New Media Literacies — Learning in a Participatory Culture

The quote below comes from a post by Henry Jenkins, professor at USC and PI for the New Media Literacies project. As an Educational Technologist I think I have a tendency to bracket my thinking a bit more into the camp of the “technology,” rather than the other skills that are needed to effectively take advantage of and use the technology effectively. This is a conversation that I find myself having with colleagues here at the University of Oregon on a fairly regular basis.  As I read this post, I thought about the areas listed below that I have explored and been doing, even without being aware that I was acting in that way.

So, the points made below are good ones to remember I think:

One of our key goals is to stop focusing quite so much on “do kids have computers in their classroom?” and start focusing more on “do kids have the basic social skills and cultural competencies so that when they do get computers in their classroom, they can participate fully?” Many educators assume that (1) students can only begin learning the skills they need to use technology if they actually have the technology in their classroom, and (2) that putting technology in the classroom is a quick fix that will solve any classroom’s problems. Neither of these assumptions, we argue, are good.

It’s not that it isn’t important that students have computers in their classrooms. Students with access to technology will typically be better at using technology than students who don’t. But just putting computers in classrooms doesn’t mean that they will be used well. Frequently, computers are used as an appendage to a physical library or as a word processing tool. These are good uses for computers, but they don’t really teach students about the participatory culture that exists online – the participatory culture that they will be expected to take part in as adults. In fact, many students are already engaging with participatory culture, and they’re bored by uses of computers that don’t incorporate it!

The New Media Literacies constitute the core cultural competencies and social skills that young people need in our new media landscape. We call them “literacies,” but they change the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to one of community involvement. They build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom. If these New Media Literacies are learned – and they can be learned without computers in the classroom – they can form the building blocks for students’ participation in new media.

Play: the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving. Having a strong sense of play can be helpful when you pick up a new piece of technology that you’ve never used before, when you’re trying to write an essay and your outline isn’t functioning as you’d hoped, and when you’re designing anything at all, from a dress to a web page to a concert’s program.

Performance: the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery. Being able to move fluidly and effectively between roles can help you when you’re exploring online communities, when you’re trying to decide what actions are ethical, and when you’re shuffling between home, work and school.

Simulation: the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes. Being able to interpret, manipulate and create simulations can help you understand innumerable complex systems, like ecologies and computer networks – and make you better at playing video games!

Appropriation: the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content. Being able to remix media content (and knowing when doing so is appropriate) can help you understand literary works, music, and art; it can also help lead you to a deeper understanding of copyright and cultural clashes.

Multitasking: the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details. Being a good multitasker is required in our new media landscape – and that includes learning when it isn’t good to multitask.

Distributed Cognition: the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities. That can mean something as simple as using a ruler or calculator, or something as complex as efficiently using Wikipedia on your iPhone to access information on the fly.

Collective Intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal. This ability is key to open source projects. Being able to pool knowledge with others can allow us to solve challenges far more complex than the individual mind can process.

Judgment: the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources. If you’re worried about your students using Wikipedia at inappropriate times and taking everything they read on the internet as gospel truth, you’re worried that they aren’t exercising good judgment. But judgment also includes knowing when sources are appropriate for your use: for instance, sometimes Wikipedia might be the appropriate resource to use.

Transmedia Navigation: the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple media. Anyone who needs to do research needs a good understanding of transmedia navigation – how to follow threads through video, still photography, written work, music, online sources etc.

Networking – the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information. Writing something isn’t enough without the ability to circulate it to the communities where it will matter.

Negotiation – the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms. We now need to know how to live in multiple communities – from the hyperlocal to the global and from those composed of people like us to those consisting of people very different from us.

Visualization – the ability to translate information into visual models and understand the information visual models are communicating. VIsualization has become a key way we cope with large data sets and make sense of the complexity of our environment.

via New Media Literacies — Learning in a Participatory Culture.

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