Digital Learning, Digital Democracy

I’d written some time ago of my frustration with how seldom I could find work at the intersections of my two current areas of interest: Social class and schooling and the potential of ed tech to help democratize public discourse.

Well, Sara Kajder’s book and website Bringing the Outside In is located squarely at that intersection. Working in a school with only modest technology resources, with kids who, in other circumstances, would be labeled as “resistant” Kajder offers powerful examples of how digital technologies can deepen learning and enable student voice.

Kajder brought the students’ “outside” literacies (visual media, blogging, photosharing) into the classroom to engage them in literacy at a substantive, critical level, making creative uses of new media and social networking technologies to support students’ understanding of themselves as writers and readers.

Kajder writes that literacy involves using “the most powerful cultural tools to communicate our understandings”. In so much of what I’ve been reading about new media in schools, it’s been only middle class kids with access to those cultural tools in classrooms.

The first project that Kajder describes in her book is Digital Storytelling, as envisioned by the wise staff at the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley.

I found this book through the Center, after I journeyed to Berkeley earlier this year to learn more about their work. I’m highly intrigued. This summer, I will be using their model to evoke digital stories of teachers’ work. Soon, I’ll be working with first-generation college students to craft digital stories of mobility.

Kajder writes of “robust communication tools to [enable students to] tell their story verbally, visually, and powerfully”. When poor and working class people are so commonly silenced – in public discourse, and by self-doubt and deprecation — there seems to be potential in the tools of new media to open discourse about the common good to many more voices.

Kajder offers excellent examples of what students might have to say when they have even limited access to new media.

I’m highly intrigued, indeed.

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One thought on “Digital Learning, Digital Democracy

  1. A. G. Rud May 8, 2007 / 7:02 pm

    Indeed. Thanks for highlighting this book and topic.

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