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Early Adopters to Participatory Professional Development
Preventing a Participation Gap with Teachers: A Participatory Action Research
Approach to Professional Development
New Hampshire Early Adopters Program with Project New Media Literacies
by Vanessa Vartabedian & Erin Reilly
This paper demonstrates the importance of teacher development as a necessary first-step
toward integrating the new media literacies into the K-16 curriculum. Emerging participatory
practices have given rise to a new model of knowledge distribution. Increasingly, information
and expertise are spread across a broad network of people and tools. Widespread access to
networked technologies means that, in theory, the same information is available to everybody.
In such a world, knowing how to find, process, and exchange already-known knowledge is as
important as knowing how to work together, deliberate, debate, argue, and create knowledge
(Jenkins et al., 2009). Participatory learning entails a major shift in the nature and conduct of
schooling. The tension between participatory learning and schooling is not a consequence of
incompetent school personnel. The tension stems from incompatibility between the nature of
participatory learning and institutionalized schooling, especially as related to accepted
conceptions of the roles of teacher and students (Bosco, 2010). A model of “distributed
expertise” is intended to contrast with the traditional “expert” model. The expert paradigm
assumes a static, bounded body of knowledge (Clark, 2003). In this model, expertise is
hierarchical and generally brokered by credentialed authorities. In contrast, the notion of
distributed expertise assumes that knowledge is distributed across a diffuse network of people
and tools. In 2009-10, Project New Media Literacies (Project NML) worked with a small group
of New Hampshire teachers to foster the first Early Adopters (EA) Working Group in the state.
This Group used the distributed expertise model as a teacher development strategy to promote
technology use in service of classroom instruction. Project NML introduced the Learning
Library, a multimedia activity platform where EAs learned about and practiced the new media
literacies by completing and creating lessons, which were known as “challenges” and sharing
their own media content with other members. As a result, the group “became designers and not
just executors of Web 2.0 oriented tasks” (Lund & Rasmussen, 2010, p. 4060). EAs stated that
the challenges provided an easy entry point into better understanding how technology can be
applied toward learning and instruction, while learning how to adapt and integrate the learning
library challenges into their core curriculum. Project NML’s study with the EAs shows the
importance of the teacher-as-researcher role as a necessary first-step toward developing
expertise and sharing practical experience with other educators. One of the participants noted,
“NMLs (new media literacies) are seeping through my skin and reflecting in practice. The
environment of my classroom is so exciting, I'm letting go of control and truly learning how to
Project New Media Literacies research has always been guided by the goal of fostering a more
participatory culture, one in which every young person has the skills, access, knowledge, and
adult support they need in order to meaningfully participate in the new media landscape, one
which supports them not only through school but across the learning ecosystem, one which
does not only provide them scaffolding now but gives them the sense of empowerment which
will enable them to lead creative, rewarding lives. What we are calling participatory culture is
not "learning 2.0", a term which derives from the concept of "web 2.0." Web 2.0 is a business
plan, pure and simple, while participatory culture describes a cultural, political, and educational
movement to insure greater grassroots access to the means of cultural production and
circulation. While we have seen dramatic expansion in the communication capacities
accessible to everyday people in the 21st century, especially youth, we also know that many
are not yet able to participate, locked out by both the digital divide (which has to do with access
to technologies) and the participation gap (which has to do with access to skills, knowledge,
and support). Schools, museums, libraries, and other public institutions are best situated to
help young people overcome these challenges, but only if they move beyond fear of the digital
and confront its mixture of risks and opportunities from an informed and engaged perspective.
The skills which will allow young people to more meaningfully participate are often highly
social, having to do with the prospects of negotiating across cultural differences, navigating the
complex media landscape, pooling knowledge with others, and engaging with affordances
offered by new media tools and practices. Most often, these skills are learned now outside of
school, through participation in informal learning cultures, including those that some young
people are entering through their interests and hobbies, through their fandoms or through their
engagement with games. Yet, more recent reflections about connected learning suggest the
value in helping young people articulate more fully what they are learning through these
activities in language which can be grasped and valued within more informal institutions.
Moreover, the new media literacies skills need to be coupled with a core set of values which
encourage young people to reflect on their own ethical choices as media producers and
circulators - and as participants in diverse communities of practice.
