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Has Digital Media Affected How Students Learn?
Attaining effective and efficient learning via digital media remains a major issue in current education. Before the invention of digital media, researchers had limited access to materials for their research projects (Sevillano-García and Vázquez-Cano). That is, they had to rely on the physical books within the libraries; which were also limited in number since the demand for the books was high. Teaching also had to be physical, i.e., teachers had to be physically present in class while teaching the students, creating inconveniences to the student and the teachers when the teacher is far away from his/her teaching location(s). Students were also relatively attentive in class since most of them largely depended on the teachers as their major reference to academics. Besides depending on the teachers, there were no phones, hence less distraction in class. Briefly, before the invention of digital media, several challenges impeded research and general learning.
Strengths and Weaknesses in Education Before Digital Media
Less distractions in the classroom
Dependent on teacher and student availability
Teaching could be more focused
Academic resource (books, articles, etc) had to be shared between all students and faculties
Academic resources were limited by what was physically available
How Digital Media Has Change Modern Education
However, after the invention of digital media, several things have changed in the education sector.
- Digital media has led to increased access to academic materials which are now available on the internet. Accordingly, the challenge that existed where the majority of the students had to rely on the physical books within the libraries is minimized.
- Teaching is currently possible through teleconferencing; that is, a teacher does not have to be physically present in class to teach. A teacher in South Africa can conduct his/her lessons in London without having to travel to London.
- The invention of digital media has facilitated the attainment of effective and efficient learning in general.
- With access to a larger number of learning resources, students are able to find ways to learn most effectively for their learning style.
- Students have more readily available access to information on academic subjects that interest them.
- Online programs have allowed Ivy League universities to share their information with the public, usually at little to no cost for the student (such as Stanford's standalone program, or through MOOC websites such as Coursera and EdX)
- Teachers are now able to supplement their teaching material with information from experts worldwide via Youtube, Ted, and MOOC websites.
- Television has been shown to be an effective tool in education.
Has Digital Media Improved Education in the United States?
The United States, the United Kingdom, China, and South Africa among other nations have benefited tremendously from digital media (Siemens). Digital media has reduced the globe into a small village where information can be shared within a very short time, consequently creating awareness among nations on issues of security, climate change, and diseases among others.
The information that is shared internationally can be as varied as scientific journals now publishing papers on the internet, online newspaper subscriptions, to Twitter feeds where world news is shared in real-time.
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Technology Allows Teachers to be More Flexible
Digital media presents students with relatively unlimited access to educative materials that are essential in conducting research projects; accordingly, the students have an opportunity to explore their subject of interest (Greenhow and Lewin). Digital media has made teaching more flexible as teachers can provide assignments online and mark them online, reducing the burden of having to handwrite the assignment, and reducing the time to provide students with feedback on their assignments.
A surprising benefit of online education is that digital media has played a role in helping the students to save the environment; that is, fewer books are printed, accordingly less carbon emission in the air, fewer paper worksheets are completed, and fewer resources are needed to provide students with assignments. This not only helps the environment, but can also help reduce the strain on the school's finances for paper, ink, and toner.
The invention of digital media has also promoted unity as countries can share their curriculum online.
Negative Effects of Digital Media on Education
However, even with all of these benefits, digital media can have a negative impact on the attention span of the students in the class. The distraction of social media and texting is almost always present now that most students have a smartphone with them at all times. This creates the potential for students to miss learning opportunities within the class and means that it's harder for students to tune out the drama and stress of their personal or home lives.
It can also be difficult for students to understand that anyone can say almost anything online and that there is a large amount of misinformation on the internet. This can be seen in students utilizing untrustworthy sources for academic papers, or students unable to recognize "fake news" that has been shared with them.
Digital Media is Important to Modern Education
Digital media remains essential in the development of the education sector and learning generally. More importantly, it has facilitated and is continuing to facilitate research within schools and even at national levels. Accordingly, it is important that the stakeholders within the education sector embrace this invention but also find means to eliminate its negative effects generally.
Greenhow, Christine, and Cathy Lewin. “Social Media and Education: Reconceptualizing the Boundaries of Formal and Informal Learning.” Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 41, no. 1, 2016, pp. 6–30.
Sevillano-García, Ma, and Esteban Vázquez-Cano. “The Impact of Digital Mobile Devices in Higher Education.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society, vol. 18, no. 1, 2015.
Siemens, George. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. 2014.