Forums and Community Engagement

While students will often describe what they do in Digital Youth Network (DYN) workshops as media production, activities that teach online participation skills are always prevalent in my daily lessons. As an online community, iRemix serves as space for  students to voice their opinions and engage other users. In a sense, this helps them practice the skills needed to participate in online spaces, outside of iRemix. In particular, the “forums” feature is designed for students and mentors to discuss prominent or subtle issues within the community at large.


iRemix "Forums" Tab

Forums in iRemix are designed by network administrators to engage users in broad topics. For example, our DYN forums include “discussions,” “music,”  and other media arts themes. Users, or “thread starters,” can create threads around issues pertaining to forum topics. Under our general-discussion forum, thread topics range from the politically charged (“Why do people think of schools as educational prisons?”), to the personal (“What Twilight team are you on, Jacob or Edward?”). These forums can be created by administrators to fit specific missions and goals. Separating forums into traditional learning topics such as math, science, PE, etc., may help educators engage their students with school content in and out of the classroom. Forums can extend classroom discussions into after-school time as either homework or informal participation.

A Student's Thread

Forum threads are designed to engage students in a history of users’ comments and opinions. Unlike posting comments under a piece of media or blog, which places the latest comment at the top of the thread, new contributions to forum threads are always posted at the bottom. This design indicates a desire for users to become familiar with the community discussion as they formulate their own ideas.

A Student's Thread on the Effects of Gossip

Within forums, students can personalize their posts through choosing fonts, colors, etc. While this personalization may seem trivial from an adult’s perspective, my experiences suggest color themes and font designs may offer students a certain amount of creative freedom, while also engaging in traditional or non-traditional classroom subjects. I speculate that these design options may help student feel an investment in subjects they otherwise would overlook.

Forums are a great way to help our students develop their own thoughts and opinions for a public arena. When I see my students use forums, I like to hope that they are forming their own sense of the iRemix community. If so, such community building can have lasting effects on both classroom participation and how students conduct themselves within other social networks.

Banner Image Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalyouthnetwork/6024239799/in/photostream

Screenshot Credits: http://rw.iremix.me

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