The New Media Literacies
Project NML comprises a team of researchers led by Professor Henry Jenkins and is part of
the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. Our goal is to help
realize and further the ideas and research articulated in the white paper, Confronting the
Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education in the 21st Century (Jenkins, et all,
2009). Central to the paper is the idea of literacy as shifting from individual expression to
community involvement, where creative expression and active participation are hallmark
characteristics. The eleven new media literacies (NMLs) identified in the paper, as well as the
twelfth - visualization - added in 2008, explore some of the cultural competencies and social
skills young people need to fully engage in a digitally connected, culturally diverse world.
Despite the connotation, the NMLs are not exclusively related to gaining proficiency in using
digital technologies or familiarity with different mediums. Rather, this framework suggests using
some old skills in new and relevant ways, and the addition of a few new skills, as they apply to
modern ways of interacting with media. Collectively the NMLs support students’ self-efficacy,
attitudes and behaviors throughout the learning ecosystem (both online and off).
The media-literacy movement has effectively evolved its definition of literacy from teaching
students to analyze the media they consume toward viewing themselves as both consumers
and creators of media. However, this learning is still often relegated to electives or to
after-school programs. Project NML’s approach was to integrate the new media literacies
across the school curricula and throughout all other spaces where learning occurs. For
example, one of the many projects we collaborated on was the Moby Dick project. The
complex and often intimidating novel was dynamically transformed into a stage performance
where students remixed relevant themes and cultural references with an old text. Learning
goals for students were addressed through applying the new media literacies (such as
appropriation and negotiation) to traditional content, and in turn, students experienced
increased and deepened levels of engagement with the material. This produced a teachers
strategy guide called Reading in a Participatory Culture (and a forthcoming book!).
The new media literacies allow us to think in very new ways about the processes of learning,
because they acknowledge a shift from a top-down model of pedagogy to one that invokes all
voices and all means of knowledge-building. Viewing learning as emergent rather than
pre-structured; transmedia rather than unified; situational rather than universal; and
collaborative rather than hierarchical is what we mean by participatory learning (Reilly, E. and
Klink, F. "Mad Skills" [submitted to JMLE for review]).
The Need for Participatory Professional Development
“What a kid can do at home with unlimited access is very different from what a kid can
do in a public library with ten or fifteen minutes of access at a time and with no capacity
to store and upload information to the web. We further handicap these children by
placing filters on the Internet which restrict their access to information which is readily
available to their more affluent classmates. And now this legislation would restrict their
ability to participate in social networks or to belong to online communities. The result
will be to further isolate children from poorer economic backgrounds, to cut kids at risk
from support systems, which exist within their peer culture, and to limit the social and
cultural experiences of kids who are already behind in acquiring important networking
skills that will shape their professional futures. All of this will compound what we are
now calling the participation gap.” Henry Jenkins (Handley, 2006)
While nationwide initiatives are seeking to close the gaps between students who have regular
access to technology in schools and libraries and those who do not, efforts to address how
students are learning through technology are lagging behind. Some state media literacy
standards are addressing this issue under the umbrella of 21st Century Skills. Frameworks for
media literacy are being implemented in certain states, such as Montana, where the
Information Literacy/Library Media Content Standards Framework states that by the end of
fourth grade a student should be able to “participate and collaborate in intellectual and social
networks following safe and accepted practices” and by high school graduation will be
proficient in applying “copyright laws and fair use guidelines when using the intellectual
property of others” (Montana Office of Public Instruction, 2008). In Massachusetts the 2012
Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL) asks test-takers to answer how they would
use social media, such as Twitter, in their pedagogy. Although this is hopeful, in most states,
such as California, the state standards for media literacy are mainly limited to analyzing,
evaluating and identifying the role of mass media, and do not include utilizing or interacting with
it creatively or collaboratively until grades 11 and 12 (CA Dept. Of Ed., 2004) – much later than
youth typically start participating in using media outside of classrooms.
It makes sense that school should be a primary place where basic competencies and skills
related to engaging in a participatory culture would be developed. Lack of training and
mentorship for teachers, filters and laws blocking access to core social media platforms, poor
knowledge about how youth are engaging with and learning through media outside of school,
and pressure to meet state and national requirements are among the factors contributing to this
painfully slow shift (what author Matt Levinson calls) “From Fear to Facebook” in schools.
