Participatory Media for Education


Participatory media for education is an emerging space that looks to capitalize on the social, participatory and active nature of various Web 2.0 tools to facilitate social learning, construction of knowledge and student-centered learning environments. Research in this area is still emerging and is typically focused on a single tool in a single context. Early adoption of the Social Media Classroom (SMC), a suite of social media tools, in four courses provided us with a unique opportunity to observe patterns of usage of the site and embedded participatory media tools across various courses, instructors and students. 

Our main research goals were to observe student and instructor usage across courses, identify and analyze usage patterns, expectations, motivations and social constraints, as well as to inform future research questions and directions. Our work moves away from the typical ‘single tool in a single context’ research approach, which often attempts to demonstrate effectiveness and generalize to a one-size-fits‐all suggestion. Instead, we examine the organic and emergent trends, issues and complexities to start to inform a richer understanding of the space. In general, our observations demonstrate the promise of participatory media for education, while highlighting various complexities and issues. We also make a call for a move away from the common tool-first focus where educators adopt a tool and then try to find uses for it, to a learning‐activity which first identifies the underlying learning activities and goals and then aligns various technologies to support the activity or goal. This approach can make participatory media for education more approachable, more straightforward to integrate and potentially easier to evaluate. Other findings and conclusions include differences in usage patterns across courses and a multitude of potential influences driving the difference in use, including instructor influence, student motivations, course attributes and social norm. Additionally, we discuss an observed potential for self‐directed student use and learning. Finally, we summarize implications for future research projects to support this emerging and promising area.

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