Media Choices: How Do They Affect Teaching and Learning?

Media Choices: How Do They Affect Teaching and Learning?

Issue Editor
Chair, Department of Communication
MacEwan University, Edmonton, Canada

DOI: 10.15655/mw/2017/v8i1/41277

University and college educators use media significantly in their roles as teacher, supervisor and advisor. Whether it is in a classroom environment, an online setting, or a blended model of teaching, professors and lecturers make instructional choices that affect the framework of a lesson which can involve lesson development, lesson delivery, and lesson debriefing (or review after the lesson). As part of content decisions that are made in the creation of a lesson, media choices can facilitate the creation of a zone of learning and teaching that supports both educators and students in their quest for knowledge.

Vygotsky (1978) identified and described his zone of proximal development as a place and space where educators or more knowledge others (MKOs) share their content knowledge, expertise, and experience with the learner. This zone offers a platform where educators and students have an opportunity to engage and add to the base of this knowledge. How do media assist in creating this zone of proximal development? According to Vygotsky, one way children applied his zone in the classroom was by matching and imitating their teacher’s behavior (p. 84). As such, the idea of developing this zone in adult learning situations through matching and imitation activities can be extended to higher education and further to media and technology.

In today’s classroom, technology and social media provide various and numerous opportunities to match knowledge and to imitate this knowledge through the teaching and guidance of professorsfor the purpose of facilitating student learning, within a zone of proximal development. Therefore, professors are considered seminal in changing students’ perspectives about a topic, issue, or concern through the deliberate access and utilization of the zone of proximal development. One way that this is achieved is through the selection of media and technology within a course design and a lesson framework. It is Vygotsky’s critical zone that professors work within to establish new concepts and explore new methods of teaching and instruction. In this zone, the impact the professor has on the student is crucial in creating meanings and understandings of ideas. As such, media choices are used by professors to shape and extend teaching and learning strategies and techniques.

With the advent of new technologies, the media choices available to professors are significant, far reaching, and substantial in their effects on teaching in classroom, online, and blended learning modalities. The Internet has opened new pathways to teaching and learning that extend beyond the borders of what was traditionally used to create and deliver the content and materials of a lesson.

University professors are critical contributors to the development of programs, courses, and lessons. As part of their role, professors are expected to create comprehensive, learnercentered lessons that provide students with key information about specific topics. There are various factors that influence how professors develop their lesson plans, including context, DOI: 10.15655/mw/2017/v8i1/41277 content, intent, and arrangement of materials (Stark, 2000, p. 413). Additionally, teaching strategies (Gagné, 1987; Bloom, 1956; Grasha, 2002), learning style preferences (Kolb, 1984; Felder & Solomon, 1991; Rayner & Riding, 1997), experiences, events and meaning (Fiddler & Marienau, 2008), as well as instructional choices, media choices, elaborations, and reflections (Brookfield, 1995; Kolb, 1984; Reigeluth, 1978) influence professors’ decisions about a lesson, and also influence a lesson’s learning outcomes. A professor’s teaching approaches and techniques begin to develop early and continue to evolve, merge, intermix, and scaffold layers of knowledge, experience, and humanness into a complexly patterned and collaboratively comprehensive system that sustains a professor’s advancement of learning and teaching processes. Hence, it is with alacrity that the professor’s instructional and media choices determine course and lesson content, create assignment and assessment activities, select delivery and presentation media, and apply debriefing and reflective approaches to lesson development and delivery.

In a study by Boettcher (2007), she re-examined traditional teaching and learning practices based on current brain research and pedagogical theory. She developed a series of principles which took into consideration the direction in which education is taking as it moves from traditional teaching to blended and online learning environments that use new and digital technologies. She identified ten core principles to be considered when developing both traditional and online learning environments in higher education (p. 1). Boettcher’s study provided insight into how learning technologies can accommodate learning outcomes and learning styles. Her core principles present some useful strategies on how to update teaching and learning techniques in relation to new and digital technologies. Two of her principles are relevant to media choices regarding lesson development and delivery in higher education.

