Half-life and Participatory culture

When I think about my experience in school growing up- I have a stark picture in my mind of the teacher being a knowledge holder, and myself, sitting attentively (always performing my appropriate gender-role, but- I digress), and waiting to learn everything I could from my teachers, so I could be ‘smart’ and ‘knowledgeable’.

My school experience- picture via flickr

Don’t get me wrong- my education got me somewhere, I completed post-secondary education, and I have life-skills and the ability to perform and function in my society.  These are valuable skills, and I obtained them throughout my schooling career.

The problem is, the way I understood the knowledge I learned as being static and ‘fact’ and very black and white.  When I grew up, Pluto was a planet, you did spelling tests to become a better speller, and you had to go to the bank if you wanted money to spend at the store (for most of my years in school anyway).

Fast forward to my time as a teacher: Pluto is not an ‘official’ planet, spelling tests are discouraged- spell checkers are rampant, and not only do you not have to go to the bank to have ‘cash’ but you don’t even have to use a PIN for most day to day credit card purchases.

By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Our world is changing, it is constant-so are the facts that we hold as knowledge.  The piece that distinguishes current students, from students of the past, is that our knowledge ‘holders’ are no further away than someone who has access to the internet and a device.






However, I am not sure that having a ‘google machine’ at our fingertips is enough to progress into the new age of education.  It’s not enough that we bring technology into our classrooms.  As educators, we need our spaces to transform from a place where students expect to “absorb” knowledge into a space where they create questions and learn from the experiences of others.  While connecting students, and helping them to network is perhaps part of the solution to transforming our educational spaces, as Howard Rheingold says:

“When you participate, you become an active citizen rather than simply a passive consumer of what is sold to you, what is taught to you, and what your government wants you to believe.”

In the book Creating Cultures of Thinking Ron Ritchhart explains in that a survey of employers about the suitability of future candidates, the ability to think, understand and problem solve are the most valuable things a future employee can possess.  As teachers, we need to value this feedback – and work to evolve in our practice so we can transform from the givers of knowledge to the facilitators of knowledge challengers who function in participatory culture.


2 thoughts on “Half-life and Participatory culture

  1. When you talk about how education today requires teachers to move further than just simply bringing technology into the classroom, I couldn’t agree more! Finding ways to provide students with opportunities to learn how to ask questions and discover the knowledge they need is critical in creating future employable society members.

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