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Posts tagged ‘media’


Headline Madness: Myths & Misrepresentation!

Actual Headline:

New approach needed to deliver on technology’s potential in schools


Sample News Headline:

Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results

Yesterday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report entitled: “Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection

Are there computers in the classroom? Does it matter? Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection examines how students’ access to and use of information and communication technology (ICT) devices has evolved in recent years, and explores how education systems and schools are integrating ICT into students’ learning experiences. Based on results from PISA 2012, the report discusses differences in access to and use of ICT – what are collectively known as the “digital divide” – that are related to students’ socio-economic status, gender, geographic location, and the school a child attends. The report highlights the importance of bolstering students’ ability to navigate through digital texts. It also examines the relationship among computer access in schools, computer use in classrooms, and performance in the PISA assessment. As the report makes clear, all students first need to be equipped with basic literacy and numeracy skills so that they can participate fully in the hyper-connected, digitised societies of the 21st century. “

OECD Headline

New approach needed to deliver on technology’s potential in schools

This headline does not bash technology. It suggests that we need to have a reasoned approach to its implementation.

Those of us who have been immersed in this field of educational technology for nearly four decades have been advocating for the approaches described in the report. So let’s not be blaming the technology or disregarding the incredible potential of technologies embedded within a rich pedagogical approach!

Other Media Headlines!

The OECD headline is a far cry from many headlines around the world which inferred a totally different set of findings! Here are some samples of the damaging misrepresentations from the international press.

Help us Out!

Come on reporters, editors and publishers!! Help us out here!

This one just ticks me off.

Empower Your Students!

And, teachers, all the more reason to empower your students to be both media and digitally literate!

Resources (Ontario/Canada)

  • 21st Century Teaching and Learning, Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy: What Research Tells Us…

  • Digital Citizenship (OSAPAC)

  • MediaSmarts


Neil Postman Had It Right—Back in the 80’s

Childhood in the Technological Era

Another blast from the past. This time from 1987.

Many of the world’s best known educators were together at the Second International Congress on Early Childhood Education held in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1987. The major theme of the congress was caution versus enthusiasm in using computer technology with children.

Speakers included:

  • Neil Postman
  • Gavriel Salomon
  • Seymour Papert
  • Hubert Dreyfuss
  • Bruno Bettleheim
  • et moi! 😉

How fortunate I was to be presenting with such distinguished and influential thinkers and educators. In addition, Apple Canada asked me to write about the experience in their Minds in Motion journal.

FullSizeRenderApologies to those with screen readers. I do not have this converted to text—only images. However, I’ll highlight some of the points here for ease of reference. I ask you, ‘What resonates with you? What’s changed? What hasn’t changed?’

I will outline the points made by Neil Postman. Read the whole article below and the thoughts of the other speakers.


Faustian Bargain

  • “All technological change is a Faustian bargain. For every advantage technology brings, there is always a disadvantage…and one may outweigh the other…New media create new centres of power and influence…the computer will provide our students new ways of thinking. Who will benefit—the children The schools? The state?”

The Technology of Marks is a Mathematical Concept of Reality

  • Embedded in every technology is a powerful idea. Some of these ideas are hidden from view. As an example, he cited the seemingly harmless practice of assigning grades to children’s work. Assigning marks is a tool or technology to judge a person’s behaviour. It is a mathematical concept of reality.

Philosophical Wars

  • “The philosophy embedded in a new technology always makes war with the philosophy embedded in an old technology.” Since the invention of the printing press, the written word (and its accompanying concepts of logic, sequence, history, and objectivity) has been the basis of our educational system. The new technologies of television and computers rely on immediacy, visual transfer of information, and subjective interpretation. Media wars are in effect in our world now. This is, of course, evident in our world now. Students who are on the wrong side of this war are the ones who are failing.

A New Medium Does not Add Something—It Changes Everything

  • “Technological change is not additive but is ecological.” Many people presume that when a new technology is introduced, it merely adds to the store of existing technologies. Postman suggests that this is not always the case. “A new medium does not add something—it changes everything.” He described Europe before the advent of the printing press and pointed out that Europe afterwards was not just Europe plus the printing press. It was, in fact, a new Europe. (Read Blue Dye plus Water? Or Blue Water? for another McLuhanist example of this concept. Also remember Seymour Papert’s words“If the role of the computer is so slight that the rest can be kept constant, it will also be too slight for much to come of it.”

