The Importance of Teaching Students About New Media

By: James Walker
What is new media? It’s the website with comments integrated into the text; it’s the web video accompanied by captioning, transcripts, and the “like on Facebook” button; it’s the mobile game, the social media platform, the encyclopedic research site. Simply put, it’s the way we communicate and share information, every day.
To quote the Writer’s Guild of America: “New Media includes all writing of audio-visual production intended for the Internet, mobile devices, evolving technological devices such as the iPad, or any other platform thought of as “new media” by the industry as of the start of the 2008 MBA.”
That’s the type of writing that your students will be doing in the future, no matter what jobs they hold or careers they pursue. That means it’s your job to prepare them for new media writing and publishing, and make sure they know how to get their message across and communicate within the new media landscape.
1. Give students a safe space in which to experiment.
We all know that what goes online stays online — often, for a long, long time. Give your students a safe sandbox in which to experiment by allowing them to create fully-realized new media projects shared only on your school’s local network.
For example, instead of creating the printed student newspaper of generations past, have students create an online newspaper, complete with Creative Commons images, comment sections, and hyperlinked sources.
Or, invite students to create personal blogs and then aggregate them into a Huffington Post-style website. You can even have fun creating animated GIF listicles like the ones popularized on Buzzfeed. The more room you give students to experiment and play, the more they’ll learn — and keeping your student projects localized on a network gives students the freedom to experiment without feeling like the entire internet is watching.
2. Give them access to the best available tools.
If there’s room in your educational budget, make sure a few computers are installed with InDesign and Adobe Illustrator, as well as the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. Or, work with your school to negotiate a license deal where students can have access to these key software programs on their own laptops and computers.
Learning about designing and publishing content within InDesign, Illustrator, and the Digital Publishing Suite will give your students access to the best online publishing tools available. The programs also convert into print media like memorybook, for example, allows students to submit InDesign files to be included in their school’s print yearbook.
If you can’t get access to InDesign, give your students an opportunity to work with Microsoft Office Publisher, which comes pre-installed on many Windows computers and laptops. For today’s generation, not teaching students how to manipulate layouts and photographs digitally is like not teaching them how to use scissors and glue.
3. Integrate new media into every subject.
If your students are studying history, show them John Green’s popular new media history series, Crash Course. If you’re working on geometry proofs, ask students to program a mobile app that goes through the steps of each proof for them. If you’re teaching music, taking video of students’ performance and posting the video online — within a private school network, of course — can help your entire choir evaluate posture, breath, and other components essential to singing.
Think of new media projects as analogous to the “old media” projects of a generation ago — reading history textbooks instead of learning history online, writing geometry proof steps into a notebook instead of programming them into an app, standing in front of the choir and singing instead of evaluating a shared video.
In today’s educational environment, if you don’t integrate new media into your classroom, you’re not preparing your students for the real-world environment to follow. After all, it’s the way we share information, the way we connect to each other online, and the way we communicate.
About the Author: James is an avid designer and coder since he was 12, James writes and curates topics on both basic web development and advanced languages with a particular focus on mobile. Read his thought on tech on Twitter and his favorite articles on Google+

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