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May 5, 2009 / zachfarley

New Media Final Essay

New Media: Entertaining Interactivity
By: Zach Farley
Bond University
Serene Computer Lab at Seward Montessori School

Since most people adopt new media technologies and use them for entertainment/info-tainment purposes (i.e. mobile gaming, the internet, etc…) a technological determinist would argue the spread of new communication media (generally) in society has caused a demand for entertaining education (lectures, readings, classrooms that are entertaining as well as informative). Argue for or against this proposition.


New media technologies are diffusing into mass society at a rapid pace. They are being used in different areas of life by many different people. People are using these technologies in new ways then ever before. As long as there is an audience, people are creating content that enhances current non mediated experiences. One thing that has always been boring is learning, however since the advent of new technologies in the classroom, students and teachers have combined their efforts to change the way we learn. Therefore, new communication technologies are the impetus behind the new found entertaining education movement because both students and teachers can understand this medium and work together to change the way we learn and interact with the material.

Computers were originally developed for military and scientific purposes in the 1960’s. This means that it took computers about 30 years to develop into their current state. 30 years is the average life cycle it takes for of a new media product to penetrate into the mainstream. Using the theory of technological determinism which deals with technology being a factor of change, it is easy to see how computers affected what is being done with education currently. Tools such as PowerPoint and iLearn directly affect the way that information is presented in this day and age. These examples show that technology, such as the computer, changed the way that we present our information. The result of entertainment and interaction in education came only after we had the technology to do so. Opposing the view of the technological determinist is a socio culturist who believes that technologies evolve change in a social context. There is also an extreme view point against technological determinism that individuals choose to use appropriate technologies. However if the technological determinism was incorrect in saying that technology is a factor of change, then computers would simply be used in schools, but they wouldn’t necessarily have been able to directly factor the change of learning from non interactive to interactive and to entertaining. For a socio culturist to be correct new media would have had to stay the same besides the interface, but thanks to computers it has been completely changed forever.

Computers are being used in schools by students not only for education use, but students are also helping to set them up and keep them running. According to a study by the National School Boards Foundation, 61% of students in large school districts are providing tech support for their school (2006). This study shows that almost a critical mass of students not only have experience in using computers, but in knowing how they work and how to fix them. This number is very important because it illustrates that computers have fully diffused into schools.

Diffusion of Innovation is a theory which discusses how and why a technology gets introduced into mainstream society and then how it begins to work its way into everyday life. There are five different groups of people who adopt new technologies at different stages. According to Clarke, first you have the early adopters in this case innovators such as creators and venture people who first take control of the medium. These people are in control of tweaking the content and forging the path for where it will be used in society. In the field of computers and schools, these groups would be the superintendents of the schools and companies like Microsoft and Apple who packaged these for sales to schools. However, you need a second group that would want to buy the technology also. Early Adopters are important in this role, they are people such as principals and curriculum setters that realize how and why a technology like computers can make learning more entertaining. They share their knowledge because they are opinion leaders who have the ability to influence students. The students and teachers are influenced and most become the early majority. They take to this idea that it will help their progress and ability to learn, therefore, once the first group catches on and the word starts to spread about how fun computers are, more students continue to join. The late majority is next, these are students who aren’t trend setters but still like to be in the know. At first they weren’t quite sure whether or not this would catch on but since it has and teachers started to create content for it they are ready to jump in. Lastly, even technophobes and people who aren’t big advocators start joining in the laggard stage, these are the people who may use the internet rarely for email or can’t get access on a regular basis (1998). In the I-pod generation, these people don’t quite have one yet, but it’s wrapped under the tree this year, three years after everyone else already had one. Like it or not, good or bad, computers are in society to stay because they have are a medium that has fully diffused.

Computers are a very unique medium because they encourage interactivity. This gives the user a choice in customizing their experiences which leads to that entertainment that the user craves. This is important in learning because the more intense and vivid something is, the better chance you have to remember it. Steuer’s classification graph on media technologies has vividness on an axis and interactivity on the other axis. It illustrates how something can be vivid like high definition television or an Imax movie, but lack interactivity. It also has highly interactive examples on the other axis like a cb radio and a fax machine because you can adjust options. However, until these options came together in such concepts as videogames, the user was less likely to remember them. The ultimate example that has both interactivity and vividness is the holodeck from Star Trek. Not only can the user manipulate and adjust content with it but, it is also highly stimulating as images appear before the user (1995). The holodeck sure would be a great way to learn! According to Flew, there are still concerns about “learning from a box (website)” (p.171). That is why it is important to keep the face to face interaction. This idea combines well with media richness because school has some very intense concepts and face to face communication combines well with computer as a secondary learning function.

According to a journal in behavior and information technology in 1998, there are four factors on the media richness scale. These factors are things that the medium must allow in order to be well understood. First, a medium must allow feedback if they have questions about something. Computers do this well with email, aim and voice over internet protocols. It is important in making education fun because users will be able to ask questions, communicate with other users and overall be less frustrated. Next, users must be able to add meaning to what they say. In class we talked about how a user can add certain keystrokes that have meaning to give extra expressions to their language. This allows users to give customization and interactivity which is imperative to a good experience. Then, users must be able to use flexible language. This is an excellent thing with computers because the user has time to think of a message before sending it and can create good dialect before sending a message. The time that a user has to draft a message gives them ability to edit and think better than in real time communication. Lastly, a medium must be able illustrate how a user feels and show there feelings. This is important in communicating ideas with a teacher, and new tools like web cams even allow users to see others (D’ambra, Rice, & O’Connor). If you were communicating with someone unknown or in a different culture you could learn about them without having to take a field trip. This is important because users get to interact with other students far away with out ever having to leave school. This is important for school because it still allows virtual field trips without worrying about budgets and children’s safety. As technology advances, these four things continue to expand thus enriching new media and expanding the possibilities of entertainment and education making new media a viable option inside the classroom.

Think back to your favorite elementary school teacher and what they did that made your experience so memorable. Growing up teachers always tried to make learning fun. Those who succeeded in making lessons fun, interactive and informative not only got the best results from students, but increased students interest in learning. Marshall Mcluhan’s statement of the medium is the message relates to internet communication technologies (ICT’s) very closely. Mcluhan saw every medium as an expansion of some human ability, with the media of communication adding to a particular sense or extension.(Wimbley, 2000). “McLuhan would go on to say that television and computers is our facility to communicate. He would say that it is not what comes on TV but the TV itself” (Wimbley, p.1). Using this theory, we see tools like iLearn as an extension of a classroom. Therefore, using this theory we realize that the message has always been the same, but with the new medium it allows us to display it in a new way. Just as radio changed the way we listened to media, and television let us see it, new media allows us to interact. Not only does this make learning more entertaining but it allows the user to control and interact with content. We know that its not specifically what message comes out of a medium, but that its goal is to facilitate learning, which has always attempted to be as fun as it can be.

For example, even at university professors still try and make learning fun, in my interactive experiences class, we got to play a game show as our final rather than take a written test. This idea worked tremendously well because it made sure everyone could get involved and have fun. Although we were learning old content, new media helped us with tools like PowerPoint to see the questions and iLearn to communicate with group members. The game show seemed to work well not only because everyone wanted to win like they do with a test, but because it was an active