Culture of Participation: How Do We Incorporate Educational Technology in a Healthy Way?

Written by Sequoia Abbott-Saulteaux

Photo by Matt Mech on Unsplash

It was the fall of 2007 and I was entering grade seven for the first time. Looking back, it was a great year with the very first iPhone coming out, the final Harry Potter book published, and Britney Spears releasing her best album, Blackout. Since my small town only had one high school and no junior high’s, I had known most of my classmates for years so I remember not being too nervous to start the school year. The classroom technology of the day included chalkboards, overhead projectors, calculators, and a computer lab in part of the library with rows of big chunky towers.

Growing up, I was never exactly wealthy and this made it so that we regularly didn’t have internet or cable at home, but this year by parents bought me my own walkman CD player and I remember being so excited to show my other classmates. I remember the walkman was specifically made for walking but it actually didn’t really work that well because the CD has to be faceup to work and skipped at the slightest bump. It’s amazing to think of how far technology has come since I was younger and how far reaching it will continue to grow.

MiNe, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 2007, YouTube had been running for two years already and it was among the most popular website that we went onto, as well as MSN messenger and early Facebook. The biggest fad that year was Soulja Boy Tell’em Crank That (Soulja Boy) song and accompanying dance. Its amazing to think that the official music video didn’t come out for another two years after the original popularity. I vividly remember the teacher trying to get the class to settle down after a couple of students (or several) broke out into dance when someone played the song. That was part of the amazing part of trends such as this, you didn’t necessarily have to be connected online in order to feel involved.

This phenomenon has been called the “culture of participation” in that the internet is connecting us in ways that has never been possible beforehand. Has there ever been a time in history when hundreds of thousands of kids across vast boundaries could participate and interact with each other? Is is possible that Soulja Boy’s song has reached boundaries that were thought to be impossible before? Is this culture of participation a good thing or a bad thing, and how can we use it to our advantage? Michael Wesch shares some interesting thoughts on participatory culture in his presentation to the Library of Congress;

“It’s a celebration of new forms of empowerment, anyone with a webcam now has a stronger voice and a presence. It’s a celebration of new forms of community, and new types of community that we have never really seen before. Global connections, transcending space and time. It’s a celebration of new and unimaginable possibilities”

Michael Wesch, 2008

Wesch, an anthropologist, has studies YouTube culture for years and has stated that we may have to shift our thinking of what it means to use these new tools, “media is mediating human relationships, when media changes, human relationships change”. He argues that the rise of YouTube and other internet connection platforms, has also caused a rise in a new form of human communication. One where words can have much more power than just on paper (for example, hashtags, hyperlinks…ect), and where media can have transformative powers. This has caused a phenomenon, mostly among younger people, that allows them to share their voice and participate with other people across vast distances, something that would have been impossible not too long ago. However, this can be compared to other other “cultural revolutions” in that it is not inherently good or bad depending on how you look at it. For while this technology is connecting us more than ever before, it can also cause feelings of increasing isolation as more people perform for an invisible audience and constantly compare themselves to an infinite number of people.

Some may argue that this growing technological world will continue growing even without our participation, thus rather than ignoring these tools we should instead embrace them. As an educator, I do believe that participation culture and technology can be of great value in the classroom, if used accurately. However, I also see the downside in a lot of this new technology and believe that we must be teaching how to responsibility and safety use these new tools. I think that the first step towards building a healthy classroom environment that utilizes this new technology would be for the educator to gain a solid base of understanding and develop a critical lense. Use technology where it would deepen understanding and develop new skills. Teach students about the difference between online personas and real life people. Then we can bring in the TikTok to summarize book chapters.

Otherall, I think that participation culture does have a place in the classroom. Most importantly, because I think that as educators we should be striving to meet our students interests and preparing them as best we can for our increasingly connected world.

You can watch the rest of the YouTube video bellow if you want!

Listen to the Anchor Podcast for this episode here!

How Perfect Should our Digital Footprint Be? : Forgiveness in the Internet Age Sequoia Abbott-Saulteaux

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  2. Trying New Crochet Patterns with Dishcloths!
  3. Culture of Participation: How Do We Incorporate Educational Technology in a Healthy Way?

