Accessing freely available media digital content and tools can be an effective way to improve educational provision and maximize resources in difficult times. On the other hand, without support, a sharing of best practice and awareness what we're getting into we might waste a lot of time and money undertaking tasks which, on reflection, should have been done by someone else or done in a different way. The sharing of good practice and direct experience, in addition to free content and open source tools, may be the only way to ensure we receive the benefits of digital media while avoiding the pitfalls.
Our parallel session at the Jisc Conference 2011 was entitled Using Digital Media to Improve Teaching and Learning.
Between our speakers we had a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience: each of our speakers was a cartographer of the digital media landscape, mapping not only the Ariel perspectives of policy and future trends but also individual bumps along the road. Rather than promoting digital media as a pedagogical ‘magic bullet’ our session focused on ways to mitigate the problems of using digital media:
- view ‘workflows’ themselves as useful tools in a similar way to open source software. Workflows can be shared, refined and recirculated amongst communities to help us learn from the experiences of others (Zak Mensah, e-learning officer at Jisc Digital Media)
- support your students as producers of digital media, a concept of importance as resources are cut and students are encouraged to take ownership of learning resources (Dr Jane Williams, director of e-learning within the University of Bristol's Faculty of Dentistry and Medicine)
- where possible be aware that the idea of 'attendance' needs to develops in line with new technologies. Learners 'in attendance' may be using a webcam at home or contribute to discussion via Twitter (Doug Belshaw, Jisc Infonet).
In summary, our session suggested that the use of digital media really can enhance teaching, but also poses the risk of only passively engaging the learner. No single individual or even institution in isolation could possibly 'keep up'. Only by pooling knowledge and sharing stories of what works and what doesn't can we use successfully integrate digital media into our teaching and learning.