Lessons from the Media – teaching inspired by popular content

This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be releasing the 'Lessons from the Media' series of blogs providing primary teachers with ideas for lesson plans based around popular media content. The aim of the blogs will be to highlight potential learning opportunities that can be drawn from #ontrend media productions that teachers can create fun and engaging exercises using Microsoft Education technology around to develop essential learning skills such as analytical, writing and creativity skills.

You might be questioning whether popular media content is appropriate content to use in the classroom so I'll attempt to dispel any concerns by painting a research-strewn backdrop regarding different learning styles and the role of technology in learning.

Television learning

Engaging multiple learning styles

We are all well versed in the fact that extensive research is being carried out by academics to establish how teachers can better engage students. A famous study conducted by Honey and Mumford exposed that we all have different learning styles which they found had a direct influence on whether teaching methods motivated students to learn. To illustrate in the classroom context, some learners are engaged by jumping straight into a practical experience such as learning through games (activist), some students are more engaged when they can learn by having the time to review something and think about it, for example hearing and observing a teacher demonstrate a maths concept (reflector), other students prefer learning by fathoming how something fits into a concept, by for example reading through a case study or problem and deducing their own conclusions (theorist), and others are motivated to learn by applying a learning outcome to the real world, such as carrying out a science experiment for themselves (pragmatist). Whilst Honey and Mumford highlighted these styles individually, it is important to recognise that many students adopt a mix of a few learning styles, either leaning towards a more cognitive learning preference, or a practical learning preference.

Hopefully this helps understand why the traditional (antiquated) teaching method of lecturing a class during school lessons then giving out practical homework exercises doesn't resonate with all students, as this teaching strategy is catered towards the reflectors and theorists and would be very dull to the pragmatists and activists in the class. The challenge this poses to teachers is how to engage everyone? It may seem slightly idealistic and unrealistic, the notion of teaching in a style that will suit everyone in the class equally. However, an increasing volume of research is showing that teachers can engage more learners by adopting a 'flipped learning' approach to teaching. Flipped learning enables students to read about a topic before class and then practice the concept in class with individual support from the teacher at their disposal, which is a more holistic learning experience and caters more equally to all the learning styles. Technology has been proven to really bring flipped learning to life, with more schools adopting tablets, apps and media solutions in class to inspire students to accomplish exercises in a fun environment.

Engaging learners through relevant technology platforms

Indeed, adopting technology-enhanced learning has been proven to have a direct positive influence on motivating students due to the range of exercises and activities that can be carried out to match the multiple learning styles.

Recent research has shown that students are highly engaged when they can be taught with mediums from their own worlds that they resonate with and understand. A couple of examples of such teaching strategies are more and more teachers using YouTube very effectively as a 21st century learning tool, and of course the Skype in the Classroom phenomenon which has been seen to be adopted by over 95,000 teachers around the globe.


So where does 'lessons from the media' fall into the equation?

By basing a melange of learning exercises on the back of popular media content, I argue that teachers will be providing a fun experience that learners can relate with and get really involved with. As the research has shown, if you can connect with young people through mediums they know and understand, you are more likely to provide a really engaging learning experience.

I imagine that a concern for some of our readers may be that basing a lesson plan on the back of for example, a television programme could exclude students who don't perhaps have access to television at home, but I am going to be exploring 'in-class' solutions that will use mediums that aren't dependent on students having watched the content at home.

Essentially, the series of blogs will explore rich, vibrant and fun media productions that are popular today and will provide teachers with ideas to manipulate the content into interactive learning opportunities.

Make sure to tune into the first blog, Monty the Penguin!

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