Core learning principle number three, We Shape Our Tools and Our Tools Shape Us, suggests that “learning only occurs within a context-that is, through an interaction between a person and a learning environment” (Boettcher, 2007, p. 7). Professors are positioned in universities to affect social positive change through critical dialogue and analysis of important societal issues and concerns, such as sustainable choices, political strategies within countries, and cultural and religious tensions, all of which enable both the professor and the students to engage in deep and enduring discussions. The media tools that are used to explore these crucial topics assist in shaping and influencing our understandings and subsequently, our current knowledge levels about them.

During the Euromaidan Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine (2014), one of the most critical media tools applied in the classroom at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA) Journalism School was Stop, a fact checking website. This media tool was used by lecturers, graduates, and students within the NaUKMA Digital Future of Journalism project. Many others within Ukraine joined these professors and students in verifying and refuting disinformation and propaganda about events in Ukraine during the Crimea annexation and the Eastern Ukraine war. Today, professors, students, and industry professionals work collaboratively to examine ongoing Kremlin propaganda. This website is a significant example of current and ongoing applications of media in a teaching and learning situation that extends beyond the parameters of the classroom lesson and that accesses real time situations in order to inform and provide experiential learning for Journalism graduate students at NaUKMA. This website also strives to provide fact checking of fake news about the countries of Syria and Turkey. To ensure that the results are accessible, they are offered in ten languages in the form of fact checking, editing, translation, and research of fake news. Dr. Yevhen Fedchenko, Director of the Journalism School at NaUKMA, applies this media tool with professors and students in order to directly engage them in real time experiential teaching and learning situations.

Boettcher’s (2007) second relevant principle to media choices is number six, which includes Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development (ZPD. She recognized that the importance of this shared teaching and learning space be developed and fostered by the professor and student (p. 7). This zone creates a place from which professors can reach into the learning spaces of students and determine how effectively their teaching techniques support cognitive laddering of ideas, concepts, and creativity through venues such as discussions, group work, and questions within the traditional classroom, online, and blended modalities. But the ZPD is a place and time that shifts according to students’ needs, which are concurrently supported by available media. The Internet is the platform from which professors can present new, historic, or in transition ideas that can be learned not only within a local context, but that can be taught from the perspectives of national and international cultures. For example, professors who teach within the discipline of media studies and film can choose from various media options such as television, YouTube, iTunes, DVD, free online channels, podcasts, and online subscriptions. These media selections offer a plethora of film choices that can be accessed by students so that they can experience and witness different languages, cultures, and customs from a global viewpoint.

Additionally, a professor can invite a filmmaker as a guest speaker directly into the classroom through the media choice of Skype, a live video streaming technology that provides real time interaction with students. The level of access to knowledge experts, databases, films, and current affairs through news stories is significant. Professors who are savvy with the application of these media and technologies are able to situate various levels of content into the lesson being taught. For example, a professor is able to include a documentary film, present its core and emerging key messages, and then discuss, analyze, and transform the tenets of the film all within the context of a lesson framework. It follows, then, that those professors who are willing to learn, understand, and operate media and new technologies in the classroom are those who are seeking to provide opportunities for their students to expand and deepen their knowledge about critical global issues such as climate change, political economy, war and refugees, and poverty.

Relevant, applicable, and accessible media choices that support core teaching and learning in universities, are foundational to expanding the perspectives of professors and students when situated in the zone of proximal development-the result is broader knowledge about other countries’ social, political, economic, cultural, and religious contexts as comparators to their own. Media choices, when used in the classroom, assist in removing barriers to teaching and learning.

This issue of Media Watch provides a forum from which scholars can present their ideas, experiences, and knowledge within the environment of higher education relative to media selection, teaching practices, and learning activities.

