Monday, February 13, 2017

Is the Medium as Important as the Message?

The Pedagogical Differences of Media

Before we can consider the pedagogical differences of media, we need to reflect on the blog prompt on our own learning preferences when it comes to digital resources. Rather than sharing my thoughts in text form, instead I composed a digital reflection via Adobe Spark. Using Adobe Spark demonstrates the different opportunities for sharing content and learning today.
[Side note... Although creating a digital narrative for my reflection might have been a "creative way" of sharing, it definitely took a great deal longer than if I had just written a paragraph. Not to mention the fact that recording one's voice can make a person a little 'tongue-tied'!]

Key Take Away from Bates that Connects to My Experiences

Since this chapter was about the different modes for student learning, I thought it would be be appropriate if I shared my key take aways from Bates in a series of digital posters via Adobe Spark... because once again, they offer another mode of sharing content. 

In Chapter 7, Bates examines the wide range of media platforms available for teaching and learning, and considerations that teachers need to keep in mind about the needs of the learner and content taught. Reading this chapter also encouraged me to look at my own project (which is probably what Alec and Katia had intended) and how I will meet the needs of the learner in keeping them engaged. A key idea to consider for our projects is that online courses must not only encourage critical thinking about information, but also provide opportunities for students to connect, collaborate and create. If the course doesn't offer this, then it will not meet the needs of the students. Andres in his post, "Bates and Blogs", says that "Having a good understanding of when, why and how we should be using certain forms of media is not only important for us as teachers, but it’s critical in making our lessons as effective and engaging as possible for our students." I fully agree with Andres' comment as he reinforces the point Bates makes that we need to choose digital mediums for learning based on the needs of the learner, not just because they exist. The importance of making lessons engaging is all the more important when we look to online learning, because if the student is not engaged, it's not like the teacher will be necessarily physically present to notice. So that leaves me wondering, what is the best way to effectively engage the learner in the online or blended world? And what challenges do we face in introducing new ways of learning in an environment that often gets driven by text-media? 

For many of us, information was shared predominantly through text form in our own education experience. Even today with all the platforms available, text still is the dominant mode. But in a world of memes, Tweets, Youtube videos and Snapchats, is text engaging enough? Most would state that text will not go away, because it is fundamentally the key to effective communication. However, is it possible that the way we interact with it will change? According to Bates, the printed paper form of the text will probably dwindle away, since the "digital publication allows for many more features to be added, reduces environmental footprint, and makes text much more portable and transferable" (2015, 7.2). Even though this makes sense, I do wonder if the book will completely disappear in learning or even from our lives. Yes, even though books lack hyperlinks, video or scrolling features... there are certain benefits which include: 
  • they do not need charging,
  • they do not require wifi,
  • they do not need a username or password to get into them,
  • one can easily share it or lend a book,
  • And my favorite, if you drop it in water... no big deal.
[Side Note: For all you familiar with Lane Smith's book, It's a Book, these arguments will seem familiar.]

So in spite of the fact that print will eventually morph into digital, the truth is, a big part of the way we take in information is through text. Bates states that, "one of the limitations of text is that it requires a high level of prior literacy skills for it to be used effectively for teaching and learning, and indeed much of teaching and learning is focused on the development of skills that enable rigorous analysis of textual materials. We should be giving as much attention to developing multimedia literacy skills though in a digital age" (Bates, 2015, 7.2) Really?! Although digital literacy is important, and Bates makes a good case, it should be noted that the priority for learning in early years is for development of literacy and numeracy. And this means literacy in the traditional sense (and sorry Mr. Bates) and does NOT include digital literacy. After reading other blogs, it was interesting to see that fellow members of our class felt the same way, Aimee, in her blog, "Thinking About Text, Video and MSN Messenger", said that she also struggled with the same notion.

Although a big part of my job right now is to assist teachers with incorporating digital technology in classrooms, I believe digital integration must support nurturing literacy and numeracy. Indeed, technology should be integrated into learning, provided it supports student achievement of curricular outcomes. Therefore, digital literacy is best taught in conjunction with curricular outcomes.

Pedagogy Always Comes First...

In Chapter 7, Bates stated that his goal was not to focus on the affordances or unique pedagogical characteristics of each medium as teachers will come to their own conclusions based on teaching assignment. Instead Bates says the "important point is for teachers and instructors to think about what each medium could contribute educationally within their subject area, and that requires a strong understanding of both the needs of their students and the nature of their subject area, as well as the pedagogical features of each medium" (2015, 7.1.4). I like this statement, because when you think about it, this is the heart of teaching. It doesn't matter what tools are afforded to us, it's about how these platforms or technologies can support learning.

In a post a couple weeks ago, "Questions about Pedagogy", Graham wondered, "Is technology changing pedagogy, or simply changing the tools?". Good question Graham - you definitely made me think! This is what Bates was getting at in this chapter. Teaching is about understanding the needs of the student, the challenges of the content area in sharing information and skills, and the digital technologies available in the school or classroom environment. Effective teaching and pedagogy is still the same, it's just the tools that have changed. However that being said, there are perhaps just more ways to be effective.

Actually a lot of what Bates said in this chapter, reminded me of the central tenets of the TPACK framework. Which is, "the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy
TPACK model by GeoBlogs, on Flickr
"TPACK model" (CC BY-NC 2.0)
(PK), and Technology (TK)" The heart of the TPACK framework states that, "Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between these components of knowledge situated in unique contexts."  When we consider effective tech integration, these are elements that need to be reflected upon: what is taught, needs of the learner, technological knowledge of learner and teacher (and what's available). Sound familiar? I think Mr. Bates in Chapter 7 was reinforcing TPACK, but perhaps in a more palpable manner.

Final Thoughts...

In closing, one of the things I really appreciated about the reading, were the five critical questions for selecting media or technology in education. These questions can not only help educators make a informed decision about the forms of technology to be used, but also the role of the teacher and learner.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. I liked your critical perspective on the topic at hand. You reminded me to take a step back and to keep students at the centre of what we are learning.