“We do not simply replace horses and mules with cars and trucks. We have configured an elaborate system of motorized transport, including new roads, traffic regulations, gas stations, repair shops, insurance and so on” (Kling 1996)
Keeping up with Digital Media in the Classroom
L. A. Paun
The questions driving this inquiry are: (1.) Are there any curricular changes occurring in secondary education in accordance with keeping up with digital media? (2.) What kind of media can be used toward creating a positive effect on student performance, and how? (3.) What are some cutting edge classroom methods, tools, and applications that will help get us there? The questions’ purposes are to explore these topics as a way of gaining an understanding about why keeping up with digital media is crucial if education is going to truly move into the 21st century. Implementing web 2.0 tools in the secondary schools is a way of reaching students that may have become estranged from traditional classroom approaches to participation and interaction. Some specific examples of classroom applications are given and discussed.
Keywords: social networking, digital media, academic performance, web 2.0, secondary education.
[…] it is common knowledge that the miniaturization and commercialization of machines is already changing the way in which learning is acquired, classified, made available, and exploited. It is reasonable to suppose that the proliferation of information-processing machines is having, and will continue to have, as much of an effect on the circulation of learning as did advancements in human circulation (transportation systems) and later in the circulation of sounds and visual images (the media). (Lyotard, 1984)
It is evident that media is a part of our modern lives. Whether we like it or not it is always there in the form of television, advertising, radio, and others means. Social media has emerged as the most powerful way of sharing information, and is something that we can all engage with daily on a personal level. Everyone seems to be riding on the crest of the social media wave due to its features of quickly being able to share what we want, with whom we want, when we want, all in real-time. Curricula and methods of teaching need to undergo an evolutionary metamorphosis in which social media can be included as a more prominent means of classroom application and pedagogy. While these applications are already being taken advantage of in many of UNCC’s own First Year Writing courses, the immersion in social media no doubt starts prior to a post-secondary education. Many high school students, even middle school students, are well versed in using social media. However curricula, testing, and teaching strategies prior to college-level work has lagged in keeping up with the sociability that the web now provides through applications such as web 2.0 tools.
The questions driving this inquiry are: 1.) Are there any curricular changes occurring in secondary education in accordance with keeping up with the flow of media? 2.) What kind of media can be used toward creating a positive effect on student performance, and how? 3.) What are some cutting edge classroom methods, tools, and applications that will help get us there? The questions’ purpose is to explore these topics as a way of gaining an understanding about why keeping up with digital media is crucial if secondary education is going to truly cross over into the 21st century’s idea of creating, manipulating, and managing learning. Implementing web 2.0 tools is one way of reaching students that may have become estranged from traditional classroom approaches to participating, interacting, and learning.
Eric Sheninger, high school principal and social media advocate stated the following in an interview for USA Today: "The Internet as we know it is the 21st century. It is what these students have known their whole lives. They're connected, they're creating, they're discussing, they're collaborating" (original emphasis; Toppo, 2011). Students are clearly immersed in creating social media content, which is often met with disapproval and seen as contradictory to the classroom. This outlook can be characterized by the in school to learn, not socialize state of mind shared by many teachers and parents. The Vygotskian theory of social learning states the opposite; learning is social. By ignoring the possibility of these social tools as learning tools, students are being pigeonholed into a rigid and dull concept of schooling. “These students also ‘expressed a clear sense of separation between educational and social spaces in the online environment’ (Burhanna, Seeholzer, & Salem Jr., 2009)” (Click and Petit, 2010). When the separation between students’ school and social lives is blurred, the results are more engaged learning experiences that do not halt when the bell rings. This is precisely why more action should be taken in order to narrow the gap between educational and social spaces.
Challenges and the Digital Divide
Resistance to Tech The use of social media and technology devices in a high school have the potential to be negative, something that schools and systems are aware of and take precautions against. “Both school boards and individual schools have policies regarding the use of Facebook within their institutions” among other policies, usually which ban devices in the classroom (Fewkes and McCabe, 2012). In an attempt to bridge the digital divide some schools (soon to be joined by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as of Fall 2012) have implemented a “Bring Your Own Technology” policy (Helms, 2012). According to conversations I have had with other teachers, they have concerns that this policy will be a recipe for disaster; they will not be able to monitor their students to make sure that they are on task and that they are not misusing their learning devices (cellphones, iPads, eReaders).
"It's the adults; we have stood in the way," "Our kids understand it. They get it. They're engaged" (Hemls, 2012). For many teachers, the digital divide is something that needs to be overcome. “’We have to prepare the adults,’ Muri said. ‘Before we can equip the kids, who are ready for it, we have to get teachers ready, and before we get teachers ready we have to get principals ready’” (Hemls, 2012). Teachers need to be immersed and adept at using the digital tools that they model for their students. Web 2.0 tools can be a much more fun, creative, and engaging way to develop the 21st century skills. In an effort to make the classroom an internet-ready social interaction, teachers should embrace social media and move forward to fearlessly incorporating web 2.0 tools as they wish. This means having the availability and skill for being creative with incorporating social media within their classrooms. First, they must be literate in web etiquette as well as the functions of the web 2.0 tools or other social media platforms they want to use. As there is a bigger drive toward the development of educational web tools, it appears that the belief that something digital is education-evacuated is no longer applicable.
