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Pedagogical implications of digital media???

May 14, 2012
Children sitting at a long table, setting up their laptops.

How has the widespread availability of digital media changed our teaching? What, indeed, are the “pedagogic implications of digital media”? The field is endless, especially if we throw in emerging technologies, and yet this is what we have been asked to deal with in a mere 2,000 words for an assignment as part of a post-graduate Diploma entitled “Digital Media for Education.” What better way to get my mental juices flowing than to think about this aloud, on this blog!

On the face of it, digital media have changed every educator’s teaching profoundly, at home and in class. The same is true for the children’s learning.

I do not know of a single teacher who does not use the internet widely for lesson preparations (and for support re all sorts of issues in school, be it through community forums like www.educationposts.ie or specific sites like http://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/).

Practically every classroom now has at least a data projector if not an interactive whiteboard. In the primary schools I am aware of, having five PCs at the back of the class is the norm, and these schools also have a Laptop Trolley which allows whole classes to use computers, on a 2 students : 1 laptop basis. Broadband, and a comparatively open attitude to sites like YouTube have made using digital media in the classroom easy. One school even has a class set of digital cameras.

Students come into school already able to use keyboards, mice, touchscreens (in most cases). They use digital media in a myriad of formats, and by the end of primary school, there are few who do not have access to at least one of these: Internet, Smartphone, gaming platforms. The norm is that they have all three. They thus have access to a collection of knowledge, tools, and entertainment that was completely unimaginable just one generation ago.

But do teachers, schools and students use digital media ‘right’?

This, in turn, leads to a pivotal question. How do you know you use digital media ‘right’? And This question should be answered in the context of the response to an even wider question: Why do anything in school at all? And this is where I need to remind myself of the basics.

For that, I tend to go back to “The General Aims of Primary Education,” as stated in the Introduction volume of the Irish Primary curriculum. That sounds dire, dry, boring, but to me, it isn’t.

You see, the Irish Primary Curriculum is what drew me into primary teaching – its aims are brilliant, its child-centred approach is fantastic, we just need to be able to actually teach that way (and class size is an issue here, but I digress), but look at the general aims of primary education, as stated there on p.7:

 Quote from the introduction to the Irish Primary Curriculum

This, then, is the benchmark for everything we do in school. We should not use digital media just because they are there, not just because they are fun (although motivation is an important factor), not just because we are told that we need to keep up with technological development. We should use them because they help achieve a goal in the interest of the child – see above.

For the pedagogical implication of digital media, that means, in my opinion:

  • give each child the skills to function fully in a world where digital media are prevalent
  • enable children to understand the structures around digital media, especially issues around social networking, the permanency of one’s internet presence, the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, but also how to develop as a “social being” – that includes reflection on their role as a global citizen
  • and everything that is taking place in school now should strengthen the child to continue learning in future.

Great, thanks for listening – I think I’m all set for that assignment now!

PS: Another (by-)product of this course is my huge liking for Minecraft, and the website I have created in order to help teachers bring Minecraft into primary schools. Do have a look! www.primaryminecraft.com

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One Comment
  1. Morag permalink

    A highly informative blog. Detailed accuracy and honestly written. How far ICT has enabled our children to grow/learn and also us as educators not to mention your good self as a superbly talented blogger. Well done on this and look forward to hearing more very soon on an array of topics.

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