Moving Education Online

Jenkins,¬†Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, and Weigel (2006) describe participatory cultures, outlines new media literacy skills, and explains the importance of learning and teaching these skills in their white paper “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” which is an excellent place to start on your quest for understanding more about technology and its role in education or, rather, education and its role in the development of students’ technological skills.

I expect that the majority of students in the United States and in many places around the world, with the exception of those that have little to no access to technology, have tweeted, blogged, emailed, and/or texted at some point and perhaps do so on a regular basis. There are websites for every age group and area of interest, many of which foster a sense of community by encouraging comments from their users. Jenkins et al. (2006) considers the ease of creating materials and exchanging ideas as well as the establishment of community important elements of participatory cultures. Many students voluntarily and enthusiastically devote time to these communities; wouldn’t it be nice if they were as engaged in learning English? Definitely! You can encourage the development of a participatory culture in your own class by moving some of your student projects online and creating a class website. There a many resources like VoiceThread, Prezi, Kidblog, Glogster, and Google Sites that can help you do this. I’ll explore these websites and others in more depth soon.

Creating materials using these resources and having students interact with and manipulate them give students the chance to develop their new media literacy skills, which, according to Jenkins et al. (2006) include performance, simulation, multitasking, networking, negotiation, and others. These are important for students not just because practicing these skills sounds more interesting than vocabulary drills but also because they are real world skills that will serve students well in their personal and professional lives. People have done great things by spreading ideas around the globe using technology we have available today and, in the future, there will be even more resources available to us.

While some teachers assume that students learn new media literacy skills at home and have far more advanced tech skills than the teachers themselves, this is simply not the case. Some students might not have access to a computer or the Internet at home and even those that feel comfortable using technology may not think critically about the material they find or be encouraged to develop their skills. Students with quite advanced skills in this area are actually a great asset to their class and should inspire you to develop your skills more rather than prevent you from teaching using technology altogether.

Jenkins et al. (2006) addresses these and so many more issues including the role of schools and parents in developing new media literacy skills as well as examples of classroom activities for each of these skills. I will not get into all that here but I want to emphasize again the importance of new media literacy skills and suggest that you consult Jenkins et al. (2006) for more information.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., and Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Chicago, IL: MacArthur Foundation.

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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