driven world, as many of these technologies come embedded with a set of recommended technological uses and social practices. To that can be added the ability to think outside the box and resist peer pressure and group think, which can potentially thrive in group situations. Pr. Jenkins does mention these aspects in his white paper and other writings, but to a much lesser extent than other skills. Then finally, self-reliance and resourcefulness, especially in today’s increasingly resource-challenged world [including human resources, with staff cuts everywhere]. These last two skills apply on a more abstract level too: to be and stay motivated and driven, even in the face of adversity and when no one is around to cheer us up or encourage us.

Posted by ZH

Question 3:

I am not sure about how this ideal mix should look like in the future. I guess it is possible that, in the formal education, it encourages people to discuss, to team work and then learn from each other. in the new media, especially the internet, the school provide all the recommended resources and ask students to learn them independent. during this independence study, students could try to find any resources they could, also they could participate in online discussion. This is more based on my own experience: once internet became a infinite resource, most of my study are highly rely on that. So knowledge is not a secret anymore; people can easily have a access to get what they want to know, especially for some general study. ?one of the example is that, i learned " computer program c" at school when i was undergrad student. however, i almost forget most of them after one year. After graduation, i learned another program language by myself. I get all the resource online, participate the online discussion. From that online community, i can easily get the cool works by the other people. In the end, i think i get really good understanding of that programs and keep the strong interests to explore more.

Posted by JP

Question 1:

  1. Edmunds CarSpace
  2. Internet Cello Society

My favorite two participatory Web sites are Edmunds’ and Internet Cello Society. Both Web sites provides an unrestricted space to share information and experiences among people who have the same interest.

The first I want to introduce is the by Edmunds. Generally, people visit this Web site when they need to buy a new or used car and to get information regarding price, performance, safety and resale value. This Web site has quite good reputation among prospective vehicle buyers, because the Web site not only shows vehicle manufacturers’ information but also provides rich articles from its own experts. The Web site has a special sub-site called CarSpace.Com which provides a participatory space for people who want to share their knowledge and experience and to learn newest information about cars.

The second is Internet Cello Society. Though I am not an active participant, I spend lots of time reading most of the articles and posting my own experience and, I believe, I learned quite amount of cello playing techniques and skills from this Web site. More importantly, I learned most of my new media skills through my participation, skills like how to search key words fast, how to find the original source and how to use efficiently large size video clips and flash animations. I could learn how to transfer data from desktop computer to portable devices, how to convert files into different formats. I could learn watching movies with or without transcripts. I could learn changing play speeds and editing movie clips to compare different musicians playing styles.

Participatory Culture in Internet Cello Society

When I first start learning to play cello, I did not easily understand what my instructor explained and she did not easily catch why I had difficulty in following her instructions. I guessed she explained in a way professional musicians did, not plain explanations, and might expect that was the right way even for beginners. Regarding the gap between novices and experts, participatory-culture was a very effective way to learn something with ease and comfort. Joining the Internet Cello Society was especially useful since people on the Web site used plain and easy language. Participatory-culture allows learners to share questions and answers frequently and repeatedly. This may not always comfortable between students and teachers.

Judgment in

One thing people in start to suspect is that there are posts written by auto manufacturers among the car web-communities. Sometimes posts are too much positive about specific cars and manufacturers. Sometimes similar posts are uploaded irregularly but consistently. Accordingly it is necessary for people to screen the internet contents before they really buy the idea.

Participation Gap in

I first started to use the internet in 1992. At that time, I used a phone line and only a small number of people could join a participatory activity via the internet. The small number of people might cause a very strong connected feeling among members. Even though there were no barriers, the limited internet usability naturally made all the information shared exclusive among members and whenever there were promotions from car-manufacturers, the offers only available inside the group. This gap between internet users and non-users has almost disappears among young people. It is evident to see that the gap still exists among old people. My parents’ generation are divide into a very small number of heavy internet users and a very large number of who are media illiterate.

Question 2:

I am quite confident that it would be very difficult to learn the eleven skills without new media. I have grown up with new media in terms of learning. Though new media might not have an impact on my school life, it greatly influenced my learning. (I would separate my learning experience and my school life, since a large amount of my real learning came from outside school.) I watched numerous movies and listened to English music. I could check limitless examples of English usages using the internet. Eventually these became a strong foundation for improving my language skills. However, all these learning methods never happened in formal education where the use of new media was very limited.

