This week my post is a response reflection to A.W. Bates’ Teaching In A Digital Age. In chapter 7 Bates discusses different types of digital sources and their impact on teaching and learning. Of all the digital sources, I believe that I, like my classmate Ashley, learn best by text. However, this could be because text has primarily been the only option for my learning. We were shown a video once in a blue moon in school, but most of my learning occurred through reading. I did well in school so I guess this worked for me. Some of the unique presentational characteristics of text are:
- text is very good at handling abstraction and generalisation;
- text enables the linear sequencing of information in a structured way;
- text has a linear structure which works well in the development of a sequential argument or discussion;
- still graphics such as graphs or diagrams enable knowledge to be presented differently from written language, either providing concrete examples of abstractions or offering a different way of representing the same knowledge.
Text also meets all the criteria as a medium for academic learning. I can attest to that; while taking a master’s degree you read a lot of books, journals, and articles. A LOT! There is good reason for using text as it is “particularly useful for developing the higher learning outcomes required at an academic level, such as analysis, critical thinking, and evaluation” (Bates, 2015, 184.108.40.206).
Bates also makes the point that although text is great, it comes with limitations. It requires a high level of literacy skills for it to be used effectively in teaching and learning. This is where I run into problems at the school I teach at. Many of my students have huge gaps, especially in their reading levels. I agree with Bates when he says,
“Print has been a dominant teaching technology, arguably at least as influential as the spoken word of the teacher. Even today, textbooks, mainly in printed format, but increasingly also in digital format, still play a major role in formal education, training and distance education” (Bates, 2015, 7.2.1).
So how can I reach the students that text doesn’t work for, in teaching them and in them being able to show their learning at high school level? I certainly try many different approaches, but I’d love to hear your ideas as well.
Bates refers to audio as the unappreciated medium. I would say I have to agree in that I don’t really appreciate it and don’t think it is that great, for me anyway. What a teacher adds by talking/teaching in a class is highly valuable, but Bates is mainly referring to recorded audio. I don’t have a lot of experience with just recorded audio and perhaps that is why it isn’t high on my digital source list for learning. I don’t listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I will admit, I haven’t really given them a chance, but I think my problem is that I zone out. Unless I am following allow with text, my mind begins to wander. I believe this is useful in the classroom as it can help develop literacy skills or support those students with lower literacy levels.
Video is a digital source I believe can add a lot to a lesson and allow students to deepen their understanding of a topic or concept. Sometimes when you are able to see something you’ve been reading about or watch a technique in action, it just makes so much more sense. I think that keeping videos on the shorter is side is better or interest can be lost. Videos can be frustrating or some if you’re trying to pick out certain pieces of information or rewatching looking for one particular part. Text can be easier to skim over and find what you’re looking for in these instances.
I think I need to incorporate more videos into my lessons. I get frustrated when it can take such a long time to search for one great video and then sometimes I end up not finding anything. I wonder if it was worth it or the best use of my time. I agree with Bates when he says that “students often reject videos that require them to do analysis or interpretation; they often prefer direct instruction that focuses primarily on comprehension.” This is not an excuse to not use video, we must teach students to use video differently.
Bates argues that video isn’t being used enough in education and when it is, it isn’t “exploiting the unique characteristics of video” (Bates, 2015, 7.4.4). I would love an example of how video should be used to in order for students to capitalize on its full effect.
My primary teaching area is high school math. How I was taught, and thus how I’ve been teaching for the most part, has had students communicate their learning in text (mostly via mathematical symbols). However, this class, other master’s classes, and some of my fellow colleagues have inspired me to look for other ways my students could show their learning. From what I have thought about so far, text would still be involved, but it would stray from the traditional test/worksheet assessments. Bates makes the case that we should be giving more attention to developing multimedia literacy skills in this digital age. He’s right, and that is also part of my inspiration for finding these alternate assessments. I would love to hear about ways you assess your students learning that vary from the traditional. Leave a comment below!