Balancing Media Use in Your Classroom

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation released this survey earlier this year, titled “M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds”, the third report in a series of surveys researching young people’s media usage. The study group mostly consisted of 2,002 3rd-12th grade students ages 8-18 years old.

Students are consuming more media across the board these days.  Check out the difference from 1999 to 2009 in the Kaiser Family Foundation survey.  Every category, save one, showed an increase.  Computer use increased one hour of use from :27 a day to 1:29.  No shock there, as Internet access is now above 80% nationwide.  Video game time went from :26 a day to 1:13.  For those of us who remember playing Pacman in the arcade in the 80’s, this probably does come as a shock.  I never thought it was possible for a generation to play more games than the Brat Pack gen.  The lone category that went down was print.  Now before you fume about the lack of appreciation for print, keep in mind that it went down five minutes, not twenty.  Given the increases elsewhere, something had to give, right?  From my view, print and sleep would be the two that went down.

One instructional approach to this group of kids would be to avoid media (save print) and continue to teach the same way with the same tools with only marginal use of media.  To do so flies in the face of history.  Students have been told not to bring cell phones to class.  So naturally, kids bring them and hide them.  Students will use media.  If you don’t, you’ll be a museum exhibit.
Another approach is to balance a variety of media use in your classroom with meaningful physical interaction.  Like writing a good lesson, this takes time and planning.  We can’t plop kids in front of a net-book and expect that they will crack the atom.  Interactive White Boards are supposed to be interactiveafter all; not a more interesting way to display Cornell notes.
It’s too late to discuss whether or not all this media consumption is healthy.  It’s a reality.  The conversation is how do you balance the media use in your classroom?  How do you leverage social media and gaming but not give up meaningful physical contact?  What challenges do teachers need to keep in mind when using media within instructional time?  Let’s share your personal and school-wide best practices.  Post your suggestions and concerns here.
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