Toward the end of my Media Studies program I took a course in new media theory and was assigned the task of creating a new media perspective that considers both the work of previous new media scholars and includes my own contributions to the area. I took the opportunity to use this perspective as a way to tie together my work in media studies and communications with my future work in education.
Due to my current work with communications in an educational setting and my future work in teaching, my new media perspective focuses on the relationship between new media and education. My interest lies particularly in the area where education, economics and culture overlap.
Communications scholars have argued that new media provide unique opportunities for education by allowing for alternative ways of learning and potentially democratizing educational access (Cohen, 2010; Dwyer, 2011; Gilliam & Brindis, 2011; Kapp, 2010; Lamb, 2011; Mistry, 2009; Rafaeli, Hayat & Yaron, 2009). One such alternative opportunity for education is augmented learning, which includes the use of online sources (Cohen, 2010; Gilliam & Brindis, 2011), interactive “texts” (Lamb, 2011), and augmented reality programs and technologies (Kapp, 2010; Mistry, 2009). Annette Lamb’s writings on redefining reading in a digital age are particularly of interest to me. She writes:
“It’s time to expand the meaning of the phrase reading a book. First, let’s tackle the definition of reading. What’s involved with the activity? Must it involve only text, or can it include graphics, sounds, motion, and other kinds of symbols in addition to or instead of text? Does a book need to have a traditional start and finish? Or could the content emerge or even be created as the reader moves through the experience?” (Lamb 13)
Coming from an academic background in both literature and media studies that has allowed me to value their similarities and differences, this redefining of what it means to read through the blurring of text, image, sound, etc… seems to me like a logical progression for humanities-based education. I would add that this blurring of what it is to read or what constitutes a book paves the way for more sophisticated and interdisciplinary forms of education that allow students to see relationships across various subjects that they would not be able to otherwise.
A second way that new media transform education is by allowing for learning to be a lifelong process (Robinson, 2010). Sir Ken Robinson argues that life is not linear so education should not be either. He calls for a more organic style of education that allows students to follow their passions and he argues that new media technologies can provide the tools for this. Clearly, education no longer must be confined to a physical classroom. Web-based courses, video conferencing, and augmented reality programs such as Second Life allow for learning to take place in various online settings and can be an excellent solution in remote or understaffed areas or for students with unusual schedules or circumstances that prevent them from attending traditional style classes.
A final way that new media transform education is by offering alternative ways of creating knowledge (Dwyer 2011; Rafaeli, Hayat & Yaron, 2009). No longer restricted to physical texts such as encyclopedias, students now have a near infinite library of knowledge in the Internet. And while information found on the Internet is not equally reliable, accurate or valuable, there is nevertheless a democratic quality to the knowledge that can be found there that did not exist prior to the Internet. Wikipedia has become the most prominent example of this democratic type of knowledge, as the information found on the site is crowdsourced and decentralized.
In a similar vein, new media has the potential to democratize access to education. Because the Internet provides a wealth of information for a relatively low price, people who are unable to afford traditional education can still access knowledge.
But despite the many advantages that new media provides for education, communications scholars have also noted some unique disadvantages that new media create in relation to education.
While new media can provide relatively cheap access to information, scholars have noted that there exist issues of unequal access to technology and unequal technology knowledge (Gonick, 2012; Goode, 2010). Joanna Goode’s research on how technology knowledge impacts college students is particularly troubling. She speaks of the “digital divide” among students that is perpetuated by educational institutions. According to Goode, not only is access to technology an issue for many students, but knowledge of how to use the technology is perhaps an even larger hurdle. Lev Gonick discusses ways to combat the digital divide, calling upon institutions of higher learning (especially those located within urban or lower socioeconomic status communities) to find ways to connect with their communities and to effectively share their knowledge and access to technology. I think it is indeed important to question what the role of educational institutions should be in bridging the “digital divide” and that all educators should be aware of the amount of technological access and knowledge their students possess.
A second challenge that new media poses for education is that it has changed the ways in which young people socialize (Barnes, 2009; Ahn, 2011). June Ahn discusses the effects that social network sites (SNS) have on adolescent social and academic development. Ahn finds that today’s adolescents use SNS as mostly a positive socialization tool, a way to connect with each other, much like past generations did in physical spaces. Ahn also notes that SNS can offer various forms of literacy – such as networking – that exist outside of the classroom and can be beneficial to students.
