SansBlogue  
Thursday, January 08, 2009
  Participatory pedagogy and cultural literacy
Dubbed "the explainer" by Wired magazine, Michael Wesch is a cultural anthropologist exploring the impact of new media on society and culture. After two years studying the impact of writing on a remote indigenous culture in the rain forest of Papua New Guinea, he has turned his attention to the effects of social media and digital technology on global society. His videos on technology, education, and information have been viewed by millions, translated in over ten languages, and are frequently featured at international film festivals and major academic conferences worldwide.

Prof Wesch has a stimulating post on Participatory Media Literacy: Why it matters, he draws heavily on a fine essay Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies, by Howard Rheingold. With one of the longest running stimulating gurus of digital collaboration (Rheingold) and one of the hottest - recently voted Prof of the Year - US tertiary teachers around (Wesch) there are plenty of stimulating ideas to reflect on.
Howard Rheingold is a critic and writer; his specialties are on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing). He is the author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs. website: rheingold.com vlog: vlog.rheingold.com


Reading the two underlines WHY teaching about digital literacy (beyond the standard "how to use the library catalogue, online databases and Zotero to research and write an essay in a Wordprocessor") is vital whether one is teaching Chemistry, Anthropology or Old Testament.

Just as it was not merely the technology of moveable type that changed the economics of literature in early modern Europe, but even more the ways that technology was adopted and used that revolutionised the culture and the thought that changed "everything". If Luther and others had not adopted the technology and used it to undermine the old power structures in politics, theology and the academy the technology alone might have enabled a very different world, where Rome and the aristocratic families of Europe licenced print and censored its contents...

In 2009 the failure of banks and auto manufacturers demonstrates that the notion of a "free market" that can adjust itself successfully is evidently false. Yet if the new(ish) communications technologies are to have a liberating effect (like that of print) we have a greater need of an open market than ever. To achieve this we need literate users using the technologies, so that those who would harness them for their own benefit alone can be hampered as Luther's rude and crude cartoons scandalised those in power in late medieval Europe.
Image by Daniel F. Pigatto
Digital literacy - as the ability to make use of the developing digital communications technologies - must be as widespread as possible. Yet the capacity to use the media alone is not enough, most students already Twitter and Facebook each other. They need also to think critically (surely a fundamental educational goal) about these media and the social and economic structures they inhabit and create.

As Rheingold tries to demonstrate only a participative pedagogy is up to this task. So, the deep questions are:
  • Can teachers learn fast enough? or
  • Will the volunteerism of "Web 2.0" be enough to open the doors?

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
  Thinking about technology
Some authors build for themselves such dominant reputations that they become one-man brands - the names that require no qualification. So in discussion of Christian issues "Barth" (unless qualified by a forename) means Karl-author-of-Romans-and-Church-Dogmatics.

Some authors achieve this status because their thinking is so clear, and their communication so straight and clear that one must either agree or disagree with them - they polarise. [Some of us are so good at seeing every facet of an issue that following our thought is like walking through untracked forest, a series of tiny decisions,rather than one momentous one...] Lewis earned his "brand" that way, and so has Carson.
Photo of DA Carson by jrgordon13
At least in Carson's case his forthright clarity means people usually either love or hate him - and in recent years his pronouncements on "emergent" have earned him much hate. But, whatever you think of Carson the (one-man) brand, he has written a superb editorial for Themelios.

He addresses a Christian approach to technology, and begins (predictaby) with Rom 12:2 and (also predictably?) 2 Cor 10:5. He states that "the most dangerous movements in any age are those that are so widely assumed that it is very hard to see them" supporting his case with reference to history, though any cross-cultural worker will be as aware that today's assumptions by Western Christians look very different in most of the world.

[The geographical difference in assumptions is well illustrated by an example a colleague uses of German and American "Christian Brethren" women meeting - the Americans were shocked that the Germans drank and the Germans felt that the Americans looked like whores with their makeup ;) ]

After an interesting, though to readers of this blog unsurprising, rehearsal of some features of current digital techno-culture he concludes:
We need to hear competing voices of information from the world around us, use our time in the digital world wisely, and learn to shut that world down when it becomes more important to get up in the morning and answer emails than it does to get up and read the Bible and pray. We may also learn much from church history, where we observe fellow believers in other times and cultures learning the shape of faithfulness. We begin to detect how easily the "world" may squeeze us into its mold. We soon learn that adequate response is more than mere mental resolve, mere disciplined observance of the principle "garbage in, garbage out" (after all, we are what we think), though it is not less than that. The gospel is the power of God issuing in salvation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and living in the shadow of the cross and resurrection, we find ourselves wanting to be conformed to the Lord Jesus, wanting to be as holy and as wise as pardoned sinners can be this side of the consummation.
Do read the whole editorial (HTML or PDF), and since Themelios does not have a comment feature (how I wish the church, and especially Evangelical Christians, would recognise that openness and discussion are healthy and not persist in old authoritarian modes of discourse) you are welcome to post any short responses

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Monday, May 14, 2007
  Thin King Blog!
Well, there's this meme, started by some guy at www.TheThinKingBlog.com and thanks to Tyler I got tagged.Apparently because I'm contrarian, so of course I'm making the start of this acceptance speech as contrarian as possible. I even linked to Tyler's post with the word contrarian in the link text, do you think this will get me hits from all those millions searching Google for a contrarian blog? Even though there is already a blog with the name: The Contrarian!

But in the end I'm so conventional, and here's my list of five of the blogs that make me think (for some of the others see the sidebar lists!):
And that about wraps it up... I've got in the required link to The Thin King, I've (in a contrarian way) thanked Tyler - more seriously to be given this meme by Tyler is a great honour, because his blog is among the consistently best Biblical Studies focused blogs around. Now, I'll just retire to the after function party ;-)

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