When the school is sidelined: what are we teaching our youth about new media literacy?


A reflection
For the past 3 or 4 years, I’ve immensely enjoyed exploring online teaching through Moodle. Unfortunately, however, at first, this was a challenging change to many of my students. Although they appeared not to like learning online, especially in the Moodle discussion forums, most of them love new forms of media such as digital cameras, the Internet, and mobile phones. Many were skilled users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo, and most were inseparable from their mobile phones.

So far, this experience has taught me a diversity of skills on the use of technology and media in an educational environment. Apart from knowing how to use the tools and features that come with Moodle, I’ve also developed news skills in video production and editing, and how to use different forms of media such as video-streaming and screen-casting softwares, and other web-based tools. I teach my students these same skills.

Two months ago I was engaged in an online WikiEducator Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in which I learnt not only about Open Educational Resources (OERs) but also many useful media skills. It was during this experience that I became aware of the pedagogical potentials of Twitter.

Through my exploration of different media, I find myself more aware of my teaching and my students’ learning. Most importantly, I hear more the voice of my students regarding what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and when and where they want to learn. I’m not anymore the sage on the stage. The voice of my students are saying: “We don’t want lectures! We hate lectures! We don’t want a lecture on multiple intelligences, we want to hear Howard Gardner speaking to us about multiple intelligences.” They are right! Who knows more about multiple intelligences than Howard Gardner? My students enjoyed listening to Howard Gardner in a video from Edutopia.

Through my use of new media in online teaching, my students continue to surprise me. They wanted me to activate the Moodle chat forum, and many started posting hyperlinks to their Bebo and Facebook pages. In the wee hours of the night, I find them discussing key issues – in their own time, and on their own! I used to believe that my students can’t reflect or debate, but in the online forums, they are clearly engaging in critical reflection and debating. The usually silent students in face-to-face classes are more visible than ever before.

What was the cause of this transformation?, I often asked myself. Is it the newness of the learning mode? Or is it my absence that is freeing students to learn? And if students are more willing to learn outside and after school, and in my absence, what is my role then as an educator? What is the role of the school?

My students are currently desinging webquests, and just a few days ago one of them approached me for assistance with producing a video for her webquest. With her, she had a few still images and an audio file, and she wanted to know how to make the still images into a video and how to add the audio file as backrgound music. I use Camtasia Studio 6 to produce my lecture videos, and this student wanted to know about how I produce these lecture videos.

Knowing that it would take time to teach this student Camtasia Studio, I quickly showed her how to produce her video using Windows Movie Maker, how to upload her video to You Tube and how to embed it in her webquest. Seeing the smile of appreciation on her face is one of those satisfying moments in any teacher’s career. Upon presenting her webquest in a face-to-face seminar, she was proud of her accomplishments. This student is teaching others her new skills.

Basically, my practice as an educator and the roles of my students as learners, have changed tremendously since I started exploring the use of new media in online teaching. Howard Rheingold, in a lecture (The Pedagogy of Civic Participation) in the NMC Campus of Second Life, points out that new forms of media are not only changing our pedagogical approaches but also our engagement within a democracy.

By showing students how to used web-based tools and channels to inform publics, advocate positions, contest claims and organize action around issues that they care about, participatory media can draw them into early positive experiences of citizenship that could influence their civic behaviour throughout their lives.

The different forms of media I’m reffering to in this blog post are defintely improving my students’ participation, independence, and self-worth. My students are not anymore anxious to learn the course content. They’ve come to the realisation that through creative use of the media they are using to learn, and some degree of positive interdependence, they find the answers to their questions. This is the power of participatory media.

Participatory media has the ability to engender a culture of participation in my students. The McArthur Foundation (2006) defines this participatory culture as one in which there is:

“relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).”

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About Vilimaka on cruiselyna
Science teacher educator. Online teaching and learning. Use of web-based technologies in education.

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