Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Blogging as Participation (Instagram and Snapchat)

July 12th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Katherine Spilsted- Blog Post #2

After reading the article and the presentation last class, it got me thinking about the type of participation we (and our students) are using in addition to just blogging, and as mentioned, vlogging. One of the interesting parts of the article was when participation was defined as “involvement in some kind of shared purpose or activity- taking part in some kind of endeavour in which others are involved” (Lankshear & Knobel, p 4) and these activities may have more or less recognized norms and criteria depending on what is taking place and how the creator and audience are able to connect with one another. I think the newer forms of participation may have higher standard of norms but less so criteria in some cases. By this, I mean that with these new ways to socialize we create ‘unwritten’ norms very quickly, but those participating are the ones determining the criteria involved and these can be very loose and changing. Using Instagram as an example, those who participate know the norms of the photo sharing app even though there is no written disclaimer on what is or isn’t allowed. The criteria, however, is endless and an include almost everything under the sun- except for what is deemed out of the norm of regular usage from participants. I think Instagram is very interesting to look at as a platform for participation and blogging because the creator can post photos and use captions, while the audience is able to comment on the photo and ‘like’ it to raise it’s status to a popular page. Like the article describes, however, as soon as the user account becomes popular, the creator usually becomes removed from participation and serves only as a photo source not involved in the comments or discussion about the actual photo. As well, these accounts then serve only to raise the amounts of followers by posting photos saying “help me reach 20,000 followers” rather than sharing a thought provoking or visually appealing image.  If Instagram is compared to a type of blog, Shirky explains that a blogger may end up becoming a “broadcasting outlet, distributing material without participating in conversations about it” (Shirky 2003: n.p.) which is exactly what you will see happen if you follow the same account over time, the blogger is not able to participate in discussion due to sheer amount of comments that sometimes don’t even refer to the photo or engage with previous comments. Instagram then becomes an outlet for exposure of a single photo, rather than smaller more intimate accounts that produce discussion and artistic photos. That being said, brings me back to the lack of criteria Instagram has that allow users to post whatever they like- but the higher norms have trained users to post certain images to gain popularity or followers.

The second thought that came to me after the presentation is how even newer participation outlets, such as Snapchat, have even fewer norms and less criteria than platforms such as vlogging and Instagram. Snapchats allow users to engage in participation with multiple users separately but maintaining ‘conversations’ through picture messages with a simple caption that disappear within seconds after a viewer sees it. There is literally no norms and no criteria for this literacy as the creator controls everything to who sees the picture, and how long they see it- after which the photo is gone.  I think Snapchat is really interesting in terms of participation because if every photo could be saved, it would become a blog-like app, but since the photos are deleted, it’s such a ‘low’ form of literacy that is often looked at with negative opinions- “oh… you use Snapchat?”  This app is something students are using and know so much about, yet we are dismissing it from the classroom and I think it would be really interesting to get students to critically look at these new literacies and start to ask questions, since they know more about than we may do. I do recognize the difficulties when using a new media platform like Snapchat in the classroom, but I also recognize the amazing possibilities our technology has to create these new literacies that students actually want to use and participate with and I think that by encouraging new literacies in the classroom, we can encourage students to constantly participate in significant discussion even outside of the classroom.

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M.  ”Blogging as Participation: The Active Sociality of a New   Literacy.” American Educational Research Association. San Francisco, CA. April 11, 2006. Web.

Tags: Social Media

1 response so far ↓

  • jacquelinesimpson // Jul 12th 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Your response is concerned mainly with photo-sharing platforms—Snapchat and Instagram—and their uses both in and out of the classroom. I think that the reason for favouring certain media platforms over others has to do with the inclusion of text versus forms that are predominantly visual; platforms such as blogs and vlogs encourage a specific type of literacy—one that is promoted within the English classroom as being closer to traditional forms of literacy. I have wondered while observing various classrooms if the introduction of technology is not used merely as a way of trying to appeal to the supposed interests of a new generation while still trying to maintain the explicit teaching of one type of literacy. Sort of like trying to change the medium while keeping the content the same. One class I observed had integrated iPads into the classroom, but was using them solely as a medium for students to access the same textbook that they had hard copies of. There was a course website, but it was really just a dropbox for written assignments. In that case, the teacher was trying to learn a technology that many students were already familiar with, and his approach to using the technology was not fully utilizing the possibilities present in that platform. I think it is the same unfamiliarity with various platforms that makes teachers reluctant to embrace technology in the classroom, but I think there is also an inherent discomfort that English teachers might feel upon using a platform that is not primarily textual. Without theory to connect new literacies to supposed traditional forms—and without instruction on how to meet curricular objectives while engaging a variety of literacies—teachers can feel unsupported in trying to engage all students while fulfilling curricular standards. Snapchat and Instagram are certainly platforms that (some) students are using comfortably and with interest, but it may not have as many educational possibilities as other media. It may have a multitude of platforms—one of the media projects we watched this week used instagram as a tool—but there are so many issues to take into consideration before making them a part of classroom instruction. I wonder, too, that when social media becomes classroom media, who is drawing the line between what is appropriate and what is not? And, for students to learn without realizing it is one thing, but how to make teachers fluent enough to design instruction that is effective around such media?

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