A Long Post Avoiding the Question

I hate having to choose between video, audio, and text. I began to think about what my own learning medium preferences are and it was more difficult to decide than I expected. My first reaction was text. Ever since I was a kid, I loved to read and still do. I can read pretty quickly and I can remember information easily. But I realized that I also love videos. The audio-visual combination makes learning concepts very easy. Obviously, both text, audio, and visual have endless pros and cons, and I could spend my whole blog post discussing it (and as such, reproducing what Bates already did a much better job of). However, rarely do we  choose only one, because we are constantly choosing different media for different tasks. It might depend on what the purpose is. I also think that more and more, these media are synthesizing into something new, combining all aspects of text, audio, and visual.

One of my favourite YouTube Channels is Nerdwriter. If you are looking for insightful commentary on a wide variety of topics and great production quality, check him out. More specifically, he gives a great TEDx talk on the ‘video essay’ and how the essay format has changed over time. It makes you realize how the video is becoming an acceptable way to ‘write’ an essay. Will this be the way that students submit book reports in the near future? 

In chapter 7 of Teaching in a Digital Age, Bates outlines 5 critical questions that need to be asked about teaching and learning in order to choose an appropriate medium:

  • what is my underlying epistemological position about knowledge and teaching?
  • what are the desired learning outcomes from the teaching?
  • what teaching methods will be employed to facilitate the learning outcomes?
  • what are the unique educational characteristics of each medium/technology, and how well do these match the learning and teaching requirements?
  • what resources are available?

However, the most critical part of identifying these questions is what Bates states right after:

“These are not questions best asked sequentially, but in a cyclical… manner”.

This is a significant instruction, not only for blended teaching, but for all teaching. It represents an important shift in the role of the teacher. In today’s world, teachers are no longer an owner or dispenser of knowledge, they are (or need to be) facilitators of knowledge. This shift in philosophy is becoming more attainable and also more essential for learning. If student learning is the goal, then the question becomes how can we facilitate each student’s learning. Teaching is most effective when students are given the resources to learn. Teachers can acknowledge the expertise of others without having to be the expert themselves.  Teachers can be curators, not only creators.

The strength of a blended teacher lies in the fact that it becomes easier to ask yourself questions in a “cyclical manner”. More specifically, and obviously more important, it allows you to ask “how can I help my students learn?”. The online environment allows the teacher to adjust more quickly and more appropriately to the needs of his or her students. The question isn’t “what medium of technology is the best for this content or skill?”. The question should be “what medium of technology is best for my student to learn this content or skill?” Once we are able to shift the focus of this question, we can unlock the true power of blended learning.

Blended learning can help students overcome many obstacles to learning, whether it is distance, time, boredom, disability, or availability. The various ways that information can be presented offers a way for students to find how they learn best. Post an article and a video on a concept and let the student have more ways to learn. I like and use it all. 
In other words… I hate having to choose.




3 thoughts on “A Long Post Avoiding the Question

  1. Hey Graham, fantastic post! I was intrigued by the Nerdwriter so I checked out his latest video on Youtube to see what is the videoessay all about. Ended up watching a fascinating video on “How Donald Trump Answers a Question”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aFo_BV-UzI, which then spurred me to go on and watch Evan Puschak’s TedTalk… You get the idea. I was intrigued… and I love your idea regarding students submitting video essays. Multimedia definitely has the potential to open doors to literacy for many of our students. I have had a chance to see this in my own grade 7/8 classroom. Ask kids to “Write an expository research essay on ____in traditional 5 paragraph essay form” and you might get a couple “yaays” in the crowd (who am I kidding… no one says, “Yaaay”). Ask them to construct a digital story on the same topic going through the same expository process for writing, just with a different medium of sharing that being video… and you will definitely get kids a lot more excited. Just as you said in your post, “If student learning is the goal, then the question becomes how can we facilitate each student’s learning”. By giving students the tools to be the creators in their learning in a way that captivates them… and not just “going through the motions”, that is the true essence of what it means to develop lifelong learners.

    Anyways… I know super long comment… but I loved your post!


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