L. Meghan Mahoney, Bessie Lawton and Anita Foeman provide insights into course modality when the integration of blended learning technologies are used as a framework for public speaking curriculum. Within their article “Measuring the Impact of Course Modality on Student Knowledge, Performance, and Communication Apprehension in Public Speaking Pedagogy,” they discovered that changing the modality from traditional face-toface course delivery to a blended learning format offers additional options for professors and students to use when presenting and performing speeches. This unique subject area creates instructional challenges that can be addressed through innovative use of media when teaching. The study determines that technology use in a blended learning modality enhances instruction by increasing student knowledge, improving skills in performance related activities, and reducing performance apprehension.

Media literacy and pedagogy, when combined and used in media studies, present educators with opportunities for teaching multiculturalism through media images. As explained by Andrew Sharma in his article of “Multiculturalism, Diversity and Stereotypes: Engaging Students with Images in Media,” media are also important tools that provide self-examination of social structures regarding the portrayal of minorities and underrepresented groups within society. Sharma postulates that media enable educators to demonstrate how reinforced messages can influence their perspectives and biases when creating artistic works.

“Whither Objective Journalism in Digital Age: Malaysia’s Mainstream versus Alternative Media” by Wong KokKeong focuses on three news portals in Malaysia. He poses the following question in relation to objective journalism: While humans are, of course, subjective beings, is there no value for journalists to be trained to strive for fair and balanced reporting? He argues that if there is no difference between a trained journalist and an individual who shares information on the Internet and social media, then the role of news media and journalism as an institution are meaningless. He further states that objective journalism is continually faced with challenges. However, journalists should strive to meet these challenges through creative and alternative media and should continue to pursue objective journalism that provides balanced reporting.

The use of television when teaching professional ethics in higher education is considered an important media tool when facilitating student learning, as discovered by Maria T. Nicolas-Gavilan, Claudia F. Ortega-Barba,and Sara E. Galbán-Lozano. In their article, “Television Series Use in Teaching and Learning,” they found that including a television series as part of content for an ethics course demonstrated innovation on the part of the professor and assisted in advancing her teaching knowledge base. In the case of student learning, the use of television media indicated a stronger interest by students in the course content. The most revealing result of the study was that with the addition of television media in the classroom, the teaching and learning of ethical thinking was strengthened.

In his research study “New Media Technologies in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education,” Richard Rego examines the use of new media technologies in higher education in India. Most of the educators believe that students learn better and complete exams more effectively as a result of using NMTs in the classroom. One insight derived from the study was that there is a digital divide that exists in higher education in the state of Karnataka, whose capital city is Bengaluru, home to the IT-industry in India. However, there is a deficiency of educational, technological, and communication facilities in the state which has significantly affected the use of NMTs in education.

Ayse Asli Sezgin explains how Turkey is experiencing a shift regarding the technology source used to provide reading access and materials: electronic versus print publication. He identifies e-learning technology and electronic literacy as indispensable parts of the learning environment, as well as, society, in general. The use of traditional versus digital technologies for reading activities is linked to the learner’s personal traits which subsequently can influence their choice of these technologies. In his article “Traditional to Digital Literacy: The Case of Turkey,” Sezgin expounds on the critical activity of reading as an essential element to ensuring that knowledge creation, acquisition, and content analysis and reflection are available to all individuals who seek to read and learn.

In their article “Students’ Choice and Motivation for Journalism Education in Indian Private Universities,” Jyoti Ranjan Sahoo and Amitabh Srivastava explain the necessity for private journalism education in India to develop a common core curriculum that ensures academics maintain a voice regarding the training of new student journalists. They suggest that an approach which includes cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary teaching methods paralleled with a broad spectrum of cultural knowledge, language, and customs can support and foster opportunities for students within the journalism field.

In the article “Psycholinguistic Analysis of Information Support of Ukrainian Crisis in German Mass Media,” Alexandr Y. Petukhov and Polina D. Ivlieva examine German media sites and information regarding the crisis in Ukraine, comparing the selection of statements, their tone, and their key messages presented in the media. They provide examples where German media present Russia as a potential enemy of the EU and a dangerous neighbor during the Euromaidan crisis. They conclude that there is a need for equal fairness by German media to present both perspectives of this crisis.