Powerfull Voice of Kids - Digital & Media Literacy Education

  • Motivations for Using Digital Media

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By David Cooper Moore and Renee Hobbs


When it comes to using digital media in school, teachers have many different approaches. Some teachers like to use the technology to share resources in the classroom for learning, using games and simulations to help learners master new skills. Other teachers inspire their students to “just do it,” offering optional homework activities like this one where students demonstrate their reading fluency. Still others emphasize the close reading of films, books and other media, using media to activate critical thinking, as in this example of a high school student using screencasting to analyze a key scene from a Shakespearean play.


And some teachers use digital media to get students connected to global issues, as when middle-school history teacher Dave Hickman used social media and video to connect his 7th graders to a group of middle-school students in Turkey. Through informal conversations about life and more formal activities analyzing media representations of school, students learned about how stereotypes may limit our ability to “see” each other and how media can be used to reshape people’s perceptions, attitudes, knowledge and beliefs.


Sometimes, teachers may get the idea that there’s a hierarchy of technology integration in education (with iPads and 1-to1 laptops now at the top, for example)and that “more technology is better.” This is a pity. Even teachers with very critical perspectives on media and technology can play an important role in student learning. In fact, a diversity of perspectives toward the affordances and the limitations of digital media and technology is crucial to honoring the many different styles, approaches, and philosophies of teachers’ everyday practice.


Teachers Have Diverse Motivations for Using Digital Media in Learning

In our research, we found that there are a few big ideas that motivate teachers to expand their conceptualization of literacy to include all forms of media--and to bring more digital media and popular culture into the classroom in engaging, relevant, and innovative ways. Similar to an astrological horoscope, we identify 12 types of teachers based on their primary motivations, passions and interests.




Take the Digital Learning Horoscope Quiz. We’ve developed a Digital Learning Horoscope quiz at our website, Powerful Voices for Kids, that will help you explore your possible digital and media literacy motivations. At this website, you can take the quiz and reflect on your own reasons for exploring the potential of digital media to inspire great learning!





FOCUS ON COOL TOOLS AND HOT TOPICS. Techies are often the technology experts in schools, who know that new technologies engage students and provide new ways for teachers to deliver content and provide opportunities for participation in their classrooms. Trendsetters engage with mass media and popular culture topics like television shows, cartoons, celebrity culture, and popular music to connect classroom to kid’s culture.

DEVELOPING STUDENT VOICE. Motivators are a springboard to student creativity, and use media and popular culture to help students express their inner creativity. Spirit Guides are particularly sensitive to the developmental and socioemotional concerns of their students, and know that media is a big part of how students develop their unique identity.

UNDERSTANDING MEDIA SYSTEMS. Demystifiers “pull back the curtain” to reveal how authors construct all of the media we engage with,  from planning to production to special effects. Watchdogs focus on the economics and institutions that support media creation, asking questions about who makes money and the balance between private gain and public good.

PARTICIPATION ONLINE AND IN THE WORLD. Activists encourage students to get civically engaged in their homes, schools, communities, and the world, and see media and technology as means to encourage democratic participation. Teacher 2.0’s are passionate about social engagement online, and want to unlock to the potential of online networks, tools, and environments to connect students to the wide world on the web.

EXPLORING CULTURE AND VALUES. Two of our motivations focus on the development and transmission of cultural values, from the flipside of the same coin. Taste-makers know that successful students need to engage with a wide variety of high quality media texts that comprise literary, film, and other media canons. Conversely, Alts understand that learning to question the authority of mainstream and classic texts--and finding alternatives in counter-cultural movements and subcultures--is just as important.

CONTENT AND FORM. Professors are dedicated to connecting media and technology in the classroom to academic standards, using any media resources they can to improve the delivery of core content and ideas. Professionals are just as dedicated to high standards, but focus on helping students master the generic conventions of media forms, giving students skills that help needed create media texts that match people’s expectations of what they encounter in the world, from professional journalism to quality websites to feature films.  


The Power of Reflection to Inspire Personal Growth. We know that no teacher has only one motivation. As you reflect on your own motivations, consider how your interests and passions help YOU to be the best teacher you can be. There are so many ways that teachers help students learn. You might want to have a discussion with other teachers about their primary motivations for using technology for teaching and learning. We think it’s important to honor the diversity of perspectives that exist in every school environment to start to improve how teachers communicate, collaborate, and innovate. What motivations and values are most important to you?  


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