Monday, March 7, 2011

What Should Our Role Be?

In the introduction and the first chapter of their book, Ito, et al., (2009) provide a good overview of how young people are using the new media and technology, where they are using the new media and how their use of it is building norms and literacies that are redefining the relationship between children and adults in the education. What made the material compelling to me was the way the authors described the topics from the viewpoint of young people and how they classified the many aspects of new media use in understandable ways.

Through examples and interviews, the authors allowed the young people’s perspective to come through in their own words. This approach made the author’s key messages real to me. It helped me understand the importance of active participation, sharing, collaboration and group identity for the new generations of students.  It helped me realize that educators must take these characteristics into account when creating education that enables the students to learn effectively.

The way the authors classified the genres of participation was enlightening to me. I am now able to recognize the difference between friendship-driven practices and interest-driven practices by people I know and in my own use of technology and new media. As I thought about examples in my immediate realm, I can see how these practices can overlap depending on the context in which one participates. For instance, I belong to a Meetup group called Photography: the Art of Seeing. This group is made possible by a web site called ( It brings together hundreds of local people with a similar interest in art photography so that we can collaborate, share and learn (this group can be found at

I found the authors’ classification of participation into the modes of “hanging out”, messing around” and “geeking out” to be valuable in explaining the level of engagement young people have with new media. I was particularly interested in the description of how these modes influence the way young people interact with each other and how the progression from messing around to geeking can result in more learning (usually outside the “regular” school environment).

The understanding I gained from reading this material led me to the question: “What should my role be as an educator of people who expect to learn by being engaged with new media and with each other?”

In my opinion, I must be an active learner, not just of new media, but also of how my students are using it. I must be a user of new media, so I can gain credibility with my students. I must apply new media responsibly, so I can serve as a role model. Only then can I be effective in designing learning offerings that use new media to help students build their own knowledge, to collaborate with each other and to do so in an environment that is consistent with their life beyond the brick-and-mortar school.


Ito, M., Sonja B., Matteo B., Boyd, D. Cody, R., Herr, B., Horst, H.A., Lange, P.G., Mahendran, D., Martinez, K., Pascoe, C.J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tripp, L.(2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press. Retrieved on March 3, 2011 from

1 comment:

  1. Hector,

    Your question is one I contend with all the time in my work, where I not only deal with people "who expect to learn by being engaged with new media and each other" but also deal with people who have to become cognizant of the fact that most learners will fall into the former group. Unlike the past where it was about showing people how to use technology, this is often about asking them to "put themselves out there" as one student (a college instructor) described it. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable if you are in the 'business' of teaching and learning.