Professional learning opportunities in their current, widespread form are highly prescriptive and
didactic in terms of approach and goals, and do little to address the participation gap with
teachers. Nor is adequate attention paid to relevancy in terms of the actual needs of teachers,
or differentiation for accommodating varying learning styles. Typically, professional
development programs designed to teach educators new technologies do little more than
highlight specific technologies and encourage them to deploy an arsenal of new tools as a
means of hooking students to engage more deeply with curricular content. Rather, we propose
fronting this process with the curricular goals at hand and then identifying (or facilitating
students to identify) the appropriate technologies to meet them through playful
experimentation. In this way, technology honors learners by putting the focus on the process of
learning and not on the deployment of it through tools.
The NMLs and Professional Development with New Hampshire Early Adopters
Project NML tackled its first professional development in 2009 with a grant from the state of
New Hampshire. Our work with the educators there asked, “How can the NML Community
inform a participatory professional development model?” The project focused on implementing
such a model in ways which were highly collaborative and that were aligned with the New
Hampshire Department of Education's goals as outlined in The ISTE National Educational
Technology Standards. One specific goal was to “support the professional development of
teachers and administrators and the integration of technology into instruction, in order to
advance student learning.” The ultimate goal being “to support a statewide cadre of skilled,
informed teacher leaders and principals who are empowered to support their colleagues in
creating truly 21st century learning environments.” (see EETT Grant Application 2009-10 at
The pilot group consisted of six participants, all veteran teachers with over ten years of
experience who worked with elementary and middle school students. Although all participants
were able to define media literacy, only half of the participants had past experience teaching
media literacy in the classroom, which was often limited to internet safety, how to use specific
tools, and a piecemeal approach where media literacy was used as needed and never
integrated into core curriculum. When asked what topics of media literacy the participants
wanted to explore, half said they were eager to learn more about copyright and safety. Of the 6
participants, 4 held technology support or coordinator positions for the school beyond their
teaching role. All participants felt comfortable and familiar with using various media production
tools, with all but one knowing how to edit using basic editing software such as iMovie or
Windows Moviemaker. 100% of participants had access to technology for use with their
students, including tools such as smartboards, cameras, netbooks and iPods.
Most of the teachers described the climate of their school district as difficult to work within.
Difficulties ranged from network issues to leadership crisis to too many initiatives to have the
time to focus and really understand this shift needing to happen in schools. All participants felt
comfortable adapting new curriculum ideas into the classroom, although more than half shared
that it would be hard to implement due to the current district climate, which is heavily focused
on meeting standards and tests.
The exact ways in which the Early Adopters group organized their work and was supported by
Project NML was not pre-determined in the grant; this open ended and fluid structure was a
purposeful decision set by Project NML and NH’s Department of Education. Fostering the
NMLs collective intelligence and distributed cognition within this group of educators was a main
priority for the PD. We define distributed cognition as the ability to interact meaningfully with
tools that expand mental capacities, and collective intelligence as the ability to pool knowledge
and compare notes with others toward a common goal. Collective intelligence focuses on the
skills needed to collaborate through accessing our individual skills and knowledge, while
distributed cognition extends beyond our individual capacities to the tools we use that help us
think and act ‘smarter’.
In thinking through what individual cognition is in the 21st century, many educators and
students we worked with did not consider distributed cognition a ‘skill’. Perhaps the reason
educators grapple with its merit is because distributed cognition can be seen as ‘cheating’ in an
academic setting, when, for instance, teachers allow students to access the internet to find
answers or use a calculator. However, the pace of life has changed since we told time by
reading the sun. If we didn’t refer to clocks most of us would not be able to stay on a schedule.
Just as reading and writing today look differently than they did 100 years ago, so do the tools
we use to complete these tasks, freeing our minds to reach larger objectives.
By utilizing collective intelligence within the model of the professional development itself, we
challenged educators to examine the value of the collective knowledge of the group versus
their individual expertise. Educators, in our opinion, need to adopt and practice emerging
literacy skills in the same ways and in similar environments as youth in order to value and
facilitate new modes of learning. A model where teachers and students learn from each other
(co-learning) is in contrast with the more traditional approach of the teacher imparting
knowledge to students (expert paradigm). The expert paradigm assumes a static, bounded
body of knowledge (Walsh, Peter as cited in Jenkins Convergence Culture, Chapter Two). In
this model, expertise is hierarchical and generally brokered by credentialed authorities. In
contrast, the notion of distributed expertise encourages collective intelligence and assumes
that each person has something to contribute.
