Media savvy citizens needed

Educational project promotes integrated teaching of new media

Date published: 2012-04-25 12:00:00 PM

The massive growth of digital media and emerging communications technologies poses new challenges in the school setting. In a digital world, what is the best way to properly train the citizens of tomorrow? Monique Lebrun, professor of Language Pedagogy at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), favours “a participatory approach that involves thinking positively about new media and ensuring their lasting integration in the classroom.”

Lebrun heads a team of researchers from three universities: UQAM, the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and the Université du Québec à Rimouski. SSHRC provides funding for their project. The team has designed a grid of skills students need to improve their understanding of multi-platform media. The grid is meant for French classes (the equivalent of “English class” for Anglophone students) at the upper elementary and high school levels. Lebrun explains, “We think we must train students, even when very young, to respond to the overabundance of multimedia messages surrounding them, with the aim of making them aware and helping them to develop critical thinking about a particular topic.”

To assist teachers in this task, the researchers experimented with teaching scenarios using different technological platforms (computers, tablets, telephones, etc.) for various uses such as information searches, reading, and the creation of texts in multiple formats. For example, one of the scenarios enables students to compare how the same work is presented in three different formats (book, film and video game). The step-by-step scenarios could eventually be used for other class levels and subjects.

This innovative teaching approach takes into account traditional practices in reading, writing and oral expression, and seeks methods of enriching them through new technologies. It is the opposite of an approach that, until now, focused mainly on introducing technologies into the classroom and teaching general technical skills. However, Lebrun thinks that the first challenge is to provide appropriate training for teachers, in French as well as other subjects, so that they will integrate new technologies directly into their classroom teaching.