Mythic Media

  • “Media tend to become mythic.” It is a common tendency to think of our own creations as God-given, part of the natural order. Because of this, our society doesn’t question the larger social, psychological ramifications even though we should. (Read It’s Not About the Tools? Really? for another view.)

Electronic Workbooks. Really?

  • “A technology is to a medium like the brain is to the mind. A technology is a tool to be used in various ways. One could, but would not, use a 747 to take commuters from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. One could, but would not, use a television to present printed words on the screen. One could, but should not, use computers as an electronic workbook.”

Soooooo I ask you again, ‘What resonates with you? What’s changed? What hasn’t changed?’

(Click on the pictures below to see larger.)







“It’s not about the tool” – a naïve myth.

“It’s not about the tool – it’s about the learning.” – a naïve myth.

I understand the intent of these kinds of statements. I believe they arise from the focusing on the skills required to use the tool rather than on the ‘subject-matter’ at hand.

However, it is dangerous, in my opinion, to say that it is not about the tools. It is more about the tools than many of us might regularly think.

I appreciate that Dean Shareski, @shareski , has written about this issue as well.

Sometimes, one feels very alone having these thoughts – and it is a risk putting them out there whenever the predominant culture – especially, forgive me, Twitter culture is cascading and retweeting these one-line ‘wisdoms’ such as the one that starts this post. (In fact, it is bizarre that Dean used almost the same language as I did in his post. “I understand…” and “It is dangerous”. I started this post without any previous conversation with Dean about this issue.)

There are two main points to be made here.

Media with which to think

Firstly, Salomon suggested that computers can be ‘cognitive partners’ – that they can be leveraged like ‘power tools for the mind’ in the same way that traditional power tools extend our physical capabilities.

The modification of this stance which fascinates me is not just the quantitative amplification of the ‘tool’, but the ‘qualitative’.

Computers are not mere tools but are media with which to think.

For many years I have suggested that computers are not mere tools but are media with which to think. They can provide mental models that are transferable within, and across, domains. In, Deep Understanding – the Issue of Transfer, I outline some practical suggestions of this. Again, Gavriel Salomon’s work on the ‘effects with’ versus the ‘effects of’ technology influenced me greatly.

‘Effects with’ are the changes that take place while one is engaged in intellectual partnership with peers or with a computer tool, as, for example, is the case with the changed quality of problem solving that takes place when individuals work together in a team. On the other hand, ‘effects of’ are those more lasting changes that take place as a consequence of the intellectual partnership, as when computer-enhanced collaboration teaches students to ask more exact and explicit questions even when not using that system.

See also Scaffolding for Deep Understanding.

Tools shape behaviours, cognition & societal structures

Secondly, tools shape behaviours. Tools shape cognition. Tools shape societal structures in both intended, and unintended, ways.

This is evidenced in many domains of life and is showing up in a lot of the literature in recent years – in fact, for centuries.

In The Drip Effects of Technology I described what Gavriel Salomon said regarding the first- and second-order effects of technologies – “it is quite likely that in the long run education will be affected by the unintended, drip-like effects of computing, particularly the Internet and computer mediated communication“. (Montreal, June 28, 2000)

John Brockman at Digital Life Design 2009. Fre...

CC Attribution ShareAlike via Wikipedia

Anthony Aguirre, in The Enemy of Insight, suggests that “information input from the Internet is simply too fast, leaving little mental space or time to process that information, fit it into existing schema, and think through the implications”. (From Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? Edited by John Brockman)

Max Tegmark says in The Cat is out of the Bag, “Important issues fade from focus fast, and while many of humanity’s challenges get more complicated, society’s ability to pay attention to complex arguments dwindles. Sound bites and attack ads work well when the world has attention deficit disorder.” (From Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? Edited by John Brockman)

In Blue dye plus water? Or blue water?, I briefly recounted Derrick de Kerckhove’s analysis of what happens to society when new media are invented. (I repeat here.) In The Skin of Culture he says, “The addition of a drop of blue dye to a glass of water results not in blue dye plus water, but in blue water: a new reality.” De Kerckhove indicates that McLuhan (his mentor) and others pointed out that “the inculcation of the habit of literacy results not in a pre-literate world plus readers, but in a literate world: a new world in which everything is seen through the eyes of literacy”.

