Not long ago, I came across this great quote from Jay Rosen, an NYU Journalism professor, Huffington Post blogger, and member of the Wikipedia Adivsory Board:







Download Peopleformerlyknown

Jay’s argument—one that is supported by other new media thinkers, including Clay Shirky—is that we’re living in a Participation Nation.

Driven by the very human desire to connect and the development of tools that make interacting incredibly easy, 61% of all online adults have joined social media spaces, spending an average of 6 hours each month networking, sharing, and keeping up with neighbors and family members (Madden, 2010; Nielsenwire, 2010).

We’re reading blogs and leaving comments on videos. We’re maintaining profiles on several different social networking websites and carefully crafting complex digital footprints that are a reflection of our personal and professional selves. We’re arguing, debating, creating shared knowledge together—and we’re almost always coming back for more.

Essentially, we’re collectively pushing back against broadcasters.

We’ve embraced the ability to connect beyond organizations, to form our own networks, and to create our own content without permission.  Rosen’s point—one that newspapers are learning the hard way—is that we don’t make the best audiences any more.

That’s cool, isn’t it?

Sure it is—and our students think so, too.

Need proof?

Then consider these statistics:

  • 93% of teens access the Internet regularly. 63% are online every day and 36% are online several times each day.
  • 73% of all online teens and 72% of young adults are using social networking sites to stay connected with one another.
  • 82% of 14-17 year olds and 55% of 12-13 year olds have profiles on social networking sites.
  • Almost 7 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 have Facebook profiles, comprising nearly 10% of all Facebook users in the United States.
  • 37% of the teens in social networking sites join groups to stay connected.
  • 25% of the teens in social networking sites are using their cell phones to check and update their profiles.
  • Teens use their social networking profiles to manage existing relationships,share thoughts, touch base, send public and private messages, comment on one another’s blogs, and post on each other’s profiles.
  • Teens also use their social networking profiles to build diverse core networks that they rely on for guidance and advice.

(Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2010; Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010; Gonzalez, 2010; Lenhart, 2010b; Lenhart & Madden, 2007; Hampton, Sessions, Her, & Rainie, 2009)


So if participation has become a basic expectation—the new normal, so to speak—of content consumers in today’s world, can schools that are still presentation-driven, lecture-loving communities really survive?  Aren’t we turning off our “clients” every time we pass policies or support practices that make participating in—and beyond—our classroom walls possible?

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m disgusted every time that I’m forced to suffer through a sit-and-get professional development session because I’ve fallen in love with the always connected, hyper-social learning that I do the minute I leave my faculty meetings.

Isn’t it possible that our kids are just as disgusted every time they are forced to suffer through sit-and-get school years?

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