BUILDING EDUCATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS OF PARTICIPATION AND DEMOCRACY WITH MEDIA LITERACY AND A SYSTEM OF COMMUNITY INFORMATICS
Democratic societies support freedom of speech, open communication and learning as well as access to media and technology among citizenry. Community informatics is an emerging area of study that evaluates how mediated information and technology are integral to community development and the maintenance of local democracy (Goodwin, 2008.) Technology, education and media/communications are essential activities and tools in the process. The outcomes of the process include having voice, creating change, making a difference and enabling citizenry with the necessary information to take action and rationally problem-solve about issues in their schools, neighborhoods and communities.
Communities of media learners and technology users create an empowered, engaged and enthusiastic public sphere – a communications network -- whose knowledgeable and skilled participants are commonly driven to communicative action, or acting to create change (Habermas, 1974). The development of media literacy among all ages of citizenry runs a parallel to participation in the democratic process and civic engagement.
It is critically important for educators to continue to keep abreast of new and emerging technologies to enhance and support student learning. This project studies how exposure to media enables and empowers students and supports K-12 teachers in developing literacy and practical experience in technology integration. Students in the undergraduate mass communication program and the graduate curriculum and instruction program at Black Hills State University participated in several experiential learning opportunities with K-12 students and area media professionals. Qualitative methods were used to gather data from a series of hands-on community informatics and media-literacy building events that took place on the BHSU campus and off-campus in 2015.