Participatory Media Literacy


Students of all ages are using media nearly constantly throughout their daily lives and it is predicted that more than 50% of students have shared content that they have created through electronic media, engaging in participatory media (Jenkins, 2009). In order to encourage students to develop the skills related to this creative process, educators should help to instill the ethical values and knowledge to become part the participatory culture.


There are three known issues in the participatory culture that present themselves as teaching opportunities for educators. The first is the participation gap; students from

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low-income families tend to participate less than those from affluent families due to lack of resources such as computers or access to the internet. Many schools (such as the District that I currently work in, the New Hope-Solebury School District) provide personal devices to each student to help combat this issue, and in some cases, cities provide free wi-fi to ensure access to internet for all residents. Another option to close this participation gap is to summon parental involvement in enveloping students technology and encouraging parents to support their children in creating media content. The second issue is the transparency problem; video games offer a unique learning experience in that they are evolving stories that are dependent upon user “choices.” However, the rules that students learn about a game may not be true; what they’re learning may only be a system-manipulation tool or exploitation of the rules. The third issue of a participatory culture is the ethics challenge; being that student participation is mainly unsupervised, so students are forced to use their own discretion of what to share. Therefore, it is the role of parents and educators to encourage students to consider the ethical choices that they make and consider the consequences of their actions.


Core Skills

As described by Jenkins, et. al. (2009), there are eleven core media literacy skills that should be utilized in teaching students about participatory media. The first is play – most early learning comes through play; it is where children learn to experiment in an intrinsically-motivated way. The second is simulation – allowing students and children to experience simulated real-world processes in a virtual setting. This type of learning allows for real-time modification and and response to variables that does not exist in

Another Day Spent Indoors
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reading or lectures. The third is performance – when students identify with the character in a game, they tend to “have an immersive experience within the game, and at the same time to use the character as a mirror to reflect on  his or her own values and choices” (p. 28). The fourth is appropriation – students tend to use current media (music, film, etc.) samples to create their own work. Fifth is multi-tasking – when confronted with rich media, consisting of audio, visual and textual “noise,” students must multi-task or scan the content for relevant materials and information. This multi-tasking ability can be viewed as a deterioration of attention, however, is a critical skill to being able to take in multifaceted media messages. Sixth is distributed cognition, or the ability to interact intelligently with an extended technological environment. Collective intelligence is seventh, and is the ability to collect and compare the knowledge of others to form a cohesive, shared reaction or answer. Eighth is judgement, or the ability to discern the credibility of sources, which I consider to be one of the most important because without referencing credible sources, the materials presented are subject to inaccuracies. Ninth is transmedia navigation, or the ability to take information from multiple resources to form a new theory or idea. Tenth is networking or the ability to find and distribute new information. The eleventh, and final core skill is negotiation, or the ability to respectfully communicate with those from differing cultural backgrounds and perspectives, and acting fluidly to adopt a different set of norms.



The task of teaching these skills generally lie with educators and parents. In what capacity do you believe peers and cohorts should play in developing the eleven skills and overcoming the three big issues?

When an educator has a student who has historically not been a “creator” in this space, what small tasks or assignments could be used as stepping stones to get them up to speed?


Issues to consider: Young Digital:

Free resources to create media:

  • 10 free tools to create infographics:
  • 25 free audio editors:
  • 10 free video-editing software:


Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved from:



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