Participatory Culture- What is it?

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Participatory Culture. Before having Dr. Alex Couros share in my ECMP class, I had never heard of the term before.  When he began sharing about participatory culture, I was surprised to learn that I had unknowingly been a part of this culture all along.  As my fellow blogger, Brittany Jefferson, wrote, “While I have been participating on the Internet, I have never took the time to think about the way I have been connecting with other people throughout the world.  I have became a part of a community and haven’t even realized it until now.”

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“New forms of expression, new form of community, and new form of identify emerging…”- Micheal Wesch.

To me, the above quote summarizes participatory culture and its purpose in society today.  For those of you who, like me, had never heard of the term before, I’ll give you a quick run through of what it means to me. Basically participatory culture is a culture in which everyone can be involved in, and participate in. No longer are we just consumers, who sit idly by watching tv or listening to the news. Participatory culture allows us to produce, allows us to post our views and opinions, or share media with others.  YouTube is an example of participatory culture that Mike Wesch widely discusses in his speech.


One of my favourite parts of Dr. Couros presentation was a video he shared, called CNA-Speaking Exchange.  This video was a recording of what appeared to be a Skype session between students who were learning to speak English and residents of a retirement home. These individuals would have otherwise never been able to meet, or even had the resources or know-how to connect with each other via a different platform. While these individuals were not face-to-face, you can still see how a relationship and connection between the pair began to form. This encounter truly had an impact on each of the individuals; this is what the web does- bring people together.



The mannequin challenge took over social media and the web in 2016, with thousands of people posting their own version of the challenge.  Below is one of my favourite videos of the mannequin challenge, which was done in a school with 1500 students participating. What a great example of participatory culture, and a great way to have the entire student body involved and working together as a school!



What does participatory culture mean for schools in general?

Participatory culture gives students a voice, and provides them with a platform to share their voice with the world. If you really think about it, our students have access to an entirely different world at their fingertips. While this is a wonderful and expressive culture and opportunity for our students, as teachers we need to educate our students on the safety of the web, and discuss with students their identity and the finger-print they are creating/leaving in this culture.


So what does participatory culture mean for my future classroom?

I believe participatory culture greatly impacts my classroom in so many ways, and creates so many opportunities for students that I did not have when I was going through school.

  1. Students can be active participants in their learning: No longer do students have to sit in their desks, taking notes or writing out an essay on loose-leaf. They now have the option to demonstrate their learning and understanding in so many different platforms, from creating a YouTube video, to participating in a class Twitter poll, the opportunities for teachers to encourage student participation are endless.
  2. Students can learn from so many sources: This culture opens so many doors for students in regards to learning from different sources and people. Students can watch videos, participate in discussion forms, and learn from a variety of sites that are of interest to them.
  3. Students can connect with others: In my opinion, one the biggest and greatest parts of participatory culture is its ability to connect people; connect people who would have otherwise never have the ability to meet before. Not only does this allow for learning opportunities for students, it allows them to form relationships and connections, as well as build their own identities as they connect with others who they have share similarities with.

I believe participatory truly creates endless opportunities for our students to grow, learn, and form relationships- and I look forward to incorporating this culture into my classroom!

– S


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