The #WalkMyWorld Project
Greg McVerry (Southern Connecticut State University), Ian O’Byrne (University of New Haven), Kristine E. Pytash (Kent State University), Ryan M. Rish (Kennesaw State University), Molly Shields (Flagler College), and Julie B. Wise (University of Delaware)
The #WalkMyWorld project was a social media experiment to provide pre-service teachers, veteran teachers, and K-12 students with an opportunity to develop media literacies and civic engagement in online spaces. Participants were encouraged to engage in online social scholarship to discover how social media and networking could be integrated into classroom instructional routines. For ten weeks, participants shared images, videos, and writing on Twitter using the hashtag #WalkMyWorld. The hashtag was selected as an invitation to create and to collaborate in online spaces, and in doing, so allow others to “walk in your world.”
Overview of the WalkMyWorld project
For ten weeks, participants visually represented an aspect of their lives using any preferred medium, such as images or videos, applying the #WalkMyWorld hashtag on Twitter as they explored their own and each other’s lifeworlds. #WalkMyWorld grew as an extension of a five-year project examining the intersection of social media and poetry. Participants in #WalkMyWorld documented their world by posting of pictures, videos, blog posts, comic strips, etc. on Twitter. This emergent community completed a series of “learning events” involving reading and responding to the poetry of Robert Hass (See Table 1) by sharing their personal histories through multimodal representations. The shift from individual to collaborative learning developed quickly as participants narrated lifeworlds.
Theory and Perspectives
The #WalkMyWorld project started with a community focus on poetry and multimodal exploration; it then developed into a community of inquiry. Participants explored various lifeworlds by responding to and authoring multimodal poetry. In #WalkMyWorld, educators and students created a social space of engagement to explore civic uses of social media. This exploration served as an opportunity to consider the media literacies at play as the group participated as a community of writers.
In this project, the participants collectively engaged as researchers and multimodal composers 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. Like many other social scholarship projects #WalkMyWorld connected formal scholarship with informal Internet-based social practices while embodying specific values (e.g., openness, collaboration, transparency, access, sharing). #WalkMyWorld evolved into a space that allowed participants to explore the characteristics of online information and educational opportunities by allowing them to share and develop (a) writing lifeworlds, (b) communities of inquiry, (c) media literacies and (d) expanded perspectives of narrative writing. These skills have proven to be integral to the way teachers view themselves as professionals in online and hybrid educational spaces.
Settings and Participants
The #WalkMyWorld project took the form of a hybrid learning experience in which educators and students collaborated, discussed, and shared in online and offline spaces. Over 6,759 individual tweets, 2,102 original tweets (not retweeted), 5262 links, and 387 instances of threaded conversations were shared over the ten-week period.
Since the invite was public and shared through social media it is impossible to identify the exact number of participants in #WalkMyWorld. Educators, pre-service teachers, students, and a few members of the public at large became involved in the project. Members included a Kindergarten class in Australia, a first year composition class, and graduate level teacher preparation classes. Based on analytics collected during the project, tweets were shared from 326 unique Twitter handles. 156 of these handles tweeted using the hashtag #WalkMyWorld at least ten times.
The #WalkMyWorld project highlighted the evolution of social scholarship as participants engaged in meaning-making by utilizing the affordance of social media. Collectively, the shared singular experiences engaged all involved and encouraged co-production of a newly formed community. This work led to a reflective practice that examined both participant identities and spaces of learning.
#WalkMyWorld allowed students to explore identities through social scholarship. The practices participants engaged in proved integral to the way they viewed themselves as professionals in online and hybrid educational spaces. Teachers worked collectively online to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to construct online information. Students expressed themselves and their identities as educators to act as critical readers and writers of online information. Affordances and understanding of specific digital texts and tools provided some challenges as teachers worked to complete the goals of the project #WalkMyWorld also allowed students to reconsider the spaces of learning. By utilizing principles of social scholarship the project exposed participants to various lifeworlds through multiple modes. This provided a greater opportunity to communicate and model civic engagement with the world at large, noting specifically that no learner can passively engage with others because the “spaces for community life where local and specific meaning can be made” are collaborative civic centers viewed, modified, and analyzed by all. The spaces of #WalkMyWorld were also transparent. The applied mediums emphasized the importance of using open technologies to make information readily available.
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