My First Course Reading Reflection

I am currently enrolled in a course titled, “Digital Media in Education.” For the class, we are required to read specific articles and texts and reflect on them on a weekly basis. I figured I would share my reflections on this blog because I often tie the readings to my past teaching experiences or raise questions that I think are important to pose for the field of media education at large.

My first reading reflection for the course (references at bottom):

The easiest reading for me was “The World of Digital Storytelling” by Jason Ohler. I could relate to this piece becuase I have taught digital storytelling courses and I also have similar observations and opinions as those expressed in the article. Ohler talks about how he introduces stories through popular media examples because that is what his students relate to. I found this to be very engaging while working with students as well but a question that was raised for me going off of this is how do you get students to be original and part from beloved themes present in popular media? Especially with middle school students, they all wanted to replicate Twilight or Walking Dead.

I really appreciated how Ohler writes fluently that the important thing to remember when thinking about media education is: “We want students not only to learn with media, but also to learn and think critically about media” (p. 47). While this is a very idealistic goal for teachers moving forward, I have found from personal experience that it is also challenging. I agree with Ohler’s statement: “Teachers who want to include a media literacy component in a digital storytelling project need to do so deliberately at the project’s outset” (p. 47). I have been that teacher trying to achieve such a goal. I have been grappling with a few questions pertaining to this. Such as, what is the best way to get students to think critically about the media messages they are producing? And how do teachers get students to connect their media projects to bigger contexts (their audience, representations, etc)?

Expanding from one instructors reflections to a whole array of teachers’ experiences, I think the Pedagogic Potentials of Multimodal Literacy research article really illustrated the potential of integrating media and technology in the classroom on a much larger scale. It was also neat that the study was conducted in Australia, which I know is one of the leaders in media literacy education. A lot of the examples they were dicussing in the article sounded similar to class projects in the US and I wonder if there has been any international study done including any of them?

I was impressed by the large range of data Walsh’s research team obtained and analysed. They specifically observed the following aspects of literacy: talking, listening, reading and writing. I think having such a wide view of literacy was very beneficial and really illustrated their multimodal approach and emphasis. I think it was especially intriguing how they analysed speech as well.

When Walsh wrote of the importance of combining traditional literacy strategies with different modalities and semiotic texts, she said a key point I hadn’t thought a lot before. “As students combine different modalities it is essential that they understand them” (p. 6) Her example of the kids with the podcasts clearly demonstrated what she was addressing. The students did not just complete the podcasts in one easy step, but rather produced the different components of it piece by piece demonstrating their understanding of each level. The podcast project was a great example where the students were thinking of their message construction and audience. When thinking about education reform I cannot help but think about this emphasis on the process. Should there be a push for covering less content with more time given to the process? Would such a change be possible? Or would it hinder the amount of material covered in a year? Then again, how much of education is about teaching content now? Should it be more about how to find and communicate information instead since so much is readily at our fingertips? The Kress and Selander article also emphasized that in education “It is perhaps more important thatn ever to think about how information is selected and presented.” (p. 266) Especially when thinking of the days when the texbook was the only source of information in the classroom.

Walsh’s research concluded that there are differences in the processing of modes when technology is incorporated. However, throughout the majority of the article, I found that at the center of each example were good teachers who were flexible, innovative, and intuitive to their students. In example three Walsh writes about the observation, “students had taught themselves and were teaching other class members” (p. 10). In collaborative production settings I also saw this a lot among my students. This peer learning was also touched on in Ohler’s article. Taking it out to a larger spectrum I can’t help but think that teaching pedagogy should move more toward teachers structuring student inquiry and peer teaching rather than handing students information. Since I did not go through a teacher certification program I wonder how much of this teaching approach is encouraged in education school?

I had the most difficulty with the Kress and Selander article. One main reason for this is because I could not find myself to comfortably align with their use of ‘design.’ They talked about how teachers and students have become ‘designers’ but it was in a much more expansive way than the other articles wich used design in the sense of creating projects. From their big paragraph on design on the first page the main point I took away from it was the important focus on the process just like the other articles incorporated. Another word I slightly struggled with in the article was ‘sign.’ They wrote, “Signs are parts of structuring social practices” (p. 266). I align with this by understanding how integral signs are in society, but I am just more used to using the word ‘message.’ Even writing about this now I am thinking about the constructist nature of words and different perspectives people have and how such perspectives are portrayed in their messages. I am always intrugued by the thought of what words are best to use and what does it mean to leave certain words out? Such questions can also apply to other modes such as pictures as well.

To continue with Kress and Selander, the sentence that stuck out to me most was, “Learning is now seen as an instance of communication.” Coming from a communication background and moving forward with a goal of combining the two I thought a lot about this statement. I understand now with the surge of communication forms and technological advances that communicaiton may be more present in education espcially multimodal expression, but hasn’t learning always been integrated with communication? I keep rolling this statement around in my mind and thinkng about all its possible meanings. Also, is ther more of a learning component in communication now? Going back to Walsh’s article, creating a classroom where students teach each other or where a whole project culminates in a media message (such as a podcast), I see how communication can be a much more integral part of education. But going back to what Ohler said, its not just about students learning with and communicating with media, but also thinking critically about it.

The Roschelle and Pea article on the potential of the internet for education was interesting because I felt I could sense a lot of the corporate perspective in the opinions viewed even though they were from a mix that also included researchers, organizations, and schools. I completely agreed with their claim: “Most of the available internet tools available are not robust and simple enough for use in average classrooms” (p. 3). I am a very tech savvy person and I have even struggled with preparing lessons incorporating the internet. They stated that the most common issue was: “Very few web resources are indexed to curricula, state frameworks or national standards” (p. 3). I am currently working with an organization on trying to create curriculum addressing how teaching students internet research skills aligns with common core standards. I became involved with this becasue I was very interested in research Julie Coiro is doing around the question: how do we assess students ability to locate, synthesize, and communicate information online?

I liked when Roschelle and Pea wrote about the need for tools that allow teacher and students to dynamically structure an online learning environment becasue this again emphasized the learning process. They wrote elegantly, “Students become aware of their own process of constructing knowledge” (p. 7). This notion of constuction aligned with ‘process’ got me thinking about what else do students ‘construct’?

Overall, throughout the readings my most central focus of similarities was on the notion of the ‘process.’ Each article came to the importance of the learning process from very different angles. It was not until I was going through all my notes that I even made such a connection. I now want to go back and see from this point what other more specific elements about the ‘process’ I can extract from each article to synthesize for a more comprehensive idea on this pedagogical approach and how it can possibly further the success of media education.

Articles referenced:

Kress, G., & Selander, S. (2011). Multimodal design, learning and cultures of recognition. The             Internet and Higher Education, 15(4), 265-268.

Ohler, J. (2006). The world of digital storytelling. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 44-47.

Walsh, M. (2009). Pedagogic potentials of multimodal literacy. In Tan, W. H. L., & Subramanian, R. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on New Media Literacy at the K-12 Level: Issues and Challenges. US: Science Reference, Hershey.

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