Question 3:

I imagine the massive use of personal and portable computer devices as new media for formal education and customized learning. I imagine a class will be divided half for instruction from the teacher and half for personal activity using new media. A student’s personal devices may share its information with a central computer in formal education regarding the student’s learning progress and methods. This is different from the monitoring student’s activity. Rather, the structure of formal education will support student’s individual learning process by supporting new media in form of hardware and software. I imagine the ideal mix of new media is that teachers support the student’s emotional side and new media may assist in technical educational contents. I imagine teachers work like a sports coach who supports athletes mentally and physically.

Posted by JL

FMyLife is a participatory online activity where people can anonymously post a short story about an unfortunately event in their life. Here is an excerpt:

“Today, I saw an elderly man fall in a crosswalk, so I jumped off my bike to help. As I
helped him across, the light turned green. At that point I noticed my phone had fallen
out of my pocket in the street and was run over by several cars. I then watched across
a 6 lane street as someone stole my bike. FML”

All the anecdotes start with “Today” and end with “FML.” Members can also comment on these stories and vote that they “agree, your life sucks” or that “you totally deserved it.”

FMyLife caters to a media skill that I believe should be added to Jenkin’s list of eleven skills: community. FMyLife serves as a source of not only entertainment but also a place for social release. As social creatures, humans look for ways to express themselves. But sharing embarrassing or disastrous stories about oneself is difficult even with close friends and family. FMLife enables people to share these kinds of stories to the public, possibly helping them to “laugh it off” and even receive advise from others.

Developing a sense of community is an important media skill. Why would someone give advice to a stranger about how to handle his/her situation? What incentive is there for people to help others who need assistance in technical forums? Sometimes finding a friendly person to help with a problem is already difficult in real life; most of the time you need to pay someone for such services. So why should a community of strangers only identified by avatars and screennames be compelled to help each other? The idea of helping others and supporting a community is an important social concept in which all members of a participatory culture should adopt.

FMyLife could be used in an educational setting to build a sense of a “school body.” The entire school can have access to their own FMyLife Web site in which the students and even the faculty can post anonymously. FMyLife can reveal the endeavors of the student/teacher population and can hopefully instill a sense of community within the school.

In the future, I believe that the education system should consist of engaging the students first through new media technologies and then expanding their interests through formal education. Although I am an advocate for having an educational system that consist of ONLY new media technologies where children can simulate WWII with a computer and learn programming through LEGO kits, I realize that you cannot learn everything through this interactive medium. Although LEGO MINDSTORM kits can get students excited about programming, it still is not “real” programming. The new media technologies should serve as a way to give children a model of the system in a fun engaging fashion, but more in-depth knowledge can learned through formal education.

Posted by RC

I like your suggestion of first engaging students through new media technologies and then expanding through formal education. I do believe that there is still a need for some formal education because some things are more effective with structure. But students are definitely opposed to formal education and your suggestion helps alleviate the pains associated with it

Posted by AL

Hi JL,

I wanted to add to your thought about formal education and new media technologies. Something that comes up for me the fact that not all children will be as prone to new media literacy than others. And, as you mention, some things might be better suited to be taught without the use of new media. I think it is important to have space in envisioning future education for differentiated teaching and learning.

Posted by VC

I think Community is a brilliant skill to add to Jenkins’ 11, though I’m not necessarily sure I would frame it in the sense of FML. Online communities will become increasingly important as traditional journalistic media makes its slow decline. Citizen journalist types hope that bloggers will fill in the media holes left by the projected death of mainstream media.

I went to a really great lecture by Clay Shirky, where he said that we’ll probably still get hyper-local and national news from blogs, but there’s huge potential for corruption to happen on the state and regional level unless someone steps up to cover that area. I think kids need to learn early how much power there is in new media to maintain a clean, workable society and how they play a role in that goal.