The distributed expertise model deployed by the Early Adopters Working Group emerged
1. Allowing participating educators to align the goals of the project with their own needs
2. Encouraging the group to respect each others’ expertise and work as a collective, and
3. Personalizing the approach to allow individual educators to gain a strong foundation,
adopt the practices and become advocates for the state.
Contributing factors to its success include:
1. The process of negotiation in regard to the meeting schedule as well as the level of
participation and responsibility the group would hold as part of the early adopters
working group and to one another,
2. The group's decision to postpone the first webinar by one month due to comfort level
with the material and meeting platform, and
3. A sense of ownership over their experience as "teachers as action researchers" based
on defining their own personal and professional goals for the PD.
Initially, the idea was that each early adopter would work as a part of a team with another early
adopter to fulfill their participatory role/responsibility for that particular month as follows:
1. Webinar creation
2. Webinar follow-up / group moderation in the Ning community
3. Lead and moderate discussion threads/groups in the Ning community
4. Welcome new members/member outreach/chats via the Ning community
By the third month of the PD, the group had clarified its primary tasks to include actions and a
timeline to accomplish them by:
1. Agreeing upon a common goal more specifically tailored to the objectives of NH defined as:
· "Developing expertise with Project NML concepts and resources such that Early Adopters
can effectively and independently facilitate learning among other NH educators, as well as in
their classrooms. Means for accomplishing this should not abandon Project NML’s overriding
philosophy of participatory learning, or its goal to explore the potentials of an expert / learner
paradigm shift in pedagogical practice."
2. Suggesting Actions and Outcomes:
Begin building on existing Project NML resources to create their own in a way that targets the
goals specific to NH for future use in PD training and suggested uses for inclusion in curriculum
· Exploring the existing NML resources such as: the video library, challenges in the Learning
Library, the Digital Media and Ethics Casebook and Teacher’s Strategy Guides to gain a
thorough understanding of how to adapt and incorporate these tools and lessons across
· Building a singular webinar synthesizing the group’s collective understanding of Project
NML’s concepts and practices, as well as educator reflections to present to Teacher Learning
Cohort group at end of the year.
· Individually creating a challenge in the Learning Library from scratch for their classrooms,
including trying it out with students and other teachers, and reflecting on the outcomes.
· Conducting a professional development workshop and share with others their knowledge of
the new media literacies at the Christa McAuliffe Conference in December 2010.
3. Defining Meetings and Time Commitment for each month (2 hrs per week):
· 1st week of each month – Complete assigned explorations around new material/skills
· 2nd week of each month – Meet as a group synchronously to discuss experiences/findings
with new material
· 3rd week of each month – Attend and participate in webinar
· 4th week of each month – Meet as a group to perform peer review, provide support, reflect
on webinar and introduce new skills
· In addition – Participate in Project NML’s Community, TLC Community and Google Group by
adding resources, opening-up discussions, sharing experiences and facilitating chat sessions
on relevant topics.
4. Determining collaborative platforms for the group as follows:
· The Ning platform http://projectnml.ning.com/
· Huddle workspace on Ning for private collaboration and individual work
· Groups, forum, blog as open exploration and public participation
· Elluminate virtual meeting space
· Google Groups for asynchronous collaboration based on its capacity for closed space to
explore learning with one another first
The EA working group began its online collaboration in the Project NML Ning community,
however, participation was slow to emerge and educators expressed resistance to it in part
because of its public nature, as well feeling fragmented between too many online educational
communities. When asked if they would prefer the Moodle site, which is the standard platform
for online professional development courses in NH, Jennifer stated she felt it never worked
because it created a process of engagement that was too linear for real learning. Bridget
referred to the Moodle as more of a “directive commentary site - read this, view this, then
comment and then read and comment on someone else's comment”. Holly mentioned liking
that the Google Group centralized information, as well as afforded collaboration with other
members of the group. And Elissa described her experience with the NML PD as “open ended
learning” which helped her to critically reflect on her own teaching practices, which and
recognize that this program strayed from her prior experiences with PD – “usually we are
Overall this exemplified the shift in question from the Project NML Community as the platform
for public participation, to an alternative space (Google Groups) which valued peripheral
participation. Throughout the first six-months of the PD the teachers continued to express the
need to discuss their process before beginning to trust their insights as valuable to the general
public. Those educators more confident in their ability to teach using the NMLs began to share
examples publicly via the webinars or by posting their class work to public spaces. Educators
who began creating challenges for use in the Learning Library expressed readiness to share
their insights from the professional development more broadly.
