Sunday, July 12, 2015

It's Your Job: A self-guided learning station

Media-infused presentations or activities are an untapped resource for classroom teachers today. This type of tool provides content and activities using resources that our students are familiar and comfortable with. By using technology to create this type of presentation, we are providing content that meet the instructional needs of our students, while also providing motivation by using something they are familiar and interested in. Students in our classrooms today are digital natives and have grown up never knowing a time without technology. When teachers are able to use technology, they are essentially “speaking the language” of their students. Students are more highly engaged and actively participate in these activities or presentations as it is a delivery they are familiar with.
      Media-infused presentations and activities can also help the development of what Gardner defines as the “disciplined” mind by allowing students to experience content differently than in the traditional “sit and get” delivery. Gardner clearly lays out a four-step plan for developing a disciplined mind. Media-infused presentations meet all four of these steps. Gardner’s first step is to “identify important topics or concepts” (Gardner, 2008) which is done in a multi-media presentation or activity both directly and indirectly. First, the topic is identified by the statement of purpose at the beginning of the activity, then, identified again in each component. This helps the learner clearly define what the content is, as well as the important supporting information. Gardner’s second step, “spend a significant amount of time on the topic” and his third step, “approach the topic in a number of ways” (Gardner, 2008) are both clearly supported in a multi-media presentation or project as the content is presented repeatedly using a variety of methods such as video, podcast, image or activity. This allows the student to experience the content in a variety of different ways as well as providing multiple opportunities to interact and experience the content. Additionally, these activities will take more time than in the traditional “lecture” or presentation style of instruction. Gardner’s final step, which he identifies as the most important “set up “performances of understanding” and give students ample opportunities to perform their understandings under a variety of conditions” (Gardner, 2008). These opportunities for “performances of understanding” can be set up as a part of the presentation or activity through interactive activities, polling, or projects utilizing digital tools that the students complete. Developing a disciplined mind can be clearly supported using this type of presentation or activity when they are well designed and implemented.
      The synthesizing mind can also be fostered through media-infused presentations and activities by providing opportunities and guidance in ordering, connecting and making sense of information from various sources and in a variety of methods. Students take this information and make sense of it, connect it to prior knowledge and other related concepts. They can be given the chance to synthesize the information from different sources and develop new understandings and knowledge. As the students move through the different components of the presentation or activity, they have the opportunity to put all of the pieces together into a complete picture. They can then share this picture with others through interactive activities or collaboration to further cement their understanding.
     Using multi-media infused presentations or activities can not only support our students in their learning style and preferred modalities, it can also help them develop their disciplined and synthesizing minds, as defined by Harold Gardener. This will help our learners develop deep understandings of the content in our classrooms, as well as help them become better thinkers and leaders in their futures.
Gardner, Howard. (2008). Five minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

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