Mobile Media: Changing Educational Landscapes (Part III)

Part III of three part series on Educational Landscapes (Overview) looks at some of the new strategies I call on in my teaching. Many of these approaches are mediated by recent advances in mobile and social media. III. Beyond Participation: Engagement To help focus discussion on active, positive change, I’d like to draw on Eric Gordon' thinking on engagement (Emerson College faculty page, personal website). Gordon brings the principles of game design to his research in civic engagement. I'm particularly interested in how this work undertakes a shift from participation to engagement. The difference between the two, as Gordon describes it, is that participation can be relatively passive and may not require much thought or action (beyond clicking a mouse, say), whereas engagement require a level of intellectual, emotional, or creative investment, and ideally action over time. Think about "liking" something on Facebook as basic form of participation, not to say that these types of simple gestures lack important social potential. Liking (or not liking) can depend on snap judgements, blink. Meaningful social events—learning or interaction with an art work, for example—usually require significantly longer forms of engagement. Engagement involves returning to a situation or problem, and is what is need when we want individuals to actively undertake civic duties or other kinds of social actions—for example, helping to clean up a municipal park or to contribute to discussions about educational reform (check out PlanIt). From his work on using social media to create meaningful social situation, Gordon offers Six Principles of Designing for Engagement.
  1. What is the Reason for Engagement?
  2. Who is Listening?
  3. People Comprise Locations; Locations Don’t Comprise People.
  4. Design for the Community you Want, not the one you know.
  5. Face-to-Face Matters
  6. Design for Distraction
These ideas may be fairly obvious for people who have done community-based learning or art projects, but they are also important in helping us to break away from the habit of depending on technology to solve our problems. Gordon's work makes use of mobile and social media, but it does so in ways that actively seek meaningful involvement from different groups. For me the question is how do we creating engaging teaching and learning situations, whether we are in a university, a gallery, or studio. To this end, I have begun to seek teaching and learning opportunities that build on the following: The Multi-sited Classroom: students carry on their learn across a number of sites and are often in motion between these sites. As educators we need to provide them with better opportunities to get the most of their situation. For me this, involves thinking of the classroom extending beyond a single place, or set time. The classroom—or better space of learning—can more effectively engagement if it is approached as a series of opportunities to connect with course materials and to participate in an extend conversation around and through these materials. Think of the lecture hall or studio expanding to include the bus, the ipod, the library, the coffee shop, the job site. This is not to say that we can replace our studios, lecture halls, classrooms with ipod or mobile phones, only that these and other devices, practices, software allow us to make better use of students time and energies between scheduled classes. Help students find affinities: Mimi Ito's research with digital youth culture suggests that there are key differences among youth when it comes to connecting online. She suggests that
Facebook = Friends you had in Highschool tumblr = Friends you wished you'd had
The students who have figured out how to thrive and to develop useful professional skills are those who search affinities and affinity groups. How do we do this in the classroom? How can I learn to work with or activate various social groups networks in the classroom. Understand when and where students listen: in lecture the students may be asleep, but there are other times and places they are fully awake. How do we/I bridge this gap? Putting more course materials into mobile formats helps with this. I am consciously building a mobile media archive. Informal Learning Matters: Seek out opportunities for students to draw on their prior knowledge and social engagements. Without diluting course materials or outcomes, it is possible to build assignments that encourage students to connect their "outside" interests with the core material. This is particularly useful in process-based or skills-based courses and assignments. Learning is Co-creative: Mike Wesch's work with his media students at Kansas State is inspirational here. Wesch talks about teaching "subjectivities" rather than subjects and creates courses in which his student participate in the creation of content: for example, youtube videos about social media. I'm also inspired by Jon Beasley Murray's use of wikipedia to activate a 300-level Spanish Lit course "Murder, Madness, and Mayhem," in which he had his student write their assignments in wikipedia and made there grades contingent on the level of uptake their writing received. There are plenty of opportunities to use new and social media to work with students, rather than simply trying to teach to them. Go Live: Historically, academic thinking has happened in highly protected, exclusive spaces and has circulated across specialized groups. This is type of professional practice is import; however, the affordances of digital and social media mean that a lot of our work can be shared. Linking online discussions and research to teaching and learning situations allow students to understand where we our coming from and may in some instance find useful affinities with our interests. While I understand the history and importance of Academic Freedom and the crucial role universities play, I don't think that it becomes us to obfuscate intentional. Sharing twitter feeds and delicious links are relatively easy steps toward maintaining a level of transparency and accountability. This blog and its various feeds are vital aspect of my research, teaching, and learning. Part I: Mobile Media Changing Educational Landscapes Part II: Mobile Media Changing Educational Landscapes

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