Last modified on January 30, 2014, at 20:29

Learning in public: information literacy and participatory media

Publication (help)
Learning in public: information literacy and participatory media
Authors: Andrea Forte [edit item]
Citation: Georgia Institute of Technology  : . 2009.
Publication type: Thesis
Peer-reviewed: Yes
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Learning in public: information literacy and participatory media is a publication by Andrea Forte.


[edit] Abstract

My dissertation research both examines new participatory publishing models and explores how participation in creating user-generated content can serve as a learning experience. My classroom work is both a technology design project and a study of how young people learn and become critical information consumers by producing media themselves. In a read/write world, information literacy means more than knowing where to find information or how to interpret messages from advertisers, government agencies, educational institutions and other publishers. Literacy involves both becoming able to interpret information and becoming an adept participant in the construction of new knowledge. Information literacy skills are inextricably bound to the socio-technical systems in which media are constructed and consumed. In order to explore opportunities for young people to participate in and reflect on these systems, I have designed specialized tools to support high school students as they learn to be both media critics and producers.

[edit] Research questions

"Understanding new publication systems – the case of Wikipedia: How do newcomers to the Wikipedia community learn to write an encyclopedia? What role do social relationships and technology play in that process? How is Wikipedia governed and why has governance evolved in the way that it has?

Using wiki in formal education – pilot study: 1. How does interacting with peers in a public wiki influence the content and tone of students’ writing? 2. How does publishing an information resource for others affect the ways that students think about their written assignments? 3. What features do wikis need to support writing and publication activities in the context of formal education?

Using wiki in formal education – high school studies: What strategies do students use when they encounter information sources on the web? 1. How do students write and reason about information when constructing an information resource for a broad audience? 2. What role does the wiki medium play in shaping their writing and information use?"

Research details

Topics: Culture and values of Wikipedia [edit item]
Domains: Computer science, Information science, Education [edit item]
Theory type: Design and action [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Case [edit item]
Theories: "In my early studies, I used

Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Lave and Wenger 1991) and Activity Theory (Engestrom, Miettinen et al. 1999) as frameworks for understanding how editors learn to write an encyclopedia and the roles that tools, identity/goals, and community play in encouraging sustained participation. I showed the trajectory that newcomers take as they become enculturated in the community and how their goals, roles, and use of wiki software change as their participation changes over time (Bryant, Forte et al. 2005). More recently, I investigated Wikipedia governance in order to understand how the community has dealt with its rapid growth. I found that governance mechanisms are becoming increasingly decentralized as the community scales and that the form of governance has largely followed social structures predicted by Lin Ostrom’s theories of self-organizing communities (Forte, Larco et al. 2009). These studies (presented in detail in Chapter 3) provide a foundation for understanding Wikipedia as a new system of publication; however, they also yielded an inspiration.

I discuss a theoretical framework for understanding wiki publishing as a learning activity that emphasizes the roles of genre and audience in constructing meaningful practice." [edit item]

Research design: Grounded theory [edit item]
Data source: Computer usage logs, Direct observation, Interview responses [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: N/A [edit item]
Unit of analysis: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: English [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"Learning how to produce traditional scholastic genres well can be an excellent learning experience for students; however, school genres can also shield students from important intellectual work. I have demonstrated here how popularization of participatory media signals an unprecedented opportunity to engage young people in real intellectual work that matters outside the classroom. Introducing new media can be a genre breaker; moreover, it can lead to critical engagement with content in particular when students need to invoke unknown audiences and reflect on how to present material in order to inform their readership. Producing an information resource for others can provide a vantage point from which to reflect on where information comes from. When orchestrated carefully, with the right technological supports, school work can become rich with new opportunities for reflection and impact when learning goes public. I have presented here a vision of wiki not as a staging ground for producing texts for the edification of students, but as a canvas on which students themselves can engage in the intellectual work of publication and knowledge production.

More details:

Genre and Information Literacy: From interview data and observations I reconstructed students’ process for constructing their “research papers”/wiki articles and found that their performance of genre was revealed in three sets of tasks: finding, sourcing and crafting content; all of these performances were influenced by their understanding of audience and communicative purpose, and shaped by the tools they had at their disposal.

Finding Content: Students’ strategies for finding and assessing the information they encountered as they constructed their wiki articles sometimes included heuristics drawn from their own experiences as information producers. Some students also used their experiences as consumers to invoke an audience and guide their selection of information as they assessed search results (I would want to see information like this). Others explained properties of information sources they found online in relationship to the one they were building themselves (I guess Wikipedia is like Science Online).

Crafting Content: As students crafted the content of their research papers, they naturally took into account the purpose their papers would serve. On the one hand, they needed to meet the standards set out by their teacher. Because they imagined that they would need to hold readers’ attention, explain things to younger or potentially less educated readers, and meet readers’ information needs, they also found themselves writing to mediate between a scientific community and a lay community.

Sourcing Content: I also found that the dual rhetorical goals of satisfying assessment requirements and creating a public information resource created different reasons for citation. Citation as a school exercise meant fulfilling a set of pre-defined requirements: I used the sources my teacher told me to use. Citation as a part of writing an information resource meant something altogether different: If I cite this, then people will know that the information is good.

The wiki writing environment itself played an important role in defining the ways that students made sense of the publishing assignment. In both of my high school classroom studies, I observed ways that the openness and transparency of wiki as a collaborative medium ran counter to the culture of individual assessment that is common in American education.

My work suggests that taking responsibility for information production activities in online environments is a valuable addition to our standards for information literacy and can give young people a starting point for reflecting on where information comes from. Moreover, it provides opportunities for learning both information literacy skills and reflecting on content knowledge.

The question of how editing experiences affect participants in the wild remains open. Certainly it is difficult to imagine that Wikipedians engage in the kind of work that they 169 do without developing more sophisticated skills and knowledge about issues like intellectual property and heuristics for identifying credible sources; however, it is also possible that without the guidance of a formal classroom environment, opportunities for such reflection come too seldom to be considered part and parcel of the Wikipedia experience."

[edit] Comments

"What applies to Wikipedia does not necessarily apply to other wiki projects such as Wikiversity. For instance, when anonymous contribution makes sense in the case of Wikipedia, transparency of authorship is recommended in the case of Wikiversity. Strict Wikipedia policies such as NPOV should not be a limitation of WIkiversity."


Further notes[edit]