Curricular Changes The adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS) and implementation throughout 45 states and 3 territories (source) contains new standard requirements for using technology for English Language Arts, Mathematics, History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. “Just as media and technology are integrated in school and life in the twenty-first century, skills related to media use (both critical analysis and production of media) are integrated throughout the standards” (“Key points in,”).
From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Since its emergence, web 2.0 has evolved down multiple paths: some for social media, some for education, some purely for games and fun. “Websites that are now retroactively identified as Web 1.0 are static. The user can look at the website and take information from it, but cannot interact with the creator, website, or information itself.” “Prior to 2004, when the phrase Web 2.0 became popular, the Web was just the Web. Web 2.0 applications allow users to share videos and likes, find and stay in contact with friends, comment on each other’s photos, and much more” (Click and Petit, 2010).
These are referred to as web 2.0 tools because of their ability to be manipulated by the user to create and generate content. Prior to web 2.0, web 1.0 was characterized by curated content and not generated by its users. The web has become increasingly user friendly and attractive with the component of social media, a resource worthy of implementation. If students are allowed to learn while being immersed in a technologically social environment, they may find more educational appeal and excel in academics.
Digital natives. Our students now live in a postmodern age in which technology is an inseparable part of their nature. Nicholas Carr characterizes this by the belief that there is a natural inclination toward screens and what he calls digital screen-dependency: “According to recent media surveys, the average American spends some 8.5 hours a day peering at a screen – TV, computer, or cell phone – and that number continues to rise as smartphone use explodes. We’ve reached a point, in other words, where it’s more likely than not that we’re looking into a screen at any given moment when we’re awake” (Carr, 2010).
“According to Veen and Vrakking (2006), children belonging to this generation develop – on their own and without instruction – the meta-cognitive skills necessary for enquiry-based learning, discovery-based learning, networked learning, experiential learning, collaborative learning, active learning, self organization and self regulation, problem-solving, and making their own implicit (i.e., tacit) and explicit knowledge speciﬁc to others” (Karpinski and Kirschner, 2010).
Digital immigrants, the older generation, are “’socialized’ differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language” (Prensky, 2001). Prensky argues that digital immigrants can have an “accent.” This accent can be connected with first-order change, in which they will do old things in new ways, i.e. print a digital document in order to hand-edit it.
21st century skills. There is a real need for secondary education to embrace social media. Merging social media with the classroom context would no longer be a threat to the school environment, but rather an asset. This begins at the core with an encompassing structural focus on technology within the curriculum, as well as with the networked teacher. According to the North Carolina Common Core, which has yet to be thoroughly implemented in NC public schools, the drive for using more technologies in the classroom is there. It places additional emphasis on technological literacy through teaching 21st century skills which move significantly beyond mere word processing skills.
Student outcomes and support systems are characterized and defined by the Framework for 21st Century Learning initiative. The initiative “presents a holistic view of 21st century teaching and learning that combines a discrete focus on 21st century student outcomes (a blending of specific skills, content knowledge, expertise and literacies) with innovative support systems to help students master the multi-dimensional abilities required of them in the 21st century” (“Framework for 21st Century”). Information, Media and Technology Skills is one of the 3Rs (three areas of readiness), whose characteristics include “1) access to an abundance of information, 2) rapid changes in technology tools, and 3) the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale.” The support systems in place include Curriculum and Instruction, Professional Development, and Learning Environments. (“Framework for 21st Century”)
First-Order and Second-Order Change. First-order change and second-order change are two ways in which schools have addressed technology use. “First-order changes assume that the existing organizational goals and structures are basically adequate and what needs to be done is to correct deficiencies in policies and practice… Second-order changes aim at altering the fundamental ways of achieving organizational goals because of major dissatisfaction with current arrangements” (Cuban, 1988). Second-order change has more potential for increasing student performance. Doing old things in new ways such as typing an essay rather than writing it (first-order) may have less student engagement and achievement than doing new things in new ways such as creating a digital story (second-order).
Constructivist pedagogy. “Constructivist pedagogy focuses on students constructing knowledge. From a social constructivist (and constructionist) perspective, this construction occurs primarily through social interactions (Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1986)” (Rosen and Nelson, 2008). In a student-centered and teacher-led classroom the student is more in charge of their own learning through tasks which involve guided discovery. The teacher is a coach and guide for students as they encounter challenges in constructing new knowledge. Technology is able to support a highly individualized learning experience for all students.
