Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just for Fun: Participatory Displays

Sometimes participatory culture grows through old methods. Inspired by librarian Michelle Fromme, who often refers  to her "chalk talks," I have started making extremely simple and easy monthly participatory displays in the library. In one of our entrances, I put up a piece of butcher paper with a question on it, then I put some markers out and wait for the responses. The students are enjoying the outlet, the participation, and reading the other responses. Even the admissions tours often stop and take a look.

We started with the basics. What is your favorite book?

Next we inquired about superhero powers, songs, and now we are in to February with What is your favorite love story/song/poem? We have also started putting similar displays, with sharpies, on a Middle School bulletin board which the library has recently taken over, so they can more easily join in the fun. 

In Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Henry Jenkins defines participatory culture as one:

1.With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
2.With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
3.With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is
passed along to novices 
4.Where members believe that their contributions matter
5.Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they
care what other people think about what they have created).
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

So, maybe our little displays don't hit every one of those marks, but the introduction is there.
1. Anyone can participate
2. It is public, so it is shared, and we encourage creativity and interaction
3. Well..this one is a stretch.. but we are purposefully starting off with easy prompts this year, and I am hoping that as people get more comfortable with the public sharing, we can move on to deeper ideas and conversations on the displays.
4. Students see other students enjoying the boards
5. The students are having fun creating a type of collage of ideas and humor. They are connecting with what each other writes and sometimes building upon it.
And, we leave everyone's contributions up, and although not everyone participates, everyone knows they can.

I can't get the students to participate on the blog or the Facebook page, but on the display, people are engaged. I wonder why that is - maybe the anonymity? the ease? the joining in on something similar to public conversation? I like the participation, the ease, and the building of culture that is happening through these simple displays. I think the students are learning that we care about what matters to them.

Another type of participatory display came from our graduating seniors last year. One boy wanted to put up a display of his favorite books, then other seniors wanted to do it too. This year we have a senior in charge of the weekly Senior Displays, where a senior puts out 10 favorite books from their 7th-12th grade experience at our school. While a student's display is up, we take his/her picture with the most favorite book and make a READ bookmark. This is a nice memento of their library lives, and I know some of the kids really enjoy the experience.

We are always looking for ways students can participate in the library, and displays are just one aspect. Do you have students help with displays? How are their interestes told through displays?

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