EdTech podcast #2: Media is crap?

Hi Everyone,

I hope you enjoy the podcast. Comments & feedback most welcome. As are questions.

EdTech Podcast #2: Media is Crap?
Brian & I look at the role media plays in teaching & learning. How does the choice of media shape the meaning of the message? How does media influence pedagogical strategy? Does it matter which form of media is used to deliver content?

Advertisements
    • dave
    • March 16th, 2011

    I have to totally agree with Brian on this one (even for the “is” part…media is a collective noun acceptable as a singular). I agree with Richard E. Clark, who says the same thing, too. Clark’s words are these:

    The media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in nutrition

    He goes on more pragmatically in Media Will Never Influence Learning where after hard research he says:

    we have failed to find compelling causal evidence that media or media attributes influence learning in any essential and structural way. [snip] media research is a triumph of enthusiasm over substantive examination of structural processes in learning and instruction.

    It’s hard to work where we work doing what we do, with all of our multimedia enthusiasm, and accept this hard reality.

    Jeff mentions cognitive load. In a chapter Clark did for Richard Mayer’s The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning he says:

    writing with many instructional strategies and complex screen displays risk overloading working memory and causing “automated” cognitive defaults where mental effort is both reduced and directed to nonlearning goals. Complicating this finding is strong evidence that learners are not aware when they become overloaded and enter a default state.

    If we are going to look at Moby Dick as a primary example of media’s success, and say Huston’s movie helps teach it better, I really need to ask what it is we’re teaching. Whaling? Nineteenth century nautical history? Economics? Or Melville? Melville embraces them all. Melville is Melville because of the written word. I’d even go so far as to say Moby Dick is an instance where no other media can teach it as successfully as the written novel, so it stands as proof that media makes a difference. We do, however, have to make an unpopular leap when we consider literature to be a type of media (mass communication).\

    I’ve worked on many Flash modules that could have been done just as effectively with a single illustration; it isn’t nearly as “sexy” though, and in the end, sexy wins because we’re selling, not teaching. Selling media, selling our importance, selling technology.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the thoughtful input. In my opinion media, and I would include the written word, is not neutral by nature. It is designed for something, generally something that is an active part of the learning process that happens naturally in everyday life. Could it be poor pedagogy that neutralizes the advantages media? I don’t know.

      But I do know that when Alexandria was sacked at the library burned all knowledge for the Western world was seemingly lost and the Dark Ages begun. I do know that powerful computer-based technologies allow us to run statistical analysis that never could have been done before. We can see farther into space and further back in time because of these new media. We can examine works or art in ways that were impossible before. We can extrapolate what life was like on Earth because of models we can build. We can predict and plan for the future. These things happen in school as well as in the world. We use them because they extend our reach.

      Could the issue be that we make the folly of applying new media to a problem that doesn’t need to be solved? I hang on to the last line of the Clark article you cite:

      “It seems reasonable to recommend, therefore, that researchers refrain from producing additional studies exploring the relationship between media and learning unless a novel theory is suggested.”

      We need novel theories.

    • mmeyer24
    • March 17th, 2011

    Dave’s points in his comment are so dead on. I think it’s important to keep in mind that the art of media production is separate from the design of instructional events. Too often in projects, it is seen as one and the same. Oddly, in this way, the skills that instructional (learning) designers is evaluated by those outside that particular craft by it’s perceived media production value.

    In my days as an e-learning projects director, I recognized the value of manipulating projects with high end media. Yes, whore-like, I know. But our sales people won more projects based upon sharing totally superfluous media pieces with potential customers. In fact, we would strategically decide on certain projects to include something ‘over the top’, knowing that when this project was shown to executive level people, they would be impressed. They would feel that what we were doing was ‘great’. We knew these pieces were completely unnecessary for the learning objective but it was ‘sexy’. I called these our ‘signature’ pieces.

    I’m not saying that producing high end media is not always unneeded. But what it does is impress the ‘casual’ consumer of an overall e-learning experience. It sells, but in isolation, it is not better teaching.

  1. It seems that much of this discussion is centered on media produced by faculty for student consumption. In this case, I agree with what everyone is saying here, for the most part. Many studies show that video or images do not improve student learning as compared to textual representations of content. There’s some indication that using audio or video may improve long-term retention, but I don’t think there is much research on this. Faculty and instructional designers should think very hard about whether or not the expense of producing media is actually necessary.

    With that said, I really don’t think the power of media in education is in delivering content to students, any more than I believe that you can improve teaching with better lectures. The real value is in allowing students to create media as a means of structuring and communicating their ideas. Aside from the fact that media creation is an increasingly important job skill, there are several aspects of media creation that can positively impact learning and student engagement. The cognitive processes involved in translating ideas between media (ex: reading and then expressing visually) cause students to attend to their learning and make additional conceptual links as well as demonstrate higher-order thinking. Creating media is also fun, and we know that engagement positively impacts learning. Granted, not all media projects see these results, but I think that’s more a matter of instructional design than of the potential of the approach itself.

