National Writing Project

New Literacies in an Age of Participatory Culture

Date: February 1, 2013

Summary: Henry Jenkins and Wyn Kelley's Reading in a Participatory Culture documents what happened when Project New Media Literacies brought together a multidisciplinary team of media researchers, designers, and educators to develop and implement new curricular and pedagogical models that bring learning practices often found in sites of informal learning into the English Language Arts classroom. In chapter one, authors Katie Clinton, Henry Jenkins, and Jenna McWilliams outline the development of new literacies in a more participatory culture.


Excerpt from Chapter

When we read a text for different reasons in the service of different goals and interests, we read it in different ways, asking different questions, noticing different things, and generating different responses. In school, there has too often been a tendency to reify one kind of reading—one that can easily be reduced to SparkNotes—as if that were the natural or logical way of responding to particular texts. Students are not asked to think about why they, personally, individually, or as members of a larger learning community, might be reading Moby-Dick; they have simply been assigned a book, and they are reading it because the teacher, the school board, or the national standards dictate that they should do so. This framing cuts reading in the literature class off from the other reasons young people might choose to read outside the classroom and thus diminishes the relevance of the skills we are teaching.

What if young people were asked to identify their own goals for reading a text, to take responsibility for shaping what they learned from each other, and to translate their engagement with the text into a springboard for other creative, critical, and expressive activities? These questions require teachers to embrace a much more collaborative atmosphere in their classrooms, allowing students to develop and assert distinctive expertise as they pool their knowledge to work through complex problems together. . . .

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