Meeting 3: Learning in a Connected World

Our March 18 meeting will focus upon the topic of “Learning in a Connected World.”  How are social media and online communities shaping how students learn, what can we learn from these developments, and how do socially-based pedagogical strategies work?  This topic is a big one, and we’re just going to begin chipping away at it at this meeting.  Our first reading is an excerpt from a longer report that is often-cited by those discussing social media and social pedagogies, even though it’s now a few years old.  It will provide some broader context, looking at the ways social learning has organically developed on the internet, and the ways that learning is defined by the active participation of learners.  Our second two readings will jump into several specific ways college instructors are using social media.

Discussion leader: Julie Sievers

1. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century — a June 2009 MacArthur Foundation white paper, authored by Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Katie Clinton, Ravi Purushotma, Alice J. Robison, and Margaret Weigel.  This report is an oldie but goody and it provides a good entry point into the concept of “participatory culture” and “digital collectives” –and, more broadly, new ways people are using the internet to learn together.

What to read?  For today, just read the first 3 sections: “Executive Summary,” “Needed Skills in the New Media Culture,” and “Enabling Participation.”  That’s just the first 11 pages, and they are an easy read.

Why so little?  For this session, we just want to get a sense of what this so-called “participatory” culture is, and why it might be something college educators want to know about.  In our next session, we’ll look further into what forms of “media literacy” we might want to be teaching students in order to prepare them for lives as active participators, not just passive consumers, in digital cultures.

2. A Social Network Can Be a Learning Network – Derek Bruff, Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 November 2011.  This article, and the next, are short CHE pieces written by college professors who are using social media in their classrooms.  They detail a few specific pedagogical strategies for these media.  Bruff is a math instructor at Vanderbilt University and the director of their center for teaching and learning.

3. Tracking Moves on the Classroom Backchannel with Storify – Mark Sample, Chronicle of Higher Education, 1 December 2011.  Sample describes using Twitter in a film and literature course.  He is an assoc. professor of literature and new media at George Mason University.  (Like this article?  You might want to check out Sample’s even shorter piece, “A Framework for Teaching with Twitter.”)  Curious about the details?  Sample’s essay has hyperlinks to a variety of examples.

Additional Reading:

  • Bruff has a nice “Social Pedagogies Reading List” — a good place to start for exploring this topic further.
  • Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s provocative manifesto, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, focuses at length on the way the “collective” is changing how people learn.  Last summer’s Books & Coffee group read this book, and we have extra copies available for check-out at the CTE.  A word of caution, however.  If you have never participated in an online collective — a multi-player game, participatory blogging communities, a group of people with a shared medical condition who share information and support, a fanfiction reading & writing group — you’ll find a lot of this book to be abstract and a little puzzling.  Think of this not as an intro to the subject, but as an intermediary-level  work.