Data Presentation from the Early Adopters Program
The New Media Literacies in Practice.
The EAs began exploring the new media literacies in depth one month into the professional
development after norms and workflow were established. Each month the group focused on
either a single literacy or a pair of NMLs which were predetermined by Project NML. Below is a
summary of how the early adopters enacted some of the new media literacies as action
researchers in their classrooms and reflected on their own understanding of these skills during
the course of the PD.
When the early adopters explored the NML collective intelligence (defined as the ability to pool
knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal) they struggled to
differentiate how to extend the practice of ‘collaboration’ to one that respected and
acknowledged each member’s expertise. Allowing one student to share knowledge with
another without the other students having the same or similar knowledge alerted teachers to
their own sense of concern about students not being on equal footing. Wikipedia was
introduced as a case study and using it with students was encouraged as a means of exploring
how this type of shared knowledge might work in classrooms. This prompted teachers to
examine ways to incorporate the pool of student knowledge present in the classroom that
extends beyond the teacher’s expertise. The new media literacy play - defined as
experimenting with one’s surroundings as a form of problem solving- had not yet been formally
explored by the early adopters, but began to emerge as a necessary form of pedagogy to
encourage the shift away from the ‘sage on the stage’ paradigm none-the-less.
Some educators flatly denied the value of collective intelligence stating it could not be practiced
in learning settings and that it had no practical value. Bridget, for example, stated, “Personally,
I am not a collaborator. I hate the idea of an adhocracy. I don't mind getting together with
like-minded individuals with specific skill sets to solve a problem but to suggest that this is
replacing the workplace hierarchical model is baloney... I prefer my own autonomy, thank you.
And will consult experts as necessary but prefer to work on my own to find the answers I
require. Just my two cents on the whole collective intelligence thing. Just don't believe in it, or
want to be a part of it. I don't believe that the concept is real...”.
This mindset is not surprising in a culture of education which values individual knowledge and
skill mastery as a primary goal for preparing students for a competitive workforce. It ignores,
however, the process of thinking critically with others to solve more complex problems than one
person could on their own. Collective intelligence is not about displacing expertise, but
acknowledging that utilizing collective expertise is advantageous in solving problems of greater
complexity than without it. Collective intelligence requires collaboration as a necessary part of
this process, but acknowledges the differentiated knowledge and skills within the group as
necessary to improve the effectiveness of the group as a whole. Early adopters who were open
to this potential in their classrooms, noticed resistance to the practice of collective intelligence
among the students themselves. Holly, an elementary technology educator, noted that her
more gifted students were hesitant to accept the idea because it would deny them ownership of
the total knowledge being expressed, and confusion around how their learning would be
assessed (ie. graded) came into question. Elizabeth, in reflecting on her students who
struggled with large concepts stated that, “students who are used to working harder to
understand (the material) are better able to use collective intelligence.” However, she also
agreed with Holly in that she found her top students were not fully aware that their own learning
process depended on the knowledge of others before them and so ”may not value the input of
others.” All in all, students who did traditionally well within the current model of education had a
more difficult time letting go of owning all the knowledge and in consulting the expertise of
Gradually, however, reflections from the Google Group’s discussion captured the evolution of
educators’ understanding through experimenting with the new media literacies:
Holly: “Today I captured the very beginning stages of CI with (2) boys who are in
2nd grade through play.
Joanne: “We as educators make connections by embracing what our students can
teach us to be able to truly educate them. This is my favorite kind of collective
intelligence. I have a 100 reasons not to teach but collective intelligence is
probably the main reason I could not ever give teaching up...
Elizabeth: “There is a shift toward project and inquiry based learning. These two
instructional approaches are more likely to provide opportunities for "ad-hocracies"
to be used during instruction. Students need to be able to make greater academic
choices for themselves and need to be more self-evaluative to be effective
Holly: “NML skills are seeping through my skin and reflecting in practice. The
environment of my classroom is so exciting, I'm letting go of control and truly
learning how to facilitate. I have posted "snapshot" videos of students engaging in
CI. Group support most likely needed as I begin to build my Challenge...I was so
used to being a consumer and taking in the knowledge "lurking" as Elizabeth
noted, that it is still requiring me to step out to contribute, organize my thoughts
and speak in a manner that is collective and professional. The more I participate
the more comfortable I feel. I imagine the kids will feel this same when asked to
Caitlin: “I have become totally intrigued by the reflections and ideas being shared
by all of you. Every time I see a post like Holly's, I feel it confirms the decision we
made to have a NML specific initiative.”
