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Springing in to March: Active Versus Passive Participation in Digital Spaces

Written by Katherine Frank
March 27, 2012

Two main issues prompted this blog:  1.  My own struggle to blog daily in March about/in conjunction with Digital Is, and 2. the closing conversation in the P2PU.org study group about active versus passive participation in digital spaces.

My own experience, on the surface at least, has suggested that my primary issue is time.  I have time to “dip” into DI regularly, but it is difficult for me to compose a thoughtful blog on a daily basis squeezed within the margins of a packed schedule.  However, it would be possible for me to jump in and out of discussions regularly and to contribute to the learning process in that way.

The P2PU.org study group discussion made me look beyond time, however, and to think about what prompts (and prevents) us from participating in discussions both online and otherwise.  Several people brought our thinking back to the classroom and the student experience and asked us to consider knowledge and expertise—how much we know about or feel like experts (or not) in digital spaces.   This, of course, impacts how and how much we participate.

The discussion urged us to think about reconfiguration of digital spaces to allow for different types of participation and ways to value this participation.  How does active versus passive participation occur in digital spaces?  Can one ever be a predominantly passive learner in a digital space and contribute to participation?  How can this occur and the vitality and viability of the space continue?

And then there is the question of assessment.  How is it possible to measure learning outcomes and to evaluate the effectiveness of practice if we consider active versus passive participation?  The latter is certainly valuable, but how do we grapple with it in these digital spaces?  How do we understand and assess the relationship between process and product?

These questions seem relevant in relation to the classroom and to digital learning communities such as the ones that emerge through and sustain resources like DI.  As I look quickly through the resources and discussions in DI right now, I don’t see much consideration of this issue (certainly redirect my attention if I have missed anything), and yet, the issue seems essential to understanding the present and future configuration of resources such as this one and the use of digital communication in our various types of physical and virtual classrooms.

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