I began my school education in 1959. Learning took place with a teacher presenting information in a classroom using a blackboard, chalk, pen an paper as learning tools. In my current online course learning occurs through digital means of search engines, computers, internet, smart phones and social networking. The question becomes:
“WHAT ROLES DO DIGITAL MEDIA HAVE IN FACILITATING STUDENT LEARNING AND ENGAGEMENT”.
I will answer that question by exploring the impact digital media has had on my own tertiary studies.
In their book “Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age” editors Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpe describe digital media as simply another form of human ingenuity coming after other innovations as paper, chalk, print, television, and even writing itself; none of which have changed the fundamental capacity to learn in a cognitive sense. However, they believe it has, and I quote, “profoundly changed how ideas and practices are communicated. (Beetham & Sharpe 2013). This is what I believe is the key. Communication. In that respect, I do not believe my capacity to learn has changed from my very early learning days. What has changed is the way knowledge is received, communicated, presented and shared.
My tertiary education spans three eras of the digital age.
My undergraduate degree was completed in 1974 on-campus. Information was presented by lecturers, or gathered from textbooks and libraries. The digital era had begun but was confined to the back-end in universities.
My post-graduate diploma was studied off-campus in 1991. Information arrived in folders. Contact was made by mail or phone. Universities had computers and modems for communicating with other universities but that had not reached home-use. Libraries could conduct searches for articles that would take weeks to arrive. However, digital technology had arrived with my first computer. Word processing, databases, the ability to easily edit, present data and store data digitally vastly changed both my learning experience and professional application.
Today in 2018 I am studying online for a masters degree. There is no physical contact with the university. However, I believe my capacity for learning and engagement os enhanced through digital media in three main areas.
The use of computers, internet, mobile phones and search engines has enabled easy instant access to information and global networks, scientific libraries of historical digitalized data, educational resources of high quality scholarly articles, and publically-funded up-to-date scientific data-bases.
Presentation of information:
Presentation of knowledge is enhanced by use of web pages, blogs, podcasts, infographics, slide-shows and videos. Digital cloud storage of data means information is saved efficiently into perpetuity.
Sharing of information:
Social media, online seminars and contact by email and other digital means has meant easier communications between teacher and students; better feedback, reflection and revision; engagements with other students; and the ability to disseminate learned knowledge.
The digital era has meant some limitations on learning.
Digital media has meant new demands. Students need to know how to access, analyse and organise information digitally. In his essay ‘Paradoxical Future of Digital Learning’ Mark Warscharmer (Warschauer 2007) describes a paradox whereby students need to take time out from academic learning to become proficient at digital technology. The solution he claims are through teachers becoming and I quote “a guide on the side, rather than a sage on stage”, supporting students autonomous skills of digital media while enhancing academic literacy. In my own course, performing at a digital level is now expected. Learning digital technology did swamp my academic learning initially, although with those skills now learned, I believe digital media now enhances my academic learning and presentation of my acquired knowledge.
Other limitations on digital media raised has been of breeding a generation of students raised on ‘copy and paste’ with a higher risk of plagiarism and copyright infringements; brevity of shorthand chat-texts degrading spelling and grammar; and the danger of old skills on old media being lost to the next generation.
Despite these limitations I believe the positives outweigh the negatives.
In the generation before me, people trained for one career they retained for life; whereas digital media has given me the tools, to become a ‘life-long learner’.
Here is my podcast on sound cloud
Thank you for listening and feel free to comment below. I look forward to your feedback.
23 January 2018
Author and speaker: Leonie Elizabeth
Music: From ‘Stella’ by Suzette Pullinger. By licence 23 January 2018.
Photo: Campbelltown Primary School NSW.
Image by Leonie Elizabeth. 15 June 2015.
Beetham, H, Sharpe, R, 2013, “Rethinking Pedagony for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Century Learning” 2nd edn.Taylor and Francis
Warschauer, M. 2007.”The Paradoxical Future of Digital Learning” Learning Enquiry. Vol 1, No 1. pp41-49