Technology and academic performance. According to FaceBook’s latest statistics, there were 483 million daily active users and 845 million monthly active users in December of 2011. People are connected, people are socializing, and about 20% of worldwide users reside in North America ("Facebook newsroom"). These “digital natives or Homo Zappiens,” as Karpinski and Kirschner call today’s media multitasking students, face many challenges when it comes to social media and distraction from other important tasks. The research participants in the study included undergraduate and graduate students. The results indicate that there is a relationship between users of social media websites (specifically Facebook) and a lower GPA, resulting from less time spent studying and more time spent being on Facebook. They suggest in their results that “there is a difference between the study strategies of FB users and nonusers” (Karpinski and Kirschner 2010).
According to a study with 10th grade adolescent participants, there is no significant relationship discerned between time spent on home computers and GPA. Hunley et al.’s (2005) study looks at overall home computer usage and participation of different types of internet activities such as browsing, word processing, games, reading the news, email/chat, and others. The research fails to deliver a good connection between home computer use and school computer use.
“Beyond the classroom, the benefits that using Facebook could have are many, including collaboration, participation, and communication.” (Fewkes and McCabe, 2012) According to their study of adolescent students between the ages of 16 and 18, they “repeatedly cited such benefits, including collaborating, extra help, homework discussion, or self-organization, as reasons for using Facebook. The fact that 73% of students answered yes when asked if they have used Facebook for educational purposes goes against the hypothesis that students are not using Facebook to ‘support the learning agenda’ of the classroom. In fact, many respondents provided in-depth examples of how they have used it for educational purposes.” (Fewkes and McCabe, 2012) “The majority of these students (60%) have been using Facebook for 3–4 years. Coupled with the statistics that all respondents’ ages lie between 16 and 18, this signals that most students who completed the research questionnaire for this study have been using Facebook since they turned 13.” (Fwekes and McCabe, 2012)
Another study concludes that the focus of computer activities shifts according to students’ increase in grade. The most popular activity for 6th and 7th graders is gaming, and for 8th graders it is online chatting. A significant increase in time spent online is found as students mature: “39.72% of 8th graders reported that they spend 5-9 hours online as 27.71% of the 6th graders reported that they spend 5-9 hours online.” The research is limited to analyzing gender preferences for students 6th through 8th grade (Sipal and Bayhan, 2010).
Education 2.0. In congruence with a social constructivist pedagogy, Rosen and Nelson (2008) state that “web 2.0 collaborative technologies promote social interaction. They allow students’ work to be read and commented on by a larger participant audience than afforded in traditional constructivist education. Using collaborative technologies, students can communicate with classmates as well as with others around the world. Comments made by this diverse, participatory audience often generate discussions that enhance learning.” The sociability of web 2.0 tools would enable students to engage in higher-order thinking skills by meeting them on their playground platform of social media. Their research compares three features of web 2.0 integrated education including social networking, content-specific communities, and user-generated content.
Click and Petit (2010) discuss specific web 2.0 tools and methods librarians and teachers use to more efficiently answer questions and disperse information in order “to engage students and communicate with them via the preferred methods of the Millennial generation.” They highlight many social learning platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and RSS feeds, video sharing, social bookmarking, and wikis. A multitude of other web 2.0 tools exist that they do not address: photo sharing, live casting, blogging platforms and communities, micromedia, location based services, and forums among others. They provide specific examples of implementation of the tools they do mention, and these are geared toward implementation by the teacher. They do not address how these tools can be put to use by the student.
Ferreira et al. (2011) discuss several lecture scenarios, or cognitive communication, and the transmission of information via social media tools through integrating Twitter with PowerPoint. Multiple communication channels (one-way with low or non-existent interaction, and many-to-many with interaction between everyone) were established between the students and teacher. The research results support a constructivist pedagogy in which student is actively engaged in communication rather than passively. Many graphs analyze the teacher to student and student to student interaction and communication. However, correlations of variables are not discussed.
A study on the educational uses of Facebook by Fewkes and McCabe (2012) researched its use in several Ontario high schools. The research has indicated that adolescent students who are on Facebook are using it for a wide range of reasons, and an educational learning agenda is one of those reasons. Even though “educational purposes and applications are ranked the lowest” by the adolescent respondents, the research displays the sociability of Facebook and its impact as an educational tool. Students list discussion and collaboration as some of the educational uses of Facebook, which “seem to be congruent with school boards’ vision of enhancing the learning agenda. However, the school boards and teachers do not appear to be responsible for this congruency, but rather the students who are adapting to an institution lacking new technology in a contemporary world.” Fewkes and McCabe (2012) bring to the forefront issues of in-school Facebook connectivity as well as school policies which embrace or prevent its use.
Livingston (2011) highlights the use of blogs and provides a checklist for successful implementation in educational environments. Besides offering general guidelines such as identifying objectives, participation, and instructor facilitation, the article does not delve into specific planning for any content areas. Livingston appeals to Goldman et al’s (2008) successful research on using blogs to enhance student participation. The introduction of seminar blogs increased student engagement and discussion through blogging. The research was conducted only with students at the graduate level. It was observed and surveyed that students who participated in the blogging seminars were more engaged in the specified discourse and found it easier to interact through blogging than speaking in class. A large percentage (78%) of non-native English speakers found blogging helpful to core materials and learning.
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