When will we see that we have successfully integrated Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) into the lives of students? It seems to me that this will be achieved when we see them not simply using ICT as ‘tools’, but rather when we see students thinking differently as a result of their ubiquitous presence and facility. The invention of words, and subsequently the printing press, resulted in a new literacy because people now had words with which to think and to communicate. ‘Blue water’ with respect to ICT means that people must sufficiently appropriate these technologies in order that they become ‘media with which to think and to communicate’.

‘Gutenberg Parenthesis’ is history, but history repeats itself

So although we are outside of the “Gutenberg Parenthesis”, we are perhaps into another era where there are many parallels. Technologies are not simply tools.


When violence becomes entertaining…

Recapturing childhood and adolescence from the toxic influence of media

On October 15-16, 2010 the Ontario Teachers’ Federation sponsored a Media Violence Prevention Conference in Toronto, Canada. This event was also supported with funds from the Ontario Ministry of Education and gathered teachers, parents, trustees, administrators, police officers and others interested in the impact of violent media on children and adolescents.

My intention in this post is to provide the materials and connections to a broader audience.


Dave Grossman

Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman

Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman – Relationship Between Media Violence & Violent Crime

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman spent a day with us discussing his topic: Identifying the Problem: The Relationship Between Media Violence and Violent Crime. Dave is one of the world’s leading experts on interpersonal aggression and violence. He was a West Point Psychology Professor and an Army ranger. Lt. Colonel Grossman co-authored Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence.

His energetic presentation led the audience through the latest in brain scan research showing the relationships between media violence and aggressive behaviours. “Media violence makes violent brains: violent TV, movie, and video game exposure had an effect on normal kids that made their brain scans the same as children with documented, diagnosed Aggressive Behavior Disorder.”

Professor Craig Anderson – Research on Effects of Violent Media

Professor Craig Anderson, Chair of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University and President of the International Society for Research on Aggression. Anderson’s 150+ publications span cognitive, developmental, social and personality psychology. His General Aggression Model and pioneering work on video-game violence leads to consultations with educators, government officials, child advocates, and news organizations worldwide. His 2007 book on Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents summarizes what has been learned from past studies on this important social issue.

There are many tremendous resources (text, video) on his site. Here is an article: FAQs on Violent Video Games and Other Media Violence.

A.R. & S/Sgt. Robyn MacEachern – on Internet Exploitation

A.R., a victim of Internet exploitation and S/Sgt. Robyn MacEachern; “S/Sgt. Robyn MacEachern has been a member of the Ontario Provincial Police since 1994. While working as the Youth Issues Coordinator in the Crime Prevention Section, Robyn was responsible for developing awareness and prevention programs relating to Cyber Risks in partnership with the OPP Electronic Crimes and Child Sexual Exploitation Sections. She is the author of a published children’s book, Cyberbullying: Deal With It and Ctrl Alt Delete It. Currently, Robyn is Staff Sergeant with the OPP Aboriginal Policing Bureau.”

Sexual Exploitation

“As a young woman, A.R. was victimized by an online predator who manipulated interactive media to victimize hundreds of young people in what many perceived to be a harmless virtual world. A.R. will describe her encounters relating to the investigative, court and victim services processes that followed the online exploitation. She will provide insight for those working with youth to raise awareness of the impacts of interactive media and the online world.” Adapted from OTF brochure

What a moving presentation she and A.R. did. The audience was in tears – not because of the artistry of their performance. No. But because of the nature of the personal story she presented to us.

