Educators are always striving to find ways to make curriculum relevant in students’ everyday lives. More and more teachers are using social media around lessons, allowing students to use their cell phones to do research and participate in class, and developing their curriculum around projects to ground learning around an activity. These strategies are all part of a larger goal to help students connect to social and cultural spaces.
And it’s part of what defines “participatory learning,” coined by University of Southern California Annenberg Professor Henry Jenkins, who published his first article on the topic “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture,” in 2006. His work sprang out of the desire to understand the grassroots nature of creativity, how projects are being shared online and what an increasingly networked culture looks like. Since then, he and a team of researchers at USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab have been trying to understand the skills that young people need to creatively participate in a networked world.