Monday, July 25, 2011

"The Media Generation"

“Without question, this generation truly is the media generation, devoting more than a quarter of each day to media. As media devices become increasingly portable, and as they spread even further through young people's environments—from their schools to their cars—media messages will become an even more ubiquitous presence in an already media-saturated world. Anything that takes up this much space in young people's lives deserves our full attention.”

— Kaiser Family Foundation

For school age children, television and video are the medium of choice, and harnessing the power of the medium for learning is of interest to educators. With the reach of digital technology, the possibilities for adaptability and delivery are at their highest point.

Though people may ask, isn’t watching a video strictly a passive activity that turns children’s brain to mush? Simply put, no. According to Dr. James Marshall, a faculty member in the Department of Educational Technology at San Diego State University, evidence shows that “active television viewing by a child is not a simple response but a complex, cognitive activity that develops and matures with the child’s development to promote learning” (Marshall “Learning with technology: Evidence that technology can, and does, support learning.” 2002 p.7).

But, just watching a TV show isn’t the answer, content and context are key. A video presentation is multi-modal by nature, not only linguistic, like a textbook, but also aesthetic, logical and narrational which appeals to a wide range of learners. Great, though how do you use video most effectively in the classroom? The answer is integration. Research has indicated that positive outcomes occur when the video is integrated into the rest of the lesson (Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (2004). Television goes to school: The impact of video on student learning in formal education.) This addresses one of the main criticisms of video in the class, that it’s just filler, passively taking the place of the teacher. When it’s integrated into classroom learning, being an active participant in the lesson, then positive outcomes can occur. One of the most obvious ways this can be done is to show relevant video presentations to the lesson. For instance if you are teaching Shakespeare, after the students read Romeo and Juliet, watch a well-preformed stage presentation that is authentic to the play. Upon reading the play, the students will have their image, then watching the actors’ presentation it will broaden their understanding of it. You can also show experiments that can’t be done in the classroom, not only hear but watch important moments in time, go around the world, and take impossible field trips, like inside the human body with a 3D animation.

That all seems pretty obvious, but there are other ways video can be utilized in the classroom. How about recording classes? Teachers can put together their own course material with the footage, giving the students a self-paced resource that can be especially useful if they need to review a topic. This material, or other video lectures, can also be assigned as homework, so what was traditional homework is now done in the class. For instance, have the children watch a video on how to do quadratic equations at home, and then in the class do math problems. This encourages interaction, gives the teacher more one on one time with the students (a higher student to teacher time ratio) and moves away from the “one size fits all” approach to lectures.

Assignments that are fun for the students can also be created. For example, if the assignment is a research paper, give the students an option to do a video. For instance, if the assignment is on WWII, they could create a news report by playing a reporter and using media from public domain sources like If it’s an assignment on creating instructions, give them an option to do a cooking show, and they can make their favorite snack while showing the steps.

Long gone are the days of carting in a 16mm film projector from the school’s AV department for a filmstrip presentation. Today, video can be used in many facets of everyday education. Click here to see how video is integrated into Galileo Online’s Instructional Dialogs. Hint, it’s near the end.

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