    • Hi Chris,

      Good stuff. Thanks. We did focus more on the delivery of the medium from the instructor & ID perspective. I like where you’re coming from re: the student perspective that may be another podcast. I think there’s a lot to discuss in this realm.

      Your one thought really struck me

      The real value is in allowing students to create media as a means of structuring and communicating their ideas. Aside from the fact that media creation is an increasingly important job skill, there are several aspects of media creation that can positively impact learning and student engagement. The cognitive processes involved in translating ideas between media (ex: reading and then expressing visually) cause students to attend to their learning and make additional conceptual links as well as demonstrate higher-order thinking. Creating media is also fun, and we know that engagement positively impacts learning

      We talked about cognitive load in the podcast. In my work with Dr. Dwyer exploring various enhancements to computer-based lessons we found that too much media actually had a negative impact as students were forced to attend to that instead of the content. This is not a new discovery. There’s years of research on negatively impacting learning by drawing the focus away from the material.

      One of the things I believe we need to study is the impact of having students engage with content this way. How much attentiveness is on the media and how is that impacting the learning goals? (For better & worse). And, how much mental energy should be spent on both? I think you are right on with your point about these being job skills. Therefore, we are obligated to provide this to our students. It should not be an and one but written in the program goals & objectives.

      I say this believing it is incumbent upon us to explore these means of learning & expression. Because by doing so we’ll be in a better position to align various media with student engagement, expression, and learning. In my opinion, this is the future direction of expression and we in the academy would be foolish to turn a blind eye toward it.

    • Brian Young
    • March 25th, 2011

    Chris,

    I enjoyed your comment, and think that you offer a unique perspective on media from a student perspective. I can’t see, though how having students create something using media can have any impact on learning the content. I think what I said in the podcast is as true for students as it is for instructors. If the goal of the instructor is to teach students how to use video software, than a video based project is a very good assignment. But, I don’t think that the requirement of having students create something like a video is the reason that they are learning more about the content. Because of the nature of the assignment, they are forced to spend more time reading and reviewing the material. This is a very good thing, but is not exclusive to the production of media. This is a shift in teaching practice, and can be accomplished using many different types of assignments. Using complex tools to create videos just complicates learning.

    As an instructional designer, I look for the most effective way to accomplish the educational goals. If the goal is for students to “attend to their learning and make additional conceptual links as well as demonstrate higher-order thinking”, assigning something like a writing assignment can be as effective, or in some cases, much more effective that the same assignment as completed in a video format. It’s all a matter of what our instructional goals are, and our ability to stay focused on those goals.

    All that being said, we need to (as Jeff says) investigate more fully, the role that media production plays in student engagement, and interaction. There is something there, and we need to better understand the connections. I will stand by the idea, though that these types of assignments, while very interesting, are no better than a traditional writing assignment.

  2. Thanks guys. I really appreciate this discussion. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen the impact a well designed video project can make, and have done some research in this area myself. But even so, I admit that we’re on shaky ground at times, as often happens when the “ground” is made of rapidly evolving technologies.

    A point both of you make is regarding media technology being distracting and potentially detracting from learning. I agree, and that case could also be made for any technology. Obviously we need to look at affordances and potential impact and weigh that against the added cognitive load and time to complete a task. I think people perceive media technology as being particularly complicated, and thus the equation doesn’t pan out for them. I can only say that every single decision I’ve made in designing the Media Commons has been to simplify and streamline student workflow. Kaltura wasn’t introduce for it’s bells and whistles, it was the most dead-simple way to author a video project. The one-button video studio is another great example of massively simplified workflow – there’s no difficult technology at all there. I’m not going to say that it’s as simple as picking up a pencil and writing on a piece of paper, but it’s pretty damn close to being as easy as using a word processor.

    …which leads me to my next point, which is that if it IS this easy, then we should look at the affordances of the technology and match them with instructional needs and if there is a valid justification, then we should use it. Brian – I’m not suggesting we should replace every written paper with a video project, but there are certain concepts that lend themselves particularly well to visual and audio representation (language practice, presentations, etc). As you say:

    “assigning something like a writing assignment can be as effective, or in some cases, much more effective that the same assignment as completed in a video format”

    I would also say that in some cases, a video project can be as effective, or in some cases, much more effective than a writing assignment. I don’t think there’s any research that says the writing assignment is always the right instructional decision. Again, it’s a matter of identify the needs and matching the right solution to that need. Video is not always the right choice any more then writing a paper is always the right choice.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: