How I Transition to a New Season, from Winter to Spring by Cheryl Oakes

After spending the past 6 months skiing I wondered what I would do? Well, it didn't take me long to fill up my Saturday. I was invited to travel to MIT, for a day long conference on Learning in a Participatory Culture . You can join their Ning and see what this amazing group is doing. Once there you will find the network to support you as you use these strategies with your students. The whole conference was streamed inElluminate and hopefully will be archived soon for all to view or in my case view again. The research site is located at .

Not familiar with participatory culture, then take time and read the white paper by Henry Jenkins to get grounded in this conversation. Basically, Jenkins states that three core challenges: the participation gap, the transparency problem and the ethics challenge are facing educators and parents as we are part of Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins et al., 2006). Jenkins promotes that participatory culture is that "where members believe their contributions matter,and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created). Jenkins and his researchers provide us with a list of skills needed for learners to fully engage in this "participatory culture" we live in. A huge take away, for me, was that finally the lines between learners and students ( students who are confined by the walls of institutions) have blurred at least for the "learners". Our learners have embraced learning outside of institutions, and when our learners transform to the student status we impose on them in our institutions they morph into listeners and solitary, linear thinkers that match most of what is continuing in our institutions. If you are ready to make some changes in your practice New Media Literacies provides a good platform for you to begin this process.
Jenkins and his researchers are promoting that we first listen to our learners and ask them what they are doing and what they are interested in outside of the institutional walls and immediately bring those ideas and activities into our project based learning instruction, within the confines of our institutional walls.

Professor Dan Hickey from Indiana U is working on some important research that is validating the use of project based learning in classrooms where students and teachers are engaged in active and interactive learning and comparing the student achievement results on normed tests. His paper titled 3 is the Magic Number explains the details. Meanwhile, guess what? He is seeing great improvements in student achievement when students are engaged in project based learning! In another example, students commented to one teacher from the Pilot Project, a teacher who is using the Teacher Strategies guide , that their work from class helped them write their essay responses on the MCAST, the Massachusetts state test. This unsolicited comment coming from students, I mean learners, really makes the 'grade'.

If you are interested in Participatory Culture, engaging your students and providing interactive activities which promote good learning and show evidence on achievement tests check out the Teachers Strategies Guide for integrating participatory practices into English Language Arts. The notebook is available as adownload-able guide. Then join the ning where you can be part of a community of learners. This is NOT just for English teachers.This is for all educators and parents interested in promoting literacy for the 21st Century Learner. A science teacher in the Pilot Project mentioned that although the Teaching Strategies are designed for English classes, she uses the strategies when students are reading in the content areas and she sees the results in her content area.

While the conference was great, the best part was traveling with some women who spent the day at the conference as well: Suzanne Hamilton, Alice Barr, Sarah Sutter and Page Lennig and Cathy Wolinsky .

How are you going to transition to your next learning and who is in your learning network? Join me at New Media Literacies at the Ning. I look forward to learning more with you in my network. Here are some links to their other great resources:

Resources for this article:
Jenkins White Paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins et al., 2006)
New Media Literacies Ning
MIT New Media Community Literacies Site
International Journal of Learning and Media, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.