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Theory & Perspectives from 2014

Loosely organized around a Twitter hashtag (#WalkmyWorld), the project allowed us to engage with others in meaning making using various digital texts and tools (Bruner, 1990; Bruner & Haste, 2010; Singer, 2004). The #WalkMyWorld project started with a community focus on poetry and multimodal exploration and developed into a community of inquiry (Garrison, Kanuka, & Hawes, 2006). Participants explored various lifeworlds (New London Group, 1996; Gee, 2005) by responding to and authoring multimodal poetry (Selfe, 2007) that cut across chronotopes of time and space (Bakhtin, 1937; 1981). In #WalkMyWorld, educators and students created as a space of engagement to explore civic uses of social media as a tool for focusing on media literacies, and as an exploration of a community of writers. In this project we collectively engaged as researchers and participants through narrative inquiry as an analytic and philosophical framework to model civic engagement with digital words and worlds.

This project also encouraged educators and students in elementary school through higher education to engage in social scholarship practices. Social scholarship utilizes the Internet and other communication technologies to evolve the ways in which scholarship is conducted (Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009). Social scholarship is designed to connect formal scholarship with informal, social Internet-based civic practices while embodying specific values (e.g., openness, collaboration, transparency, access, sharing) (Ellison, 2007; Greenhow, Robelia, Hughes, 2009; Lankshear & Knobel, 2011).

Participants were encouraged to engage in online civic practices to help them better understand social media and networking and bring this into classroom instructional routines. The work explored the nature of online information and educational opportunities that are created when teachers work on synthesizing discourses of online information to create identity representations (Tierney et al., 1997; Bolter, 1991; Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004). These skills proved integral to the way teachers viewed themselves as professionals in online and hybrid educational spaces (Author, 2012).

In engaging educators and students with this narratological framework, there is a need to focus on merging ontological narrative, embodiment, and meaning-making orientation (Stahl, 2003; Smith, 2010). With these new and emerging genres and paradigms of literacy, technology, and education (Leu, Zawilinski, Castek, Banerjee, Housand, Liu, & O’Neil, 2007; Mills, 2010) there is also a need to empower students to use social media to learn and create meaning. In this, we worked with educators and students to recognize and employ the use of digital texts and social media to make use of the affordances of educational technologies in developing and enhancing ontological narratives (Somers & Gibson, 1993; Somers, 1994). In effect, when a learner attempts to create meaning in the world, accompanying activities can be viewed as collective socio-collaborative acts of meaning that impacts various educational and social levels. Educators and their students need to recognize and use these social media texts as readers and writers in online spaces (Author, in press).

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