Make Learning Meaningful with Media!

There is no denying that our world has gone through enormous transformations in the past decade and a half. The Internet ramped up, and entire waves of technologies have come and gone. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter exploded onto the scene, inevitably altering the ways individuals interact with each other (Meister & Willyerd, 2010).

Perhaps the biggest change is the rate at which we are able to consume and produce media. Students who are heavy into social media are constantly influenced by their friends, family, celebrities, blogs, journalists, and news media sources. They are able to create their own media in many forms that acts to express their thoughts and interests. In recent years, social media outlets have helped to launch the careers of some huge celebrities including Justin Bieber and Soulja Boy. Furthermore, it has created serious bankroll for a number of videographers, comedians, musicians, vloggers with the use of YouTube.

Because media and social media are so present in their lives, students easily realize the practicality of lessons that incorporate media and media literacy. Students who see a purpose in learning are far more likely to engage with and absorb the content. Convincing students that there is purpose to their learning is one of the biggest obstacles that teachers must conquer, but with the use of media this task becomes pretty easy. Media can be incorporated into nearly any subject during a lesson, or as a component of an assessment.  In most cases, media helps to elicit student interest, making them want to actively participate in learning and improve the quality of their work. The video below gives ideas of ways that Social Media can help us engage digital natives and, so some extent, revolutionize teaching.

I employed some of the suggestions from this video during a recent teacher’s education placement; I witnessed first-hand exactly how helpful media can be as a means for engaging students. In several instances, blogs, online videos and news articles were used to capture student attention and spark discussions to consolidate learning. The 8th grade science unit focused on the importance of water and water conservation.  The Jay-Z Water for Life video was incorporated into several lessons throughout the unit to teach students about the water crisis. We watched different parts of the video prior to discussions about water scarcity and contamination, as well as accessing and cleaning water. The familiarity of the celebrity made the video’s content more engaging for the students. Media literacy was included in the lessons by having students think about what types of conventions and techniques were used to create meaning and what biases may exist.

Media was also incorporated into the assessment plan. Having students produce media was such a great assessment method. There is so much freedom that can be given to assignments, which makes them more appealing to the class as a whole. Students can decide to write a blog, make a prezi, create a video or even write and record a song. For formative assessments, students can complete an online ‘exit card’ by making a post on twitter or a class wikki. The options truly are endless.

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