Digital Publics and Participatory Education

Last week, an article that I worked on earlier this year saw publication with the open access journal Digital Culture and Education.

Back in January or thereabouts, Christa Teston and I were talking about different collaboration opportunities, and I suggested that we prepare a manuscript for a special issue of the journal. We put together a plan to explore the complex of blogging, backchannel communication, and Google Reader as a way to open up classrooms to broader public participation, drawing primarily from experiences in my Fall 2009 senior seminar at BSU.

Following Schön (1983), we took a reflective practice approach, inviting three participants as coauthors. Garrett Cox was an undergraduate in the model course, and he contributed a participatory perspective from inside the curriculum. Bolutife Olorunda was a student participant from the edges of the curriculum, and his perspective details his experience as a self-directed participant motivated by interests in the core subject matter. Finally, Noah Dunker, an Information Security professional from Kansas City, MO, contributed a participatory perspective from well outside the curriculum, as a public participant in the course, unaffiliated with BSU.

While the manuscript wasn't a good fit for the special issue, it was reviewed positively, and invited for inclusion in the next issue. In the article, we make an argument about operationalizing collaborative knowledge work within a specific curriculum and pedagogical approach—enacting a form of participatory education in digital publics.

In the process, we also detail a fairly novel approach to guided discovery (Clark & Mayer, 2003) and student blogging as a literate practice. Finally, we suggest practical methods of incorporating feeds—via Google Reader's "Bundle" feature—as a primary source within a given curriculum.

The abstract for the article is below, and the full piece can be found at Digital Culture and Education.

This article—a collaborative exploration between instructors, students, and members of the broader, digital classroom community—explores how the strategic incorporation of sociotechnical networks and digital technologies facilitates literate practices that extend the classroom in productive ways. The article builds toward coauthors’ reflective practices (Schön, 1983), or “participatory perspectives”, had during an undergraduate English Studies course at a mid-sized, public, American university. Specifically, participants argue that these literate practices afforded not just information sharing, but the opening up of a traditional classroom to include broader digital publics and collaborative knowledge work (Spinuzzi, 2006). Toward this end, we ground literate practice in scholarship that attends to public writing in online spaces, and theoretically frame our argument using Jenkins et al.’s (2006) principles of participatory education. We then detail the specific curricular approach deliberately designed to create digitally connected publics and end with generalizable significance of coauthors’ participatory perspectives.


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