Thursday, July 25, 2013

Adding to or avoiding the "infoglut"?

In the past 12 years or so that I've been an IT teacher I've seen a lot of multi-media products made by students that have left me definitely underwhelmed.   These projects have often been very engaging because in general students love using technology, but many of them have lacked depth, meaning or understanding.  Sometimes teachers are wow'd by the time, effort and glitz that students have added that the lack of depth can be glossed over.  In the "two stars and a wish" feedback that many teachers give, it's easy to focus on and praise the glitzy bits by talking about them as the stars, ("great use of images", "fantastic soundtrack") and give less emphasis to the wishes, for example the meaning "perhaps you could have spent more time developing the script". Yet it's the meaning that is the most important part, and focusing on it is the only way that students will make media products that are worthwhile, rather than simply adding to the "info glut".

This week I've started Bernajean Porter's new online course that looks at students as media makers. The first course asked us to consider what is rigor - when all the bells and whistles are stripped away is the student's voice and message worth listening to?  In this course we are going to look at how students can create a product that will have influence and impact.  Today what really jumped out at me was this statement by Bernajean:  "attention is the most precious non-renewable resource".  We know that in most media messages we only have a matter of seconds to grab the attention of our audience - if we are not engaged in that time we simply move on, as we try to filter out the glut of information that we don't have time to deal with.

Bernajean explained that schools are organized around a thin track of learning intelligences (mostly linguistic and logical/mathematical) and that in the past students who were stronger in other intelligences were sometimes seen as not being smart. Traditionally schools have always aimed to teach students to write effectively and persuasively, but today words are often not enough.  Students need to be able to use media to represent their ideas "beyond words".  To do this effectively they need to move beyond decoration and onto design so that students can create dynamic products that grab and hold attention.  As teachers we also need to design learning tasks that allow students to show the evidence of their learning - and we need to make sure that the time invested in making these products pays back in terms of learning.  Multi-media also opens up assignments to students who have strengths in all intelligences - this allows students to personalize their learning and to show us their way of understanding.  Bernajean reminds us that we need to actually have an experience with the multimedia products that students create. A good product, she tells us, is remembered for its soul.

Would you like to find out more about Bernajean's course Craftsmanship - Students as Media Makers?  Check out ASB's Online Academy for details.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

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