Saturday, May 8, 2010

How do you become a participatory citizen in a digital society?

(Updated from last week)

The tools of technology have built a system, “a house” around us (Franklin, 1999, p.1). I believe it has become a place with potential, a “fixer upper” provided we keep the renos up. Just as I live in my house on my street it is a place we may or may not want to participate in, regardless it is there all around us. A participant is not only a citizen that inhabits a place but also one that socially engages in activities that benefit all people that belong. Before this house was built you had to physically be there in order to learn and interact with others. With this technological network there are many other ways to “be there” and learn from each other. Almost one hundred years ago Dewey (1916) wrote about his philosophy of the importance of democracy and education. He believed that schools and its teachers were responsible for building a productive and responsible democratic society. He spoke about communication as a way in which we discover what we have in common in order to form a community. “Any social arrangement that remains vitally shared is educative to those who participate in it” and that the very process of “living together educates”(p.6&7). With that in mind I wonder in the year 2010, in a digital community, how do we live well together? Is it really all that different than what Dewey described oh so long ago? How is it different for teaching and learning? How do we teach students how to participate well, if we ourselves have no experience in this newly renovated house? Who will tell them to pick up their socks? What concerns should we have as parents and teachers if our children live and grow up in a house without us? I am reminded of an old Star Trek episode “Miri”(McEveety, 1966) in which children known as “onlies” (a contraction of only ones left) grew up without grups (“grown ups”). Their life without parental influence had devastating consequences. Dewey speaks of a self-renewal process that he believes occurs in education largely in transmission through communication. What effect would muted voices have on this self-renewal? Dewey would say that life goes on in continuous sequence and the continuity of life means a constant re-adaptation of the environment. Those that do not readapt die out. I am not saying we are in danger of dying out but rather we are in danger of disconnecting with our students and missing the opportunity to participate in an important part of their social lives. I believe we, as teachers need to be there with our students participating as digital citizen for without us how does our wisdom pass on?

This is all well and good yet I do not believe that even if teachers want to learn to become digital citizens that it is easy for them. Teachers are not comfortable not knowing. There is a stirring as if something has disturbed the water. It is in this potentially empowering yet scary place of tension that I want to explore in narrative with teachers as they live the experience of becoming digital citizens.

Dewey, J. (2005). Democracy and education. Stilwell, KS: Publishing.

Franklin, U. M. (1999). The real world of technology. CBC Massey Lectures (2004th ed.). Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc.Google Books

McEveety, V. (1966, October 27). Star Trek: The Original Series. Miri. Retrieved from

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