Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Participation: The Core of Web 2.0 and Today's Digital Literacy

Participation is at the core of Web 2.0 and today's digital literacy. You just can't sit back and observe, watch or even be a voracious consumer alone to be digitally literate. I'm really encouraged with how my (adult) students are gaining digital literacies in the online EDTECH course I teach. The course is designed to explore how video can be used to support teaching and learning. Needless to say, this course is far different (and more relevant) today than it was when I began teaching the class online 4 years ago. Indeed, the just-released 2008 Horizon Report cited online "grassroots video" as being one of this years most relevant technologies to teaching, learning, and creative expression. From the report:
Video sharing sites continue to grow at some of the most prodigious rates on the Internet; it is very common now to find news clips, tutorials, and informative videos listed alongside the music videos and the raft of personal content that dominated these sites when they first appeared. What used to be difficult and expensive, and often required special servers and content distribution networks, now has become something anyone can do easily for almost nothing...almost any device that can access the Internet can play (and probably capture) it. From user-created clips and machinima to creative mashups to excerpts from news or television shows, video has become a popular medium for personal communication...once the exclusive province of highly trained professionals, video content production has gone grassroots.
I've restructured my class to now be fully online (we used to send tapes by snail mail). I was concerned that some of my adult students wouldn't be up to the task. It is taking some stretching, but we're all doing it and as a class we're all slowly learning the value of becoming producers/contributors/creators/sharers of video in a Web 2.0 world.

My favored tool these days for the class is www.viddler.com. This is a feature-rich video hosting environment that encourages a participation in many ways. We rely heavily on the timeline-based feedback features which are ideally suited to our course which allow viewers to initiate threaded discussions right within the video using text or webcams. Of course, the site supports direct-to-server recording, tagging, groups, channels, friend networks, RSS feeds galore, and even revenue sharing. These features encourage participation on many different levels. See one of our student videos, and click on the dots in the timeline to see or add comments (Hey, they're all novices, so easy does it. Plus, can you say that you've posted any original video online yet?!)

At this year's ELI conference keynote sessions, both Henry Jenkins and Michael Wesch nicely address different aspects of the importance of participation and how in that process, meaningful connections are made (learnring occurs). Daniel Stanford wrote a thoughtful post that calls for new computer literacy standards. He suggests that techno savvy users today are not necessarily computer literate. I agree with his basic thesis (have noted my own kids being heavy computer users, Imers, Facebookers, but not knowing how to "Save As' in Word! The computer is simply become a means of accessing their social networks and the internet (an internet appliance). Daniel Standford feels, however, that teachers and students ought to be literate in some basic Photoshop and html skills. I feel quite strongly that he's off base in this regard. The particular tools are far less important to me anymore. In my own class, my students use whatever editing tool gets the job done for them. In the past I might have prescribed a single tool, but no longer--It's the CONTENT, not the TOOLS! New, and very capable tools come online at a dizzying pace these days.

My own journey...
In the last year, I've challenged myself to do more than read about Web 2.0, and become more of a participator, and more digitally literate myself. I've taken some big steps, and feel I am doing enough for now (I do think one can go overboard!). Rather than simply be a reader, viewer, browser, consumer, I am now a contributor, poster, creator, linker, producer, promoter.

I have created and shared videos of my own making online, I teach online using Web 2.0 tools and importantly include opportunities and reward my students for similar participation. I maintain my own blog and web space, I share my own photos online, I participate in online discussions and comment on blogs, I use an RSS reader, and subscribe to small collection of blogs. I use a social bookmarking space, and have started sharing more links, and am very slowly building my network. I manage my two social networking spaces (Facebook, Linkedin). (I write this more for my own record than as some form of self-aggrandizing activity...who knows what value this effort will have had a couple years from now)

The most rewarding in all of this for me has been participating in this Blog, my Google reader page, and the fact that I get to learn new things alongside my online students (largely school teachers). Lots more to learn...Excelsior! (Latin: onward and upward).
-Joel G.

1 comment:

Daniel Stanford said...


Thanks for the reference. I hope you had a chance to read the comment I posted in response to your comment on my post back in February of '08. (http://www.iddblog.org/?p=63) I noted that it was probably a mistake for me to even mention Photoshop in that post, because I certainly don't feel it's essential that everyone learn that particular piece of software. I do think, however, that it's important for students to have the practical skills to get things done like resize/crop an image, trim and re-save an audio file, or create a presentation. What tool they use to get these tasks done doesn't matter to me, but at some point I have to pick a particular tool and I have to teach my students at least a few things to get them started.

I think we're more in synch on this than it might seem, since what I'm really advocating is that students be pushed to make connections. I want them to be able to see how menus are similarly grouped in various programs and how many interfaces share common features and shortcuts.

I'd also like today's college students to graduate with a better understanding of more general interactive media issues, like the importance of your online reputation and how to avoid having potential employers find all sorts of embarrassing photos, videos, or rants when they Google your name. I also think a lot of students could benefit from some kind of crash course on web-based communication--how to set up a blog, how to use social networking sites as marketing tools, pros and cons of wikis, how to conduct a web-based survey, how online advertising works, etc. I want them to be better critical and creative problem solvers, but I also want to make sure they have a few vocational skills so they're not always at the mercy of someone who knows how to get things done.

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