During the monthly webinar for the public, which focused on collective intelligence, the EAs
helped to design the experience as a way to model the skill in practice. Breakout rooms were
created in the Elluminate platform for small groups to play a game called “Stump the Expert”.
One expert (Henry Jenkins) wrote a list of everything he knew about science fiction, while each
small group simultaneously wrote their own lists to compare with his once they returned to the
public webinar room. This activity can demonstrate (and did) that people’s perspectives on
science fiction affected the knowledge they brought to the pool of knowledge. For example,
someone looking at science fiction from the perspective of a fan talked about following the flow
of stories, while another who spoke of it historically offered context for the form. One group
purported to utilizing Wikipedia as a form of distributed cognition to increase their knowledge
pool. The question remains - would teachers and students consider this form of knowledge
Transmedia navigation, which is ‘the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across
multiple modalities’ relates strongly to rethinking the ways teachers approach research with
students as a literacy in a connected learning ecosystem. The EAs looked at this skill through
the lens of transmedia learning and transmedia lessons planning. Project NML asked, “What
would modeling transmedia learning look like through a lesson plan?” In yet another webinar,
we explored this concept and then scheduled a follow-up chat for participants of the webinar to
attend where they could play with and adapt a template suggested for this type of lesson
planning. These templates used the previous examples from the collective intelligence webinar
- where the show “Survivor” and “Lost” were discussed in terms of the knowledge-base of the
fan culture surrounding the shows. Both of these examples also had a strong transmedia
storytelling component in place, which both the producers of the programs and fans alike
created. To take the example of “Lost,” we assigned the discipline of philosophy or social
studies. The template suggests starting with identifying the learning goals through one medium
(here: television) and how the extension of the learning goal could be exemplified through
various other mediums. This allowed multiple ways and means for students to access
information, dig deeper into various aspects of their research and provide scaffolding and
One main tension, which arose was educators’ struggle to understand the difference between
transmedia and multimedia. Multimedia is defined as different content forms of media used to
represent the same message. Examples include creating a lesson that incorporates several
mediums to express the same idea, such as a PowerPoint presentation with embedded video,
text and images, or showing the film version of a book students had read. These are common
ways that teachers deliver content in order to paint a fuller picture of the content, appeal to
different types of learners as well as captivate attention through the use of digital media and
digital tools. State standards require students in many states to create their own original
PowerPoint presentation as a way to demonstrate literacy using media tools and expressing
ideas using different forms of media. Transmedia navigation utilized as a mode for research in
these contexts provides opportunities for students to practice other important NMLs such as
judgment. By evaluating the credibility of various sources of information and being able to read
across different mediums, students must in turn express and synthesize their understanding
Transmedia as an approach to learning allows for choice in how students approach research
and express their findings by allowing them to navigate where they look for and what
information they choose to use, as well as how to display sharing their learning across
mediums instead of compiling in one place. This process honors the autonomy of the learner to
transcend the bounds of documented information and to create extensions of that information
through following their interests and developing new knowledge. Fan communities demonstrate
this point well. Many fans pick-up on missing pieces of stories and extend or flesh them out in
ways that the original creators had not considered, or chose to exclude. Fans might also delve
deeper into the lives of the characters of the stories, bringing new life to the original version
created. We value this process for learners as it offers opportunities not only to develop critical
skills for meaningful online participation and deeper learning, but allows for nuanced and
individualized interpretations of a learning goal.
Appropriation, defined as the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content, was
introduced to the group very early on as it calls up important issues, such as copyright
concerns, when using media rich resources in classrooms. During synchronous group
discussion, Elissa, a kindergarten teacher, and Elizabeth, an elementary school tech
coordinator, pointed to examples where they had previously embedded appropriation practices
into curricular activities, but never considered them to be primary learning goals for the lessons
they were teaching. Elissa stated she had been using appropriation around storytelling with her
students for some time, but only just began to gain an understanding of its value as a skill in
this context. Where she had previously framed appropriation as “stealing”, she would now offer
her students opportunities to more consciously focus on the practice of remixing stories with
the hopes of deepening students’ comprehension of the material. Elizabeth’s class was
adapting stories into songs, and then videotaping the reinterpretations. Not only did her
students practice the skill of appropriation, but by assigning projects that permitted students to
“borrow” ideas and content from others to build upon, related literacy components, such as
copyright and fair use practices, were also gained.
