The 5 Characteristics of Participatory Learning (CPLs)
The New Media Literacies (NMLs)
The white paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins et al., 2006) identifies the kinds of participatory practices youth are engaged in today, and draws up a provisionary list of the skills these practices demonstrate. In the video below, members of the NML team share their thoughts and perspectives on the skills we call the new media literacies.


One of our key goals is to stop focusing quite so much on "do kids have computers in their classroom?" and start focusing more on "do kids have the basic social skills and cultural competencies so that when they do get computers in their classroom, they can participate fully?" Many educators assume that (1) students can only begin learning the skills they need to use technology if they actually have the technology in their classroom, and (2) that putting technology in the classroom is a quick fix that will solve any classroom's problems. Neither of these assumptions, we argue, are good.

It's not that it isn't important that students have computers in their classrooms. Students with access to technology will typically be better at using technology than students who don't. But just putting computers in classrooms doesn't mean that they will be used well. Frequently, computers are used as an appendage to a physical library or as a word processing tool. These are good uses for computers, but they don't really teach students about the participatory culture that exists online - the participatory culture that they will be expected to take part in as adults. In fact, many students are already engaging with participatory culture, and they're bored by uses of computers that don't incorporate it!

If these New Media Literacies are learned - and they can be learned without computers in the classroom - they can form the building blocks for students' participation in new media.

Creative Curriculum Design

Curriculum designed with clear learning goals and more-opened opportunities for participants to access tools and practices that support their unique, agentic, and successful attainment and expansion of those goals.

Working against the grain of the traditional conception of the teacher/students relationship, where students are the passive recipient of the teacher's knowledge (what Freire calls a banking concept of education), we move from the assumption that: "the teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach" (Freire, p.61). Our approach to curriculum design is to offer clear learning goals and objectives upfront to have participants come together and dialogue on what they'd like to accomplish together. From this view, the classroom is envisioned as a site where new knowledge, grounded in the experiences of students and teachers alike, is produced through meaningful dialogue (Freire's dialogical method).

Complementing our approach to dialogue, Aristotle once said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." Each lesson is grounded in an exemplar that highlights the concept and puts the concept in context relative to the group's interests. Often this part of the lesson is physical and creative and encourages participants to make meaning from participating in the direct experience. This exemplar spins out opportunities for students to have a voice and choice in further exploring the learning goals and objectives through meaning-making and NML offers varied tools to create and reflect upon projects that stem from this approach.