Media Habits of the Generations and the Classroom

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This blog will look a little further into the digital culture that has emerged from the new online spaces Australian students are finding themselves in.

Changing Landscapes

Having a small rectangle of glass and circuitry in your pocket that can instantly calculate, seek out information, record photo, video and voice, and communicate with others is a pretty nifty change in larger society. But in a school framework, it has changed the landscape of learning environments forever. 

For those afraid of technology, it has caused chaos. As cutting off access to the phones we are so attached to is now tantamount to cutting off a teenager’s arm. (Well, it’s not, but they carry on like it is. And that’s annoying.) For those who love gizmos and gadgetry like myself, it has posed other challenges. Such as finding strategies to focus 30 tech-savvy students at once, or even monitoring their online behaviour. My advantage in this area is that I, too, was an expert computer time-waster a little over a decade ago, and I can spot an off-task browser window a mile away. Even with this advantage, however, redirecting students in a computer room to the task at hand can sometimes feel like a game of whack-a-mole. Once you redirect one student, you have to rush over and deal with two more time-wasters who have popped up across the room. 

At first, I was exhausted and felt defeated by the lack of control I was able to exert while the students frolicked about in digital environments. Raised in a world where technology was literally at their fingertips their entire lives. I am still a beginner teacher, and many new teachers experience behaviour management hiccups as they calibrate their own teacher behaviour. As I prepare to enter my third year teaching, I am aiming to know students and how they learn, as a main priority. 

The frustration of teaching can be exemplified in single situations. For instance, when you are in Science attempting to teach about the chemical composition of molecules, a bored student is flipping a half full bottle of water trying to make it land on its base. Completely oblivious to the irony that he could be expanding his understanding of the very water he is using for his game, if only he paid attention. My challenge as an educator is to get students to see the connections all around us that make expanding our knowledge worthwhile.

Teachers and Creators

The smartphone era has been a double-edged sword in that it has brought endless capacity to distract and entertain as it has endless capacity to enlighten with its wealth of knowledge. The challenge for educators is the same as it is for media content producers. Capturing the attention of a generation that has very little tolerance to content that they are not in control of.

Picture: Wrong Hands

Media content drowns us. It is divided perfectly into channels, demographics, mainstream and niche avenues. But it, like technology, is ubiquitous. The relatively cheap cost of content production due to improvements in this technology has created a world of users who are also content creators themselves. The collaborative nature of the Internet has made it simple to record yourself and your friends. Sending Snapchats and filtering selfies with Instagram, emulating viral videos. Experiencing a never-ending torrent of culture. 

Teenagers are not just media and tech-savvy, they have never known themselves to be the style of audience that even old farts like 28-year old me considered ourselves. They are content producers and media content – more often than not – fails to step up to their level. So no matter if you are creating cutting edge marketing and media content designed to excite the youth demographic, or preparing a lesson on great literature. If the audience is young people, aim to understand how they engage with media content. Or you will not only feel like an absolute ancient relic, you will fail to convey the message, or understanding, or values, that it is your job to impart.

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About

Will is a former News LTD journalist who now teaches English, Media and Drama in NSW secondary schools.

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