Posted by DL

Questions 1 and 2:

I think the ideal “mix” of new media and formal education would be at a point where we can’t separate the two. New media would be integrated in formal education, rather than pushed to the sidelines. However, given that we are far from an ideal situation with how formal education is currently structured, and how the educational system is extremely impervious to global and systematic change, I am unsure whether we should be thinking about a future where we assume that we can revamp the future of formal education completely, or to be thinking about how we can integrate new media into the current system on an ad hoc basis.

Posted by RC

I was introduced to Club Penguin when visiting my 5 year old cousin this summer. It is a massively multiplayer online game which introduces a virtual world completely with mini games, activities, money, and communities. The three things that surprised me most while playing with Club Penguin are the amount of strategy each game entails, the realistic nature of this online community, and the amount of creativity a child can express through this Web site.

The realistic nature of the online community can best be expressed by the use of coins. Players collect these coins by doing well in minigames and can use the coins to purchase various items including clothes, furniture, and gifts. Additionally, during Christmas season for the past two years ‘Coins for Change’ was introduced to the game. Players could donate virtual coins to charitable organizations (Kids who are sick, The Environment, Kids in Developing Countries, Kids who cannot afford to go to school, etc) and at the end of the campaign a million dollars was donated to real foundations in the proportion that the players allocated. This aspect of the game teaches the skill of simulation; this virtual words simulates a lot of the difficulties and decisions that people face in the real-world.

The creative outlets Club Penguin introduces teaches the skills of Appropriation and Play. An example is a minigame that allows players to act as a DJ and create music by mixing tracks and adding sound effects. There aren’t visible instructions, much of the fun is based on experimenting with what is there. In fact, the entire Club Penguin world is based on experimenting. You move the mouse around to see what you can click and you find new things that you did not notice previously each time you play. Another example is the Club Penguin Times, a virtual weekly newspaper. Any player can submit content to this newspaper and there is an area in the game that contains archives of newspapers from previous weeks.

Of course there is also the Networking and Collective Intelligence aspect. Players walk around this virtual world and can communicate with other players via chat, email, and the Club Penguin Times. They can share ideas, tips and tricks, or just make friends.

Posted by JL

Online multiplayer games are sources of interesting social communities. You don’t know who the other player is besides their avatar and screenname. You dont know their gender, age, race, social status, etc. These communities are interesting in that people are not subject to prejudice, racism, or any other judgement. People are only judged by their performance or knowledge of the game. Members talk and chat and make friends in an almost utopian world.

Posted by DK

Question 1:

I chose to check out Instructables which is not a very social site as the participants simply post what they did, but the way users can describe their projects is very much tied to their personal style. It is a fun way to make something and essentially empowers everyone to do whatever they set their mind to since someone else did it and worked out all the “bugs”.

I would consider this to fit in the Play category. Collective Intelligence could be facilitated by encouraging students to document what they produced and learned in such a way that other students in the same class can learn from them. It is easy to post what you have done, but it is much harder to recreate something someone else has made. In that respect it could also be considered as being part of the Appropriation category.

Question 2:

In terms of the “mix” questions I can only agree with what was proposed by the authors namely to see this as an extension to traditional classes. Finding the right balance might be something that could be experimented with in afternoon classes or alike. As an example I could imagine a projects class where students pick projects they would want to make which they have found on the Instructables Web site. The teacher could define topics to narrow down the projects or could chose to tailor the projects to fit a specific content that students should engage in. Alternatively certain kinds of skills could simply be the focus similar to arts and crafts classes.

I would also like to point out that we seem to have very little data that could prove or enforce all literacy issues that have been raised. I myself have only recently found out that I am severely dyslexic after having participated in a study conducted by Gadi Gaiger in the Brain and Cognitive Science Lab. His work suggests that dyslexia, multi tasking and ADD are closely related and most probably learned. This means that teaching multi tasking could result in dyslexia when taught at the wrong time of a child’s development. There may be other yet unknown consequences that would result from teaching new literacies under special circumstances.

Posted by FG

Question 1:

In response to Question 1, I thought I would draw attention to one very simple way of using a collaborative platform for educational purposes. As a Prince fan, I am a member of the Prince fan site, which in addition to Prince-devoted discussion forums and other topics such as politics and religion has a Org Artist Community. This is a discussion forum where artists - but essentially anybody who has created something in music, visual art, writing among others and wants to share it - can post their creations and get feedback, comments, etc. What I find interesting about it is that it has developed into something much more than a meeting and sharing place, as both the posters and their commentators give each other instructions on how to improve or master a new skill in their given area. There is in fact a lot of training and ‘coaching’ [if that word can be used for art] going on.

