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Media in the Learning: Reflecting on a "New" Media Paradigm

The inspiration for this blog post
The 21st century has been around for nearly two decades and media has always been used for teaching and learning. I'm trying to think of language teaching without any media, which can be defined as communication tools for storing and delivering information, and I cannot. When we talk about 21st Century Skills and New Media, I think most people don't know what they're specifically referring to. I traced the term "21st Century Skills" to the Framework for 21st Century Learning designed by P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning. It's a brand that has already grown old with ideas that are even older. However, these skills are often overlooked for mostly political reasons. I believe most teachers would like to focus on these skills more, but that's not what usually counts in most standardized exams.
I'm going to add photos like these to blend in with the many blog posts about education technology.

The other term, new media, is a teacher-centered term because the media is "new" for the teachers who did not grow up with computer-mediated technology in the classroom. This definitely includes the baby boomer teachers, most of whom are retiring now. The Generation X teachers, at least those in privileged socioeconomic districts, grew up with at least one computer in the classroom. Their famous new media was the Oregon Trail. The Millennial teachers grew up with some of the technology (the world wide web) that the New London Group was referring to when they coined the term multiliteracies. However, most of the Millennials were halfway through their schooling when social media and smartphones entered the classroom. Now that most Millennials have completed high school, we older generations have to consider what is "new" media for the youngest generation in schools.

The Three Ways "New" Media Influences Learning

As a curriculum designer, instructional technologist, and teacher educator, I was drawn to Buckner & Norman's (2017) categorization of "new" media, which I will refer to as media from now on. The propose three ways that media "may inform the learning process" (p.18). The key term here is "may," which is not much to hang one's hat on. But it provides me an opportunity to reflect on integrating technology into English language learning classrooms, more traditionally known as CALL, another term I dislike as much as 21st century skills and new media.

Let me share the three ways and then I will reflect:
  1. Instructional Media - "media designed to deliver instructional messages and facilitate learning" without an instructor.
  2. Media in Instruction - "the integration of media in instruction"
  3. Mediated Instruction - "teaching through new media" (p.19)
I posit these ways are ordered in terms of teacher involvement and creativity as I demonstrate through my reflection.

Instructional Media

I believe the best examples of this are MOOCs, massive open online courses that were all the rage a few years ago. A teacher is not needed for a MOOC. Instead, you need an instructional designer to design and launch the course. If all assessment is multiple choice and/or quantitative, no human needs to grade assignments. If assessment requires creative expression, then a scorer may be needed. I have never experienced taking a language learning MOOC, but I have bad feelings about it.

On a smaller scale, think of other ways you can "learn" a language without a teacher. My most recent experience was with Duolingo. I believe Rosetta Stone is still the more popular example of this type of instructional media.  YouTube language learning lessons/tutorials could also be another example. Instructional media works well for the self-motivated learner who has a specific purpose for learning a language. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that instructional media probably doesn't do a good job to develop language skills for interpersonal communication skills.

Media in Instruction

This is the most commonly observed use of media in the language classroom. In the old days, it was when the teacher brought a newspaper article clipping to class. Now it's anytime the teacher uses the internet to find an example of a text or vocabulary item or whatever is necessary to facilitate learning.
I could probably write a whole book on the variation of preferences and uses for media in instruction across different types of teachers, but I won't, at least for now.

One of my passions in teacher education is to help teachers understand the wide variety of options for media in English language instruction. Most are either forced or feel compelled to use the media that accompanies the coursebooks published by the major publishers like Pearson, Oxford, Cambridge, and National Geographic. I admit these choices save time and, thanks to advances in corpus linguistics, they are getting better.

There's also a niche that compiles or aggregates media for teachers like Newsela, Voxy, and TED Talks, not to mention the many YouTube channels designed for education (TED-Ed, Crash Course, and Veritasium). Teachers can easily get lost in all these media options for instruction.

Then there is now the unavoidable media in instruction, the learning management system or LMS, that more and more schools and programs are requiring for better record keeping, accountability, tracking, and standardization. You may know an LMS by its brands, such as Blackboard, D2L, Moodle, or Canvas.

Some of these LMS' come with their own assessment and presentation tools, but I've found that most teachers and students prefer third-party tools like Quizlet, Kahoot, Socrative, and I could go on forever and ever about all the media that's out there for instruction, but I must get to the next and final type.

Mediated Instruction

The book gives a few examples that are in line with language teaching. The first is requiring students to use Google Hangouts to complete a project. This is about the same as requiring them to use Skype, Zoom, or any other internet video conferencing application. Virtual exchanges are an ideal example of using mediated instruction.

Another example from the book is facilitating discussion online through the school or program's LMS. This is probably the most widely used form of mediated instruction. Teachers can expand this to open discussion on social media on Twitter using a specific class or institutional hashtag or a Facebook group just for the class. It may annoy teachers or students to use a smartphone's texting service or apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp for class discussions unless one wants to disable pushing notifications from those apps.

Finally, another great example of mediated instruction requires students to demonstrate their language ability through producing blogs, videos, or podcasts for the class or the public. There are many options for blogging from Blogger and Wix to WordPress and Squarespace. Most LMSs also have options for class blogs as well, but they are often limited to the class only.

Videos are a bit more complicated, and it may take an English language teachers more time to explain how to record and publish videos online. If you're at a university, you can outsource this to the school's media center. Or you can design or adapt a whole ELT course to develop English for specific media production purposes. Teachers shouldn't assume that their students are "digital natives" who know how to publish videos of acceptable quality. This goes for producing podcasts as well. If you'd like to browse through a secondary school curriculum related to these areas, visit

So where are you comfortable with including media in the classroom? Is there an area I described above that you'd like to develop? I'm very comfortable with Media in Instruction, especially with LMS tools and third-party assessment and presentation tools. And I would love to work in schools or programs that support developing English language courses with mediated instruction, however, I am wary of programs that strictly require teachers to use a certain technology or product.


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