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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Engaging 21st Century Learners with Media

Engaging 21st Century Learners with Media

Related Tags: Social Studies
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Last May, I was very fortunate to attend The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop’s 2011 Leadership Forum, Learning from Hollywood, a dynamic conference comprised of a little over 200 leaders from the fields of the entertainment industry, education, technology, research, policy and philanthropy. We were challenged to find ways to work together, leveraging the power of each of our areas, in order to create engaging educational opportunities for young learners, particularly in the area of media usage. Our conversations began by discussing the results of the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. The study found that children within those ages devote an average of 7 ½ hours per day using entertainment media (more than 53 hours a week), and because much of that time is spent “media multitasking,” (using more than one medium at a time) they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7½ hours. Understanding this, the essential question for the Forum was, “How do we capture for educational use the 7 ½ hours per day that children spend engaged with some form of media outside of school?” With that said, I would like to know your thoughts regarding what forms of media you believe have the most potential for enhancing Social Studies education, whether in school or out. Thanks for sharing!

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Ron Peck's picture
Ron Peck
H.S. Social Studies teacher from Medford, Oregon.
Blogger 2014

In my opinion, mobile learning devices (aka cell phones) will have the biggest impact on learning for everyone. Let's face it, people are connected to them already and use them for a variety of tasks. It seems a natural transition to using them for learning in and out of class as well as in everyday life.

Access to information and how to find it is a key skill in social studies. Students need to be taught how to find valid and reliable information from which they can build critical thinking skills.

The current ban on these devices in schools is short sighted and based on fear. Let us embrace them and go where students already live, with technology in their hands.

Charlotte Jacobs's picture
Charlotte Jacobs
Lifelong Learner and Education Advocate

I agree with Ron's comment (mostly). I think that mobile learning devices have all sorts of untapped potential, but not just cell phones. While cell phones do have the ability to access all of the same apps, I really think that tablets will prove to be more functional to use both at home and in a classroom setting. It's just down to size, cell phones are too small, but the portability of the tablet is what allows it to go where laptops just didn't fit.

The marketplace-style platforms of Android and iOS allow completely customizable experiences for the use of the devices. I can only speak for Android, but there are already all kinds of free apps out there that would be useful in learning. There are apps that feature the US Constitution, lists state capitols, lists of US Presidents, world geography, history, and all kinds of flash cards. I have also come across a wide variety of games that enhance vocabulary, math, logic, and reasoning skills that are fun and challenging.

The amount of information combined with the ease of accessing that information provided by the latest tablets is really rather astounding. Students can greatly benefit from this wealth of information, but they also really need to be taught how to navigate it, because they will experience a lot of garbage in those 7 1/2 hours a day of media usage. The brilliance of the marketplace-style platform is that it provides a filter to steer users directly to the most desired/useful content.

The use of Android and/or iOS style tablets in education would create the demand for a wide variety of series of educational apps, both free and paid (demand for new industries is always good, says the CPA in me). Perhaps developers would even work with educators to allow the purchase apps for widespread usage in packages that could be tailored to individual lesson plans. Game apps already exist that incorporate multi-player functionality, I am sure someone can create apps that are interactive, allowing the class to login together for lessons. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

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