Culture of Participation and Democracy?

I apologize ahead of time if this seems a bit scattered, it is Friday after all!

“We don’t just enjoy, we participate”

-Alec Couros

This quote made me think (I might have paraphrased), what could this look like in my (future) classroom? Mr. Couros made me think even more when he shared a slide that said “if you can Google it, why teach it?”

My mind was (slightly) blown.

As a social studies teacher, I frequently encounter students who want to ask Google instead of coming to their own conclusions. I remember one class, I assigned an in-class debate. The students really struggled to fill out their debate forms (while researching the topic) because “Mrs. Keller, there is no right or wrong answer! I can’t find anything on Google!”

I think as teachers, we have to remember that we are not only teaching content, we are also teaching our students skills to be successful after graduation, no matter what our students choose to pursue. We should be concerned about teaching students information literacy, critical thinking and a passion for learning that they can pursue throughout their lifetime.

So back to my original question, what role does participatory culture play in my classroom? I think it looks like student-created content, teaching skills (not just “facts”) and inspiring passion for my students.

“Media is not content…Media mediates human relations.”

-Michael Wesch

As a social studies educator, I think I get hung up on telling my students what happened instead of letting them explore and research the what, the who, the how, the where, the when, and the why of history and social studies. I sometimes use my history degree as an excuse, but really I enjoy talking about history to just about anyone who will listen. I really need to remind myself that I should be imparting a sense of citizenship upon my students. After all, they are the future.

What does this look like?

My students need skills to succeed and they also need passion. I was inspired by my Methods class at Montana State as well as High Tech High. My instructor was a big fan of Project Based Learning and community involvement within the classroom.

I think our students need to know they can make a difference. Thanks to technology and participatory culture, they can. I would love to (eventually) have my own classroom and I hope that I have the patience (and the fortitude) to create the classroom I see in my head at this moment. I see a classroom where students are passionate about being the change they see in the world, where they are involved with the community, where they become involved citizens and where they want to learn new things and be passionate about learning.

Students can change so much, with so little. It is easy to upload a video on YouTube (It may or may not be easy to create such a video, just ask Michael Wesch), a student can create a petition or a GoFundMe campaign for something they feel is important. The possibilities for change and for the creation of content are endless. Let’s help our students see those possibilities!

I might have a complete picture in my head of what participatory culture looks like in my (future) classroom, but I do realize that it needs to be embraced and that our students need guidance and the skills to make a difference and for success after high school. What does participatory culture look like in your (future?) classroom?

Until next time, keeping learning!


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