Digital Media: The New Way of Learning in the 21st Century

If I got one thing from watching all of these digital media videos, I’ve realized that the traditional classroom is coming to an end. The type of lectures that I sit through in my college courses will likely cease to exist by the time my kids are starting their education. Some of these videos showed some of the most unique, creative, and innovative schools that I’ve ever seen.

In the first video, the students attend a school called Quest 2 Learn. Instead of going to boring math class, the students go to codeworld, and instead of sleeping through science class; the students are wide-awake in their “The way things work” class. Throughout the whole video, the whole time in the classroom, I never saw one student with a worksheet or textbook; there were a lot of students on computers planning games out. The closest thing the students did that resembled a traditional classroom was writing out diagrams that showed the positives and negatives of the videogames they were making. The students interviewed said they had a lot of hands-on projects, which forced them to use system-based thinking and trial and error. The students would work on designing their game, stop midway, assess their work, get feedback from the teacher and other students, and then tweak their game to produce the best end product.

To me, this classroom looked more like video game convention than a learning community. But, when you really think about, these students collaborating, working hands-on, assessing their own work; this is the way people work in the real world. I’ve also never seen a class so engaged in their learning.

In the second video, which featured the Digital Youth Network, different students use different technological venues to learn. One of the students featured loved to work in the free studio on his music. Another student worked on photography where he brought in other students and tried to create a low-stress atmosphere for his client (more real world type problems). The most impressive thing to me about this video was the high school girl who got to lead her own class of 6th and 7th graders. Her class was on video editing, she got to make her own curriculum, and when interviewed, she listed out her ambitious goals of double majoring in computer science and digital media. A common theme in all of these videos was how the students were just so engaged in what they were working on. In this video, a unique aspect was that this Digital Youth Center was in a poorer area and some of the students interviewed said these technology-based hobbies kept them busy and out of trouble.

In the third video with the students at the Smithsonian institution, the interactive scavenger hunt that they could access on the phone engaged the students more at the museum. For example, in the video, the assignment given to the students was to explore the museum and take pictures and learn about the different animals, and later on report what they found out to the “zookeeper,” or the teacher.

In the fourth video, there are college students walking around a small town called Middleton exploring the history of the town as they pass by important areas. Some of the students said they appreciated being in the environment, where they’re from, learning about the history their hometown has to offer. In addition, this helped them learn by connecting the lesson with the personal experiences of the students past.

The fifth video was similar to the first video. There are no textbooks in the classroom; students are working on designing structures on computers. One of the students interviewed said he originally attended a traditional school, but he was bored of taking tests and mundanely repeating facts back to teachers. He said that that experience helped him feel motivated to learn in a technology-based school setting. The students used platforms like YouTube to present their projects, and instead of one student presenting, the whole class in working interactively on a forum, all of them voicing their opinions at once.

There were some key take-a-ways from watching all of these videos:

1) Digital Media is powerful. Ignoring the benefits it offers would be ignorant and dumb and would hold the education system back from evolving and matching the needs of future careers.

2) The skill of memorization died at the end of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the skill of navigating through a confusing mess of information to solve problems is much more valuable.

3) The definition of literacy is currently changing. Instead of literacy meaning just the ability to read and write, it might soon become the ability to read and write using different platforms, whether it’s paper or Microsoft word.

4) Lastly, and most importantly, technology is empowering the students, allowing the students to follow a personal path and create what they want, thereby engaging them in ways that even the best authors could never do with books.

I think it’s hard to say what my future classroom will look like after watching these videos since education is changing so quickly.  I can make a few predictions however.  Instead of textbooks, students will carry around iPads which will hold their daily interactive readings.  Students will be shooting videos in class for projects and working in small groups to edit and refine their final product.  Teacher will be guiders and not lecturers, helping students overcome problems as they struggle.  My classroom will likely incorporate technology that isn’t even in the public domain yet.  The more tools I have, the better chance I have of reaching my students.  The future of both education and technology excites me.


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