We are all Makers and Contributors to Culure

This week I spent some time doing some reflecting on some of the new skills and literacies that the digital age expects of its learners and I wondered at the end, what is it all really for?  Are these skills really going to make a difference for students in how they learn and interact with their world?  Fitting that the next class and the one that I’m reflecting on for the week was regarding “Participatory Culture” and the age of “Remix.”

In my refection this week I wanted to spend more time exploring “Participatory Culture” and so I watched a video by Henry Jenkins who directed MITs Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1993-2009.

Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture.  Essentially the TED talk begins by focusing on the character of “Peter Parker” as many of us know as “Spider Man”  but he uses the comparison of Peter Parker to outline to the audience that Peter is really like many teens his age.  He  is able to do amazing things, that don’t have to do with his age, but they have to do with his participation on the web and gaining exposure through the voice that he finds online.  Ultimately, with that power he says that with teens are accessing online communities comes great responsibility to the world around them. The TED talk really emphasizes to me the important of young people taking the skills that they have and doing things in the world that matter, or being/becoming active social agents for change.  This generation has the tools and the resources to thing about/ engage/ respond to the changing world around us and the be part of that change.

Jenkins also talks about in the mix/remix culture we live in we are producing media that we then want to share with our friends and families, which then by nature grow or become communities of people who do something similar and learn from each other.  We throw ideas out and then bring them back in a new and better way than they were originally put out there.  This the the powerful new media that kids are engaging with.  This media has allowed for teens and young adults to find their voice and to help students engage in there communities for the betterment of their communities.

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The Harry Potter Alliance is turning fans of the novels into heroes.  If you check out their website you will see that they claim themselves to be changing the world by making activism accessible through the power of story.  Since 2005, they have engaged millions of fans through our work for equality, human rights and literacy.  So what we are seeing is young fans of the novels are using their connection with the books to create a social movement that helps to make the world a better place (somewhat similar to what Harry was trying to do).

Teens and young adults are taking the messages that they want to share and creating engaging and interesting ways to engage the audience in the issues that matter to them.  Another interesting view that Jenkins addressed was their use of mix/remix skills to voice their political activist commentary.

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Also, using their connections with popular culture to engage even more attention to their cause.

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The TED talk really helped to bring things into perspective for me, as to the necessity for our commitment as teachers to help teach students the skills that they will need to be a part of this new way of communicating with the world.  I think that in many ways we have to be willing to venture down paths that we might yet not know the outcomes of, however we have to be okay with figuring things out as we go, because if we wait to make sure we have thought and rethought the consequences or the impact, we have to know that our kids won’t.  So better to guide them and learn along side with them rather than let them wonder with out guidance.  The last clip in the TED talk really helps us realize that we can’t simply try to remove these spaces from the school in the hopes of it going away.  With great power as teachers, comes great responsibility as well to embrace what the future holds.

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