New learning and participatory citizenship: Creating knowledge communities in educational environments

Sibylle Gruber, Nancy Barron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we contend that students in all teaching environments must be encouraged to see literacy as a social practice within a participatory culture, increasing their awareness that their practices shape and are shaped by the work, school, community, or political lives they inhabit. Such exposure, we demonstrate, can be accomplished by merging academic literacies with sustainable participatory citizenship. We modify Stuart Selber's (2004) early concept of multiliteracies for a digital age, and Gunther Kress's (2003) discussions of multimodalities and the social construction of culture, to show that students need to be familiar with four literacy components-functional knowledge, critical theory, client-based projects, and community application-in order to merge academic literacies with practical applications of these literacies. We examine teachers' approaches to integrating the four literacy components into their classrooms by using a situational and contextualized approach to learning, and we provide specifc student excerpts from their work to show the importance of clientbased work that takes into consideration not only the functional literacies expected from students but also the critical literacies necessary to ground student work and client-based projects in applicable theoretical principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-117
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • Client-based projects
  • Community application
  • Critical literacy environments
  • Critical theory
  • Functional knowledge
  • Participatory learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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