Elissa found the skill of negotiation (defined as ‘the ability to travel across diverse communities,
discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norm),
could be aptly applied to the world her kindergarten students were active in. Social and
behavioral skills inherent in the new media literacies and specifically negotiation, are central
learning goals for students in early childhood. Elissa’s classroom blog shows her students
practicing negotiation with using vokis – http://nmlreflections.wikispaces.com/Negotiations. She
reflects, “I'm not sure that this is a great example of negotiations skills in practice but perhaps it
helps illustrate how to begin the discussion of how we can be perceived online and how to think
about how we (her kindergarten class) might represent ourselves to others."
Elissa and her students regularly Skyped with a classroom in Australia to compare cultural and
geographic differences and gain an appreciation for diverse perspectives and values. Elissa
created a Challenge in the Learning Library focusing on networking (defined as the ability to
search for, synthesize, and disseminate information) in the classroom in ways that promotes
extending learning beyond the walls of the classroom. "The audience (for the Challenge) are
teachers and my purpose was to get teachers thinking of ways they could open their
classrooms and create ways for the students to network with other folks to enhance and enrich
their learning. This is to be a short challenge - no more than 7 slides with some explanation,
examples and questions to help teachers begin to plan the next steps."
Learning Library Participation.
The Learning Library was used extensively in the Early Adopters professional development.
Applying the conceptual framework presented in the white paper (Jenkins et al., 2009), the
Learning Library tool houses multimedia learning “challenges,” which support teachers and
students to explore and practice the new media literacies and, as well, it provides a platform for
creating user-generated learning activities by teachers and students. This tool is multi-site and
multi-modal, with learners stitching together their learning experiences from materials drawn
from different sources. Using the Learning Library, people can learn more about the new media
literacies, acquire skills and have a chance to practice these skills through challenges, and
ultimately, to produce and share their own content with other members of the Learning Library.
EA, Joanne shared, “Challenges are great for educators. They convey concepts with a ‘hook’
and activity type lesson and are easily translated into classroom teaching.”
Each month prior to the required EA seminar, Project NML provided participants with a list of
resources to explore the new media literacy that would be explored and practiced as a group.
Each list of resources includes a couple of Learning Library challenges that exemplified the
To introduce the Learning Library to the participants, the beginning of the project encouraged
them to complete the four required challenges in order to gain full access of the Learning
Library. These required challenges introduce the practice of attributing authorship to media and
tagging media. These are both active ways to make connections between producers and fans
of their work and between work that shares similar characteristics. Overall, it gave people a
sense of how these concepts could go beyond citation and keywords to being a participatory
process of learning.
100% of participants completed all four of the required challenges. Ownership and authorship
issues constitute a pretty important part of media literacy, as noted in the pre-survey with
participants wanting to learn more on the topic. However, many of the teachers’ understanding
were limited to only copyright. Three of the four required challenges gave users a chance to
work through ideas about copyright, fair use and Creative Commons. From the comments by
the participants, these were valuable lessons.
● My photos uploaded on Flicker have CC license, this video really helped me understand
the different attributions. Thanks
● Copyright is a form of protection for the artist or producer of the work. Allowing sharing
and remixing for non-commercial purposes is a benefit to others and helps develop a
community of learners and expands the work. I think there are places for both things in
a creative environment.
The Learning Library proved to be a useful professional development tool as EAs have stated
that the challenges provide an easy entry point into better understanding the skills, while at the
same time the Learning Library offered an open framework that encourages adapting and
integrating into varied core curriculum.
The focus for this pilot was on increasing educators’ grades K-8 use of the new media literacies
across content areas and enabling a spreadable model (Jenkins, Ford and Green, 2013) for
the state by developing a leaders cohort. Although leadership was desired and not required,
the educators who emerged as leaders and who continued to sustain their efforts were those
who took up the challenge of teacher-as-action-researcher most fully. Inherent in this challenge
for them was the willingness to embrace the new media literacy play both in classroom
pedagogy with students, and in their own learning. Overall, the new media literacy play
emerged as the participants’ most coveted literacy.
