New media. New behaviour. New teaching paradigm.

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According to Leo LaPorte on This Week in Tech (October 13, 2013) half of millennials never watch television.

When I heard Leo say this, my first thought was … “hang on.. that can’t be right!” But then came the enlightening moment when I considered my own four sons, and it dawned on me that THEY almost never watch television!

Sure, they have a television (a really nice, big one at that!) and they use it as a screen for playing Playstation, or for streaming video from their iDevices via AppleTV – but they don’t come home from school, turn on Channel 9 and watch Happy Days like I did when I was a kid.  Nor do they listen to commercial radio or read mainstream newspapers.  Instead, my sons watch hours of YouTube videos, listen to podcasts and find out about world events from websites  blogs and social media.

This is a more profound recent social change than it seems at first. Our students are the first Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 4.30.19 pmgeneration in 400 years who consume content using media forms to which they can just as readily contribute.

As kids, we could watch the TV shows that were served up to us, but we could neither choose the content, nor contribute to it.  Our students can do both.

What an opportunity this presents in the classroom! For the most part we still treat students as though the “work” they are doing is merely an exercise; as though they are just practising for the real world; as though, like our younger selves, they have no avenue for publishing their work!  When English teachers have their students write an essay, why are they asking for it to be ‘handed in’ to them, rather than demanding it be published as a blog post? Why are science teachers accepting a lab report handed in on paper, when students could be reporting the results of their science experiment in a YouTube video?

When we were kids, publishing was out of the question. Our teachers didn’t have a choice.  We do.


10 thoughts on “New media. New behaviour. New teaching paradigm.

  1. As an English teacher, I have students writing essays and other forms of writing because they are a useful mode of expression, and this is true if they are handwritten, spoken, or published online. I completely agree that the mode of just writing for the teacher is bonkers. But essay is not another word for unreadable. Students should be writing so that it can (and often is) published. What they write should be informative and/or entertaining, something an essay, or a story, or an argumentative piece, is quite capable of doing.

    A blog is just a way of publishing, rather than a format in itself. One I’ve used for well over a decade, but just a way to share.

      • Once again, I think we are on the same wavelength here Mark. You are right that I was certainly not saying students should not be writing essays – just that when they do, they should be encouraged to publish it, rather than simply hand it in to the teacher. I read back over my post, and could see how you misinterpreted what I’d written (my fault) so I have amended the sentence to make it less ambiguous.

        For readers, who are just now seeing this exchange, the original post read: “…Why are English teachers still asking kids to write an essay and hand it to them – rather than demanding that they write a blog post?”

      • Yes, I fell into the common mistake of reading a sentence and constructing meaning before I finished the sentence. When I read by own writing, I have trouble telling when I am being circumspect and making this ambiguity possible or likely.

  2. Great post Andrew.
    I had an experience a couple of weeks ago where I had to explain to my 4yo son that no one was changing the channel on the television, that what he was seeing were commercials. It dawned on me too that almost all of his entertainment came via downloads, DVD’s and YouTube, he’d never really watched commercial television in his life.

    You’re also spot on with the importance of publishing, it’s not only a far more engaging and interesting way for students to share their knowledge. But the practical skills involved in curating and sharing digital content is becoming more valuable by the day.

    The other key point that this raises is what will the next generation of students will expect and accept in relation to the structure of their education. As you rightly pointed out our TV experience consisted of, Happy Days is on for the next half an hour. Take it or leave it. Whereas they have more choice in entertainment than we could begin to imagine, any time of the day on a range of different devices.
    My High School experience consisted of . . . .
    These are your classes, these are the times and locations you’ll be attending, take it or leave it.
    At what point will students demand a whole new level of choice in their education as well? I think ‘Flipping’ is just the very beginning.

    • I love your comment Mark. YES! the typical school timetable is not *at all* unlike scheduled television programming. That is a very astute observation! The printed timetable even resembles a TV guide:

      9:00 am | English | Room: C2 | Teacher: Smith
      9:50 am | Biology | Room: F6 | Teacher: Douch
      11:00 am | Chemistry | Room: E2 | Teacher: Brown
      11:50 am | Textiles | Room: D3 | Teacher: Taylor
      1:35 pm | History | Room: B1 | Teacher: King
      2:30 pm | Maths | Room: F6 | Teacher: Jones

      5:00 pm | Just Shoot Me | Channel: 7mate
      5:30 pm | Seinfeld | Channel: 7mate
      6:30 pm | Pimp My Ride | Channel: 7mate
      7:00 pm | How I Met Y… | Channel: 7mate

      If Gen Y/Z have rejected the scheduled programming in the latter – what influence does that have on their engagement with the scheduled programming in the former?

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion. 🙂

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