Do you believe that platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, SnapChat ect.. have a place in the classroom? Why, or why not?



  1. Hey Sequoia!
    Great post. In response to your question, I do believe that social media platforms should have a place in the classroom to an extent. YouTube is a great EdTech tool that I will always use. In terms of TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat etc., I feel that they can be used as tool for engagement ex. show the DM’s that would have been sent between historical figures. But, on that note, our students are so engrossed in social media that I feel they should be able to have a but of a break at school and focus on face-to-face interaction. There are benefits to the culture of participation but it can also be addicting and have a harmful effect on students’ social skills. So, I suppose I see the value in using social media platforms in the classroom but believe it should be used in moderation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Laura!
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I do agree with your statement that we should be paying attention to how much time students are already spending online so that we are not overloading them! I think that screen fatigue is becoming a bigger issue now than ever as we deal with this global pandemic. I also highly agree with you that there does need to be a balance in participation culture, and I think that part of this balance can be incorporated with teaching online safety along with these new technologies (or not so new). Most importantly, I think that conversations such as these are a great first step into the right direction so I thank you again for engaging with me. This issue is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon!



  2. Hi Sequoia,
    This was a great read, good job! In response to your question, I think that YouTube (if used properly) an be an excellent resource for learning. I am not very experienced with TikTok, but the little bit of experience I have (through my best friends daughter) has turned me off. Maybe it is my limited experience, but it seems like it would be more of a distraction for students. Instagram and Snapchat would be good for building student relationships. Have a good one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ian!
      Thank you so much! I do agree that YouTube is an excellent resource to use for learning and teaching. I find myself using it more and more lately, and #edtc300 has taught me so many new ways to use it! I do agree with you about TikTok, I am also very inexperienced with it and have heard some mixed reviews about using it as a resource! This is definitely something that I will have to look more into! Thanks for your insight!



  3. Wow! This post had me nodding my head in agreement so many times. There is definitely power when people use their voices for good and participate online in positive ways. There is also the flip side, where technology can bring out negative emotions and “cause feelings of increasing isolation” and comparison, as you said in your post. As educators, it’s important that we prepare our students for the reality of both the benefits and downfalls of our digital world. One of the ways we can do this is by integrating it into our lessons in an authentic way. I agree with you and really do believe social media platforms belong in our classrooms. We need to guide students with their social media use and give them a safe space to learn how to use these tools. I really like turning to Media Smarts and Common Sense Education to help me get ideas for teaching students about their role with social media. Both of these websites have helped me in my online journey as an educator. I know that as you learn more about EdTech and social media, you will find many tools and websites to help you along the way as well. Thank you for such a thoughtful post. It resonated with me in so many ways!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Amanda!
      Thank you so much your for kind words and insightful thoughts! I completely agree that there is so much possibility in this digital world and it’s not going to go away anytime soon! Thank you for your resources, I will be sure to explore both! I think that it is so important to be integrating our lessons with aspects that will actually prepare our students for our technological digital world as best as we can!



  4. Sequoia, this was an intriguing and thoughtful post. I really appreciated hearing about your perspective on the use of educational technology in the classroom- and I think that you have a well balanced view of what your students will most benefit from. I also love how you incorporate your own personal storytelling style while using amazing descriptive language and imagery to creat the sense of bringing your reader into your memories. Absolutely lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Sequoia!

    When I was watching An anthropological introduction to YouTube I was actually very shocked to learn how the
    Soulja Boy was made. I have obviously listened to the song many times and I knew there was a dance that went along with the song BUT I honeslty thought it was a professinally made song. The whole dance trend that came along with it really just reminded me of TikTok because everyone particpating in trendy dances is one of the things that TikTok is known for. I also agree with you that platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, SnapChat ect do have a place in the classroom. I think it is first important to inform studies how to use each platform safely before really engaging and incorperating the platforms into the students learning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kassia!
      I completely agree with you comment! I remember the song and dance so vividly and its shocking to think that it didn’t get professional made until after the hype! I also agree that the situation is a lot like Tik Tok dances and trends, its amazing to think about how much has changed but also stayed the same in some ways. I think that Digital Safety should be incorporated into more of our daily curriculum, especially since these trends don’t seem to be going anywhere! Thank you for you insightful comment!



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