I recently had a discussion with some students regarding the most important debate in all of high school. Playstation or Xbox? I’ve also had similar discussions around other topics as well where people are comparing two very similar products with pretty much the same utility. Apple and Android is another big one these days. Sometimes things get so heated it almost comes to blows. This might sound like harmless debating, but I’m not so sure it is so harmless. It’s okay to like a certain product more than another, but do we have to unleash all our fury against the other one? I’m an Apple person, but at one point I was Blackberry. Android probably does certain things better than Apple, and vice versa. If we can change our mindset to acknowledge that everything other than our favourite isn’t the worst thing ever conceived, we can tap into what the ‘other guys’ offer that we aren’t currently getting.

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And this has to do with various media types how?

Well, some people carry this type of thinking over to things such as their favourite media choices…it’s video or nothing! Or all digital media is garbage, only books will suffice for learning.

Can’t we just all have our favourite type, but appreciate that each one has it’s own beauty and can be more effective for particular tasks?

I actually don’t have a particular favourite. My selection of a particular media may hinge on the mood I’m in, what resources are available to me, what the topic is, how much time I have, etc.

As teachers, we need to consider these factors and more when we make selections for our students. Bates identifies numerous advantages and disadvantages for the various media and so we need to make a very conscious effort to understand what each form of media offers and make our selection based on what we really want to accomplish with our lesson. We also need to accept and understand that each student may have one particular type that works best for them, and so incorporating each form of media at various points aids in supporting each student in the class. What works even better is to have multiple media options available to students so that they can tap into whichever one works best for them, given the particular topic.

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Fridays in my classes are often time for students to work on and review whatever they need to focus on. I’ll use my health science 20 class from last semester as an example. If one was to look around the class on a Friday one might see some students on computers working on MOOC’s, others re-watching videos such as Crash Course to get a better understanding of a particular topic they were struggling with, others would be reading text, and yet others would be just listening to others explain something to them. I love this type of set up as I have to make a particular choice regarding what media to use for a full class lesson, but by giving them the time and the resources, they can make personal choices for what will suit them the best to really master a topic.

When reflecting on my own learning and use of particular media options, I find the single question I weight the most when deciding which to use is ‘what is the highest quality source I know of or have for this topic’? I don’t think it much matters if you prefer reading, video, or audio if the source is garbage. Quality media leads to quality learning. I think historically, text was typically the highest quality media available and so it made sense to lean heavily on text sources in the classroom. Thankfully, creating good audio and video is becoming easier and there are many sources out there such as Crash Course creating high end videos for education (I swear I’m not on Crash Course’s payroll, just a big fan!). Bates’ notes that, “video is particularly useful for recording events or situations where it would be too difficult, dangerous, expensive or impractical to bring students to such events”. I am a science teacher, and this has science written all over it. I can’t take my students to the Large Hadron Collider, but there’s video available, such as the documentary Particle Fever. Science also deals heavily with things too large or too small to have ever been seen by students, and so video can be especially helpful in providing visuals to help understand something they have no actual experience with.

Sometimes, you also need to consider other factors beyond what is the highest quality option available. Unfortunately, money sometimes needs to be a factor and one has to select freely available text vs. some more effective, but costly, type of media. I also might listen to a podcast while driving as opposed to reading or watching video for obvious reasons! And I need to stand up right now for audio! Bates’ calls audio “the unappreciated medium”, and when I read Kelsie’s and Angela’s blogs they both alluded to not learning very well from audio, but I like audio and I like learning from audio! Audio needs some love! Sometimes I prefer listening to AM 1190 for Blue Jays radio broadcasts over the televised broadcast. I am an avid StarTalk radio listener and have learned lots from it! I think audio definitely has some limitations, such as you have to have an engaging voice and someone who can twirl a great narrative to hold a listeners attention, and depending on the topic you might need to have a fair bit of prior knowledge so that you can visualize without the aid of actual visuals. But I find good audio to be very engaging as the lack of visual stimuli almost seems to take away distractions for me and allows me to really focus in on the narrative and paint my own picture in my mind.

Creating all of this media can be incredibly time consuming, but just remember that so much quality content has already been created, you just have to find it, and this is where a tool such as Twitter can really be valuable. Surround yourself with the right community of people, ask away, and you’ll have all kinds of recommendations for good media coming your way!

Oh, and by the way, back to that very first question…

The answer is playstation!

Live long and prosper

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