“[By embedding the new media literacies into curriculum,] class projects involved more
open ended starting points. Students were asked to think "outside the box" to find
solutions, be creative, collaborate, research and experiment. The technology skills were
not the driving force for the activity, simply a tool they used to assist them in exploration
and creation. My classroom became much more of a ‘process’ classroom then task
oriented.” NH Educator
“I have truly embraced the concept of play. I feel it is one of the most important aspects
of my job as technology teacher. I want students to know that their exploration and
understanding is deepened just by playing with a program or application or concept.”
These examples showed us:
● The importance of the teacher-as-researcher role as a necessary first-step toward
developing expertise and sharing practical experience with other educators.
● Participants’ ability to identify the relevance of the NMLs to the learning process of their
students, as well as to their own growth as educators.
● Participants’ awareness of NMLs as both integral to their existing curriculum as well as
a starting point for re-envisioning curriculum in new ways.
The outcomes from this pilot showed that this shift in disposition was a result of several factors
the PD afforded participants, such as:
● Collaboration – Modes of communication, scheduling, how time was structured, and
ways in which assignments were approached were collectively decided.
● Autonomy – Individual learning styles were respected, and approaches to content and
course requirements were personalized.
● Co-learning – Participants learned alongside each other in a non-judgmental
environment valuing collective intelligence.
● Coaching – Course facilitators actively supported teacher’s efforts to try-out new
pedagogical approaches and strategies that felt risky or unfamiliar.
● Research-based programming – Although the program was a pilot by design and
implementation, the structure and content of the professional development was
grounded in public research and case study exemplars.
● Relevance – Personalizing the value of ‘participatory culture’ was central to teachers’
self-efficacy in implementing the new media literacies and other practices of
participation in their classrooms.
At a New Media Consortium conference, John Seely Brown said, "When thinking about 21st
century learning, perhaps it's not [teaching] a skill that matters but a disposition." This is clearly
proven to be true through implementing the New Hampshire’s Early Adopters Working Group.
The group has negotiated norms that work for them to come together. These teachers have
moved beyond “messing around” with technology to “geeking out” with like-minded teachers in
deepening their understanding of the new media literacies through practice and reflection.
Giving them the time and space to collaboratively discuss, practice and problem-solve will help
them to gain a disposition that will have a more lasting impact and understanding.
This project was successful in helping these teachers achieve a deeper understanding of ways
to identify and implement learning practices that integrate the new media literacy and foster
participation in their classrooms. Our goals to encourage EAs to develop their own Learning
Library challenges, practice integrating the new media literacies into their own classrooms and
reflect on their own and their student’s process were considered successful. Two years later,
Joanne is a leader in her district for new media literacy education and has appropriated the
content from this course for the teachers she is working with.
This New Hampshire research helped suggest five characteristics which are required for a
participatory learning environment. Project NML identified and defined them as:
1. heightened motivation and new forms of engagement through meaningful play and
2. learning that feel relevant to the learners’ identities and interests;
3. opportunities for exercising creativity by using a variety of media, tools, and practices;
4. co-learning, where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in
the tasks of teaching and learning; and
5. an integrated learning system - or learning ecosystem - where connections between
home, school community and world are enabled and encouraged.
(Project New Media Literacies, 2010)
In the spring of 2011, Project NML designed their new research initiative named PLAY! - an
acronym for Participatory Learning and You! - which holds the new media literacy play as
central to its philosophy.
PLAY! is funded by the Gates Foundation for their college-readiness initiative. Our goal is to
help meet educator needs to become more proficient in adapting to today’s rich media
landscape through a blended learning program that fully integrates the use and modeling of
participatory pedagogy. PLAY!’s overarching question is, “How can we integrate the tools,
insights, and skills of a participatory culture into the public education system in the United
States?” Orienting questions and sub-questions based on three key themes: 1) How can we
adapt the current NML model for integrating new media mindsets and practices into public K-12
schools? 2) How can PLAY! inform the conceptualization of a participatory model of
professional development? And 3) How (and in what ways) does/do the PLAY! Program
impact the educational practices of public K-12 teachers in the state of California?
During the 2011-12 school year, we conducted a pilot with LAUSD teachers and students and
are currently analyzing data from our PLAY! program. We have found the New Hampshire pilot
to have been invaluable in creating a framework for our current model.
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