This week, I’ve done a lot of thinking on how digital spaces impact how we learn, express ourselves, and access the world. Technology is integral to modern life, and is integral to the modern classroom. Most of our students have never lived in a world in which information is not readily accessible, and use devices to learn everyday, both inside and outside of school.
Here’s a great video that makes the case for harnessing the ‘active learner’ in the modern, digital student:
Even I, at 25, am definitely a digital native. I grew up with dial-up, and my laptop and smartphone are tools that I use extensively to access information and network every single day. However, I have always been worried about the potential for technology to take away from experiencing the real world. I found that it was hard to picture what my tech use in the classroom would look like. However, I have to say… I am having a blast figuring it out.
This week in EDU498– “Literacy and Learning as a Social Practice” with Dr. Lammers , the topic was ‘Produsage and the Digital Turn’. No, that is not a typo. Produsage.com defines produsage as,”The collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement”. This is meant to describe the constant cycle in the digital world that blurs the line between producers and consumers as described in traditional economic models. Produsage can be anything from Microblogging (i.e. Twitter, Facebook) to blogging with integrated multi-media (i.e. this post), to fan fiction, and far beyond. The active learner and digital native described above is consistently engaging in this cycle, whether scholastically or not.
A classmate and myself were tasked with orchestrating a class discussion about the readings this week, a task that falls on a different set of shoulders every week. We had 24 graduate students to organize into any discussion protocol we wanted. My partner had the idea to have a ‘fishbowl’ discussion, also known as a socratic circle. Here’s a little graphic of what a fishbowl normally looks like:
Usually, only the inner circle are actively discussing and sharing ideas. The outer ring is engaged in active listening, note-taking, and general sense-making. At the end of a round the observers have the chance to bring their ideas to the inner circle, and participants can be switched out. I like the fishbowl concept, but sometimes it can mean that the observers don’t have very many opportunities to participate, and it is hard to actually include every voice.
I was inspired by this week’s readings, and wondered what would happen if we had the outer ring keep their laptops open to a shared space on Padlet.com (if you have not played with Padlet.com, and you are an educator, you should really check it out!). This provided a space for an online chat of sorts to happen between the members of the outer ring. Members could draw connections between their comments, “like” and respond to each others content, and easily share multi-media within the discussion, all while still being able to hear the out-loud conversation happening in the middle.
Honestly, I was not sure if this was going to work. I thought there might grow to be a disconnect between the inner and outer circles, or that the online space might get too chaotic to follow. It definitely was an intense space, but an incredible amount of thoughts were shared, and the combination of the inner and outer circle spaces ended up yielding some really rich discussions. If I could go back and do it again, I would have a few participants switch in the middle of one question, so that the perspectives from the Padlet could be brought into the middle for longer than the two minutes we allotted between topics, when we switched the middle out completely. One thing is for sure: this discussion flew by and the engagement in the room was extremely high. I would absolutely use this format again, if the occasion called for it. I am calling it the “Digital Fishbowl”.
I bring this all up to make the point that if our students learn and express themselves on digital spaces, and are consistently engaged in the cycle of produsage, that we as educators should find novel ways to leverage that kind of expression in a way that enhances understanding and increases collaboration, both within the classroom and with the rest of the world.
Teachers: What are some ways that YOU leverage technology to increase engagement in your classroom?
Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, wikipedia, second life, and beyond: From production to produsage, pp. 9-36. New York: Lang.
Mills, K. A. (2016). Literacy theories for the digital age: Social, critical, multimodal, spatial, material, and sensory lenses, pp. 17-40. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters. Chapter 2