As Prof. Jennifer George-Palilonis and I push forward with our Transmedia Indiana project, I wanted to take a moment to explain exactly why I think that what we’re doing has some innovative components to it within the classroom.
In Part 1, I discussed the idea of creating a classroom where knowledge is acquired not by a single person memorizing data, but by a group collective working towards a common purpose. In Part 2, I’ll attempt to explain the research behind that thinking.
Part 2: How We Study, a Pearson-sponsored Center for Media Design Study
My undergraduate degree from Miami University is in Communications Education, with an emphasis on the secondary grades. My particular focus was on students who struggled with reading, a topic taught to me by Dr. Alan Frager, one of the best professors I ever had.
The best class I took was a practicum where we spent 1 day a week examining research around different reading comprehension problems, 1 day a week working with middle school students, and 1 day a week discussing our findings and write-ups from our work with students.
I took two things from that class:
- always attack the learning mechanism for students from a research-oriented background; and
- incorporate several modes of teaching into each lecture, giving students the opportunity to find the mechanism (seeing, hearing, doing) best suited for them.
I’ve carried that idea with me since 1994, through my short career as a middle school teacher, into my career as a journalist, and back to my career as a college professor. I’ve always had the notion that data helps make decisions and multiple entry points ensures the widest audience.
Hardly groundbreaking thinking, I know.
I tell you that story because I wanted to illustrate how I came to my thinking about incorporating transmedia storytelling components into my classes. I’m pre-disposed to look for ways to bring multiple layers into my classroom.
This notion was hammered home even further when I was introduced to the Pearson-sponsored study done by my colleagues at Ball State University.
The group asked 111 students to take pictures of themselves studying throughout the semester, and to keep a diary of how they studied. In a digital age, those who believe in the idea of the digital native (I do not) must assume these students would be deploying high-end technological skills.
It turns out, they are not.
Of the top 12 ways students studied, only four involved technology. They were:
- some online activity
- looking at Blackboard for notes
- searching for a specific answer
- taking notes on a computer
Mostly, students were reading books and articles, highlighting, writing notes, memorizing, and reciting. In other words, their study habits were no different than their 18th century counter-parts.
(Side note: we know from cognitive science that the least effective tool for learning is memorization and yet our entire school mechanism is based upon the notion of memory. See the “Illusion of Memory” discussion in the book The Invisible Gorilla.)
Which brings us to the exciting conclusion:
- If we believe from Part 1 that we can create learning environments from collectives where knowledge – better knowledge – can be created, then we should be exploring the ways in which that might happen.
- Particularly if we understand that:
- memory is a bad way to learn; and
- students need multiple media inputs in order to create the best learning environment within a classroom.
- Then it behooves us to begin to look for ways that we can integrate networked technologies into the classroom so that our students can begin to understand how to deploy these technologies to create knowledge.
In other words, the (very basic) research suggests that students don’t grok how to use modern technologies to be smarter, and yet we know that creating group environments can help students create better knowledge.
My tactics within the classroom involve creating multi-media components that engage students both within the physical environment of the class and in the cyber realm outside the class. The idea is to make them chase information together, collecting, gathering, and presenting using the skills they have.
It’s a combination of Mastery Learning and Student-Work-As-Text (the second term I made up for the terminology I can no longer remember) by deploying modern, networked tools.