The Potential of New Media and Inclusive Education

 I recently attended the New Media in Education  Fiesta in June 20-23, 2011  organized by Innova Junior College’s Centre of Excellence for New Media ( and  supported by the  Media Development Authority (MDA).  Although I recognize  there are many  initiatives across Singapore school focused on new media,  I note this particular one since  it resonates with the research that Mary Dixon (now at Deakin University) and I did on the espoused beliefs of Singapore’s primary and secondary school teachers. 

In this conference, our  LSL colleague Kate Anderson presented to an audience of teachers  and students, her work  on a 3 year project,  Youth Tell, which used  digital storytelling to engage with marginalized youth in different settings (in school and in community centre)  to  develop  their new  literacy competencies. 

In using the  term marginalized youth,  Kate refers to students such as Normal Tech students. However, marginalized  in no way refer to character or intelligence of the youth,  but to   their status in the formal educational system.  Kate  presented several  videos  created by Normal Tech students.  These videos, indeed, spoke for themselves in terms of revealing the academic  ability of these students.  In one video Cinderella Boy, that was presented,  a  group of   students wrote and performed the scripts, created the clay figures , the backgrounds ,and storyboard and used a  shareware animation program to create their video.  In another video, created in a  school setting,  a student presented  reasoned and rather  sophisticated  arguments in support of her premise that school uniforms should not be mandated in schools.  

Kate  concluded her presentation with two main points. One is  that   “when you think you’re working  with kids who can’t, chances are they can” . This point she makes  in full recognition of the challenges that teachers  face in many areas of their work.  The other is on new media’s potential  in opening  pathways to learning when previously the  only forms of reading and writing were pencil and paper, printed test, and   authoritative top down  forms of knowledge.

Kate’s presentation resonates with our  work -  Mary Dixon and mine -  in which our study of 78 primary and secondary school  teachers in Singapore indicated  strong beliefs   about the nature of students, particularly  beliefs about the nature of their academic ability.   Linked to this belief was another one in which  students may be known by the sector in which they were placed,  for example whether they are “express” or “normal (Technical ) students with respect to their academic abilities.  There are many reasons  for this strong belief -  one may be the human  tendency to categorize for example. But, it is  important for teachers to go beyond some of these categories in their teaching and learning.   

Kate’s work on digital storytelling indicates  possibilities of new media to extend and enhance inclusive education.    New media is not a panacea,   but  does afford  new learning pathways that can tap the academic potential of students with their diverse abilities and interests.  And digital story telling is only one of many media platforms that can extend and enhance inclusive education.

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