The Media Medium

Posted on February 12, 2017. Filed under: Eci834, educational, Masters, teaching and learning, Technology |

“Different epistemological positions and theories of learning affect the design of teaching, and these influences will also determine a teacher’s or an instructor’s choice of appropriate media” (Bates, Teaching in a Digital Age)


“Medium” photo credit: Steve Dashiell via Flickr

Quick rabbit trail: Canadian communication theorist, Marshall McLuhan, (1911-1980) proposes an interesting idea that the medium is the message. Read more about that here.


Ashley and Andrew both speak about how we need to be conscious of what media we 4016867844_ba341f087d_zchoose when we think about what’s best for our learners.I completely agree with them. When I was in my first year of education, I remember learning about multiple intelligences and how that affects student’s learning, but this is piggybacking onto that idea in a whole new digital realm.

I know that I am an auditory learner. I tend to retain more information through listening than I do through visuals or kinaesthetically. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that audio is my medium of choice when I think about learning digitally. I learn through listening when I am in a room with a person who is teaching me, but if I am learning digitally, I find that I need many more ‘links’ and ‘connections’ to make the same learning happen.

First of all, I find that learning digitally can sometimes be distracting. I find that multi tasking takes over and I sometimes don’t engage as deeply with content as I would have had I been in a face to face conversation.  That said, it does not mean that learning digitally isn’t better or just as useful. I love opportunities to learn digitally, often from the comforts of my own home. As a new parent, I love watching all sorts of YouTube videos about baby hacks like this one:

I also love listening to sleep training podcasts rather than sitting with a book.  I am a big fan of taking online classes where I can log on to my computer and not drive all the way to the University. I believe that when we learn digitally, the instructor needs to think critically about how they are presenting the content.

Bates says that teachers need to ask themselves 5 questions when selecting appropriate media/technologies:

  • 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?

These are important questions for any teacher to ask before we choose media options for our student’s learning. There are different tools/mediums to use depending on the situation.  No one tool will work every time. I can’t even say that I prefer one type of media to another. It all depends on what I am doing/learning.

One thing I appreciate is when professors/teachers give students choice when asking for them to display their learning. U of R professor Christine Massing has allowed this in her critical pedagogies of preschool class. She is allowing the students to respond to the readings through different mediums- text, audio, video, etc. I have taken advantage of this opportunity to use these different mediums, and each week I have tried to use a different form of media- written response, visual art, music, and video blog to respond to the


“Journalism and media students” photo credit: City College Norwich via Flickr

readings. I have tried to respond in a medium that is sensible and seemingly connects to my understanding of the readings that week. It’s been great how it seems like a different media can help you get across what you want, depending on the topic. It has also caused me to go deeper into the content and connect with the content in more ways. I wonder what this looks like for our students?

Speaking of choice, this article reminded me of Katia‘s tweet a couple weeks ago that shared how she wants to blog her dissertation. I totally understand this desire! I love blogging way more than traditional writing, as I find it can engage your audience in so many more ways. I love seeing a picture every few paragraphs that makes you think. I think referencing people/content with a hyperlink is so much more valuable and accessible than a reference list at the end of a document.  When you spend so much time thinking and researching a topic, as you do for something as big as a dissertation, I love the idea of it being shared with more people than the select ivory tower few. I think blogging is an excellent way to share knowledge, opinions, and information, and this is exactly why I use blogging in my elementary class.



All that said, it still comes back to epistemological positions and theories around teaching and learning. Media can support one’s beliefs, but should be rooted in solid “best practice” pedagogy. In my experience, if media is still just used as an add-on rather than a medium, it is not that beneficial to the learning experience and retention of content. What do you think?

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