Written by Sequoia Abbott-Saulteaux
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.
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;
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
Do you believe that platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, SnapChat ect.. have a place in the classroom? Why, or why not?