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Participatory Learning and Assessment Network (PLAnet)

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Digital knowledge networks are a growing phenomenon, and our students are actively participating in them. We know very little about the places in which our students will use the knowledge they learn in our classrooms. What we do know is that these spaces will consist of user-generated content, and will feature the characteristics of “participatory culture” including low barriers to entry, support for creating and sharing, informal mentoring of newcomers, and a strong sense of social connection; as such they will be spaces where “not every member must contribute, but all must believe they are free to contribute when ready and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued” (Jenkins et al., 2006, p. 7). But with all of the challenges that face teachers today – including overloaded classes, grading, and pressure to directly increase high stakes test scores – it can seem overwhelming to add one more thing to the list.

The Participatory Learning and Assessment Network is a growing professional development network of practitioners, researchers, and innovators. Participants help each other in developing, implementing and refining new media curricular modules. In general these models (a) are aligned to the Common Core Standards, (b) meet existing curricular goals in the context of new knowledge practices, and (c) are exciting, efficient, and engaging.

Work on the modules is collaborative, and network participants have professional support from the time they begin thinking about their design through implementation. This network, like the spaces we strive to create in the classroom, fosters a participatory culture; the public discourse around the modules allows newcomers to “lurk” until they feel comfortable joining the conversation, and then contributing as much as they wish.

Our driving question: How do we foster participation in ways that typical teachers can do in typical classrooms and that take into account accountability concerns?

For more information, read through this Resource and click on the Working Example link below.

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