However, some theorists argue that the new media usage has negative effects on adolescent concentration, interaction and socialization. Sherry Turkle believes that constant communication has made people, particularly young people, unable to connect or to be alone. While Turkle’s views on the dangers of being constantly connected are extreme, I do believe there is some value in being more discerning about when and how we connect.
Cautious of the advantages and challenges that new media provides to education, I advocate the importance of ensuring students are “new media literate.” This means that, first, education should incorporate new media technologies and students should know how to use them and should be given as much access to them as possible.
Secondly, students should be aware of what the sources of information that they find via new media are and should understand how to discern reliable information from unreliable information. Jessie Daniels’ work on cloaked websites highlights this idea. She looks at how some racist websites cloak themselves as legitimate sources of information and discusses the complexities of understanding the sources of Internet information.
Thirdly, students should understand, in general, how media ownership functions, and, in particular, how new media ownership functions. Communication theorists have extensively looked at how media ownership controls knowledge and has the potential to limit democracy (Barry, 2006; Jenkins, 2001; McChesney, 2006; Shane and Burns, 2011; Sunstein, 2006). I believe it is essential for students to be critical and discerning of all sources of information. The ever-changing dynamics of new media ownership make this even more imperative.
Lastly, student should know how to use new media and its technology ethically and carefully. Susan B. Barnes writes:
“Because young people known as the Millennials or ‘‘Generation Y’’ have grown up using computer technology, computer-mediated communication is replacing telephone and face-to-face exchanges. Playing video games, text messaging, and YouTube are part of their culture, but these technologies are new and they don’t have any ethical guidelines.” (Barnes 736)
Barnes argues that because the way this generation has grown up is so unique their education must include lessons on how to use technology ethically.
By incorporating and providing access to new media in educational settings, teaching students how to discern valuable and accurate information, providing students with a knowledge of how media ownership functions and by showing students how to use new media ethically, educators can take advantage of the opportunities new media provide, while also addressing the challenges it creates.
Ahn, June. “The Effect of Social Network Sites on Adolescents’ Social and Academic Development.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (2011) 62.8, 1435-45
Barkhuus, Louise and Tashiro, Juliana. “Student Socialization in the Age of Facebook.” CHI ’10 Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems (2010)
Barnes, Susan B. “Relationship Networking: Society and Education.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (2009) 14, 735-742
Barry, Andrew. “’On Interactivity.” The New Media Theory Reader. Ed. R. Hassan and J. Thomas (2006)
Cohen, Patricia. “In 500 Billion Words, a New Window on Culture.” New York Times (Dec. 16, 2010)
Daniels, Jessie. “Cloaked Websites: Propaganda, Cyber-racism and Epistemology in the Digital Age.” New Media and Society (2009) 11.5, 659-83
Dwyer, Liz. “Could the Days of Wikipedia Being a Banned Research Source Be Over?” GOOD Education, (March 23, 2011)
Gilliam, Melissa and Brindis, Claire. “Virtual Sex Ed: Youth, Race, Sex and New Media.” Sexuality Research and Social Policy (2011) 8:1, 1-4
Gonick, Lev. Six Minutes with Lev Gonick. New Media Consortium (2012)
Goode, Joanna. “The Digital Identity Divide: How Technology Impacts College Students.” New Media & Society (2010) 12.3, 497-513
Jenkins, Henry. “Challenging the Concensus.” Boston Review (Summer 2001)
Kapp, Craig. “Augmented Reality in the Classroom.” 2010 Symposium on New Media and Learning, (March 2010)
Lamb, Annette. “Reading Redefined for a Transmedia Universe.” Learning and Leading with Technology, (Nov. 2011) 13-17
McChesney, Robert. “’Policing the Thinkable’, Opendemocracy.net.” The New Media Theory Reader. Ed. R. Hassan and J. Thomas (2006)
Mistry, Pranav. The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology. TEDIndia (Nov. 2009)
Rafaeli, Scheizaf, Hayat, Tsahi and Ariel, Yaron. “Knowledge Building and Motivations in Wikipedia: Participation as ‘Ba.’” Cyberculture and New Media. Ed. Francisco J. Ricardo (2009)
Robinson, Sir Ken. “Bring on the Learning Revolution!” TED (2010)
Shane, Scott and Burns, John F. “U.S. Subpoenas Twitter Over Wikileaks Supporters.” New York Times (Jan. 8, 2011)
Sunstein, Cass. “Citizens.” The New Media Theory Reader. Ed. R. Hassan and J. Thomas (2006)
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. Basic Books (2011)