This is a very low-tech solution - just an online platform in the form of a discussion forum where people just post their content - and it is now no more new, as many such forums exist. But for this reason it should perhaps be considered by school curricula developers and teachers. It’s a relatively easy tool and practice to introduce in classrooms and could be used for any subjects, with students posting their homework or personal creations in a given field and receiving friendly feedback from teachers and students alike from across the whole school - or even from students and faculty in other schools. Since it’s on the Internet, it could be applied across schools nationwide or internationally [if language is not a barrier].

Posted by SK

I like this point you make about how communities that form online around one topic frequently become more general-purpose communities for discussion, support, and feedback about a variety of other issues. Most kids have something they’re interested in, and I think they could learn a lot about Jenkins’ new media skills just by participating in a forum about that topic, even if it’s not directly educational.

And maybe I just haven’t kept up with the trends of the times, but I still prefer a good old fashioned discussion forum to wikis, blogs, tweets, etc when it comes to building online communities.

Posted by FG

At this point in the discussion, I feel that the advantages of a more free and participatory system of education, one that encourages personal development and creativity through supportive social practices and infrastructure/technology is clear. It is also clear how children, high school students and the adults involved in their education can find this new system beneficial and enjoy taking part in it.

What is less clear to me is where all the children who do not have the capacities to enjoy and make the most of such a system come in. What place do they have in such a system? I am referring to children with learning disabilities, cognitive delays and other social impairments and adjustment difficulties, as well as the children of immigrants who may have language and cultural delays. If to go by the statistics, these children represent quite a big chunk of this country’s population of schoolchildren and high school students. Having a system that fails to take them into account by being adaptable to their special needs would be defective. If it caters to only one segment of learners, it would ostracize the other segments.

It seems to me that the descriptions of the educational technologies and practices that we have been discussing always assume that from the start the child is socially well-adjusted and will automatically, unquestionably enjoy using them and taking part in them.

As someone with a long-date interest in foreign adoption [from Russia specifically] and who has read extensively about US-Russia adoptions, I can say that many adopted children for example, who have spent years in institutional care, show signs of social and attachment difficulties which make them unable to participate in normal social activities for children of their age. Even if the child is mentally healthy, he/she may not either be able to take part in them or simply enjoy, derive pleasure doing so. One good example is when it comes to sharing: many such kids do not like, in fact hate sharing their toys, creations, etc with others.

Given that the US is one of the top adopting countries in the world - plus given all the other cases of social impairment or delays that I mentioned - the developers of these educational technologies and curricula may want to make sure that these are adapted to all types of learners and all segments of society.

Posted by MN

My favorite site is The New York Philharmonic Kidzone.

It does a great job in integrating play, performance and simulation elements of new media literacies to NY Philharmonic’s purpose of teaching music to kids in a fun, dynamic, yet educationally impactful way. The best section of this site, I believe, is the online games, where popular genres of online gaming are incorporated to teach rhythmic, sonoric, and theoretic principles of orchestral music. Especially for music education, the new media has the potential to free kids from dull classroom teaching and help them integrate the theoretical content to the actual world of sound and emotional experiences. The site makes it easy for kids to learn through tinkering around- it would be even more effective if they introduce collaborative activity where kids could compose/perform a piece of music by collectively choosing the structure, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, and possibly a story line (libretto) that goes with it (they could compose the libretto in the literature class to bring into the music class too…).

I think the ideal mix of the 19 c apprentice model, the 20 c formal education model, and the new media model would be a healthy mixture of all of these models. The new media could be used for kids to tinker around and get an intuitive understanding of certain concepts, then some proven body of knowledge/theories could be introduced in a classroom settings, kids could then drill/memorize those skills privately or in a group. Finally, all of these skills and knowledge should be integrated and applied in an apprenticeship-style projects, where kids could learn from real experts or more experienced colleges.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets with Solutions
Projects with Examples
Activity Assignments with Examples