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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds My name is Sara Perry and I am a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, and for very many years now I have been experimenting with different types of digital engagement, digital curation, and digital forms of creativity, in both my research and teaching.

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds The possibilities that come with these tools are absolutely tremendous because in equipping participants – whether they be students, or anybody that you are interacting with – in protecting them, providing them with this sort of baseline for engagement, and then opening up a space for them to experiment in this online world – I think that you can expose them both to the larger professional sector and enable contacts to take place through that, but also its an interesting testing ground for thinking about how theory and practice and technical knowledge all intersect.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds So I think that these tools enable you to encourage experimentation, and that can lead to larger structural change, meaning that you can change society at large through these types of engagements. And it also can enable you to create spaces where students and others feel comfortable innovating, and once they have that confidence to innovate, they can take that out again into the wider world to create change there. Participants always, 100%, move on to self-teaching and actually learn more than one would have ever expected or hoped, because they become so engaged that they want to better and further their skills.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds These approaches are applicable to all types of learner from any types of background, whether you are coming from an international community, whatever stage of education that you are at, whether you have disabilities… they are open and flexible for a variety of audiences. I have been really inspired, actually, by the many different outcomes of this work, and in particular to see where different participants in these projects and training programmes have gone.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds And I think that the two things that stick with me the most are a couple of students that have said that the tools have lead to them rethinking who they are as an individual, hence their identities as individuals have changed because they were made to reflect on themselves though the process. And many students, separately, have also written to me, or commented to me via media, that it has changed what they want to do with their lives – in some cases saying that they now want to give back to society in a way that they had never considered before.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds As one student wrote to me, he now didn’t just want to work for a corporation 9 to 5 everyday; he wanted to do something that would change the world around him. So I think that the potential there for actual structural change is dramatic, and as I said very inspiring.

Using digital platforms for teaching and reaching the community

In this video, Dr Sara Perry talks about how she’s used technology to facilitate digital engagement between students and a wider research community. Below she talks in more depth about her work:

I’ve been quite inspired by other archaeologists and anthropologists on this front, in particular the anthropologist Barbara King. Her argument is that digital tools enable us to embrace the ‘wild side’ of the world. The unruliness, the unexpectedness, and the experimentation that they enable, provide opportunities unlike those offered by other types of tools that we might engage with on a daily basis.

I’ve had to deal with both the good and the bad parts of this ‘wild side’ but I have to say, with respect to my teaching in particular, that the benefits far outweigh any of the negatives.

In all cases, what I tend to do is introduce participants to the media form: maybe its Twitter, maybe it’s Pinterest, maybe it’s Blogger, or Snapchat or any of these; I’ve experimented with all of them in the classroom. I work with the students or other participants to critique examples of good and bad practice that we see in the world at large. I then usually give them some written resources to help them understand how the tools themselves functionally operate, and I also give them tools to help keep them safe when using these media online. Then I tend to provide a bit of a loose task – nothing too specific – in order to enable creativity, and then set them to work upon it, at the same time teaching them how to monitor their fellow peers’ work and to critique their own and others’ work.

In my experience there are very clear learning trajectories associated with this type of reflexive media practice. They principally entail me providing the assignment, followed by a lot of confusion as people try to figure out what they are meant to do and where they are meant to go with it. With a little bit of support, and talking through the possibilities, that inevitably leads to experimenting. The standard thing to happen next is that, in those first instances of experimentation, participants will fall back on the things that they are most familiar with. So stereotypes or different types of trope start to appear in everything that’s being created, and in archaeology this might be stereotypes about people from the past, or gender. Because we blend in this effort at monitoring one another’s progress, we spend some time critiquing those early outputs, and that inevitably leads to rethinking ones approach, producing something new and different. People tend to get a little uncomfortable and frustrated because they are experimenting, hence there is a lot of critique that comes back, and one ultimately finds that they have a final product that is somewhere between exactly what they wanted, the ideal, and the usual ordinary output. But I would say what’s most powerful there is that compromise that comes about: it’s in that negotiation where the real transformative power of digital tools is obvious.

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This video is from the free online course:

Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society

University of York