Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century


This week I watched a PBS documentary, Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century, which discussed unique educational environments using digital media to demonstrate new ways of teaching and learning. Below is a summary of the documentary given by PBS LearningMedia as well as a link to the documentary.

Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century explores how exceptional instructors are increasingly using digital media and interactive practices to ignite their students’ curiosity and ingenuity, help them become civically engaged, allow them to collaborate with peers worldwide, and empower them to direct their own learning. -PBS LearningMedia


Children these days have to be able to embrace change. They need to be able to learn how to take in and apply new information continuously. Like John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students the way we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Although technology can be a distraction, it could also help to interact with experts, form groups with similar interests, and connect people from all over. With the increasing emergence of digital media there has also been an emergence of new creative ways to teach and learn. Throughout this documentary, different educational settings that experimented with involving digital media were discussed.

Quest 2 Learn (New York, NY)- Quest 2 Learn is a school for digital children where students learn by designing video games. The format of the classroom includes a teacher who initiates and guides conversation and hands on projects for students to complete. The tasks require system based thinking and trial and error strategies. Instead of generic class subjects, the students go to classes named “Code World” (Math), “The Way Things Work” (Science), “Being, Space, and Place” (Social Science), and “Sports for the Mind” (Technology and Design). For assignments when creating digital games, students are given guiding questions to expand on – how to engage the player, what feedback the player will get, if the player will know where to go next – and then accompanying assessments – drawing diagrams of the path of the game. Children are given laptops to complete the assignments and also create digital comics, printed out cards, video podcasts, and other digital media. The goal from using this technology is to make learning more entertaining and engage the students in learning. Concerns with this system include children becoming overly competitive and the possible addition to digital media. However, supporters say that students are dedicated rather than addicted.

Digital Youth Network (Chicago, IL) – The Digital Youth Network gives students the opportunity and access to work with digital media. Their main goal is to support students on how to use digital technology in their lives. Diana Rhoten, the program director for Digital Media and Learning Social Sciences Research Center, believes every kid has an interest. The Digital Youth Network provides children with resources to pursue their interests and eventually develop the interest into something they want to do for the rest of their lives. There is a studio upstairs which students can use for inspiration. Everything is digital for the students which gives them a new way to express themselves. Students are also encouraged to connect with others using their digital media skills to identify interests and progress through those interests.

Smithsonian Instruction (Washington, DC) – Smithsonian Instruction’s mission is to create a scavenger game for students to play at the Smithsonian to increase engagement in learning and make the cultural insinuation more relevant to new audiences. The scavenger hunt uses clues sent via text to groups of students. By using cell phones, the developers hope to get students more actively participating in the task. With this task, children are taught there are now sets of tools that can help make certain learning experiences meaningful. Students build interpretive skills, visual literacy, and how to look at and understand unfamiliar objects. They are then encouraged to teach others what they have learned because the developers believe one of the best ways to learn something is to teach something.

Middleton (Middleton, WI) – Middleton is having students walk around in a downtown area to look at and learn about old buildings. Students are given spots on GPS and learn about what used to be at those places. Students are encouraged to share any stories they may have at that place. The information and observations are then compared to the students’ own neighborhoods. The goal is for the students to figure out why so many stores had closed and to redesign the city. This activity not only promotes use of digital media in learning but helps to connect the old and young population of the community through memories and history.

Science Leadership Academy (Philadelphia, PA) – The Science Leadership Academy has taken an approach to only use digital media in the learning process. Students are given a laptop so they are able to recreate projects and share them so other students can learn from them. They are also able to take the laptops home on weekends to continue learning. The teachers believe technology has to be incorporated that that ignoring this powerful tool is being irresponsible. Students are able to choose how to present a topic and the content is made public to be reviewed. Students are constantly getting feedback on their assignments to change it and make it better. This allows for many conversations to happen at once in a classroom and every students’ voice is able to be heard. Students are left with immediate gratification and are able to share their own thoughts.

As a teacher, I will be entering environments where digital media is increasing being incorporated into education settings to improve learning. As a student, I have already been in classes where I have received an iPad to complete work or had the opportunity to connect to a screen to share my learning with others. These tools have assisted my personal learning, however I do not believe I would want to learn only using digital media.

I cannot imagine working in an educational setting that students are only learning by using technology. I believe students learn in all different types of ways. Having a classroom that only uses technology can increase learning for some students while hurting learning for others. I believe digital media should be incorporated into classrooms but should not take over classrooms.

Therefore, my classroom will be a mix of different resources. It is impossible and irresponsible to not use technology in my classroom. However, I will also use concrete and interactive resources to teach my students.  Like John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students the way we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” My students will not be robbed of tomorrow.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s