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 (http://www.mediaplaylab.sg/nmief/index.html) 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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