Dr. Charles Tator – Brain & Spinal Cord Injury Specialist

Dr. Charles Tator, sports medicine specialist, and Ron Wicks, former NHL referee, discussing the promotion of violence in sports; “Dr. Tator is a professor of neurosurgery, at the University of Toronto, and a neurosurgeon at the Toronto Western Hospital. He performs research in the epidemiology, prevention and treatment of acute brain and spinal cord injuries, and the University of Toronto Press recently published his book on Catastrophic Injuries in Sports and Recreation, Causes and Prevention—a Canadian Study. He has received the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. He founded ThinkFirst, Canada, a national brain and spinal cord injury foundation whose mission is to reduce the incidence of catastrophic injuries in Canada.” Adapted from OTF brochure

Action Agenda


Valerie Smith – Anti-Violence Activist

Valerie Smith, an anti-violence activist based in Toronto, shared some quite unbelievable statistics. She runs a site called The Free Radical. It is a wonderful library of information on media violence. She suggests that good place for Canadians to start their involvement is with the Action Agenda: A Strategic Blueprint for Reducing Exposure to Media Violence in Canada.

Panel Discussion

A panel discussion, facilitated by award-winning broadcast journalist Wendy Mesley, addressing the concerns of parents, students, activists, medical professionals, researchers, and law enforcement and education sectors; and


A broad range of workshops (pdf) to meet the varied needs and interests of participants, which included teachers, administrators, trustees and parents.

Brenda Sherry and I presented a session called Questioning Media is CRITICAL. There are links to excellent practical resources on the site.

Description: Help students use critical thinking to deconstruct the media messages they view around them every day, from commercials and print ads to websites and music videos. using the Media literacy curriculum, this session will show you how to help students to: recognize the forms of a variety of media texts; recognize bias and stereotyping; read “between the lines”; recognize whose voice is being heard and whose is missing; question the connections between entertainment and self-image; and question the motives that lie behind media productions and how these factors influence content.



A big ‘thank you’ to Siria Szurkhan, Rita Chow and Louise Murray-Leung of OTF for all their work.

  • Grossman image – Flickr ILVets
  • Sexual Exploitation – Thomas Hawk

HIDDEN – a project that worked

I would like to share with you the story of Hidden – a project that was developed by a student in the 11th grade under the umbrella of Adobe Youth Voices and iEARN.  This project then grew naturally into a bigger project as the result of a 10th grade student.

Let me start first by showing you the video – Hidden – by Robin.

PhotoShop – “Creating the images”

We had been learning about the artist, David Hockney, and had practised ‘squaring off’ some images in PhotoShop using the following tutorial:

Robin then saved various layers, and combinations of layers, as jpegs for inclusion into Adobe Premiere Elements.

Adobe Youth Voices and iEARN – “Student in charge”

Adobe Youth Voices is a global philanthropic initiative to empower youth.  Svetlana Yakubovskaya from Minsk, Belarus and Juan_Domingo Martinez from Esquel, Argentina led a great online course with 20 or so other educators from around the globe. Then the students and I started our plans for the media projects.   It was a challenge for us all to agree on a plan and we changed the plans as we moved through the process.  Students finally decided to create their own media arts pieces out of their previous work in Media Arts class. All the results have been posted on the YMCA Academy YouTube channel.

Robin believes that art should not be hidden for only people with money to see.  He sees graffiti as a form of art that is available to all.

I believe his work is so successful for several reasons. This project was his.  He owned it.  He created the idea.  He had the passion.  He had the motivation. He wrote the rap. He composed the music.  He performed it.  He struggled with the contradictions.  He overcame the ambiguities.  He was in charge and maintained focus and effort until completion.

Once posted to the Adobe and iEARN websites, Sasa Sirk from Slovenia contacted me.  She is a teacher who is running a graffiti project called Listen to the Walls Talking  – an iEARN project.  She asked if Robin would be interested in collating some of the works of other graffiti artists from the project.  He agreed.

Google Earth as a Multimedia Tool – “Now it gets interesting!”

However, Alex (10th grade) and Robin joined forces and decided to take some previous knowledge of Google Earth and produce a multimedia Google Earth tour of graffiti sites from the Listen to the Walls Talking project.  Again, their idea…their initiative.  Their passion.  To see their results (a work in progress!), download this kmz file, double click it, and Google Earth will open up.  Click on the various sites in the sidebar and then click on the placemark to see the artwork from that location. (Here’s how to do that.)  In some cases, you will see ‘street view’ of that location as well.  (See McDougall Lane in Toronto for an example.)  Please be aware that this is a rough draft of an adventure in learning.  We, by no stretch, understand the intricacies of Google Earth at this point.

But, as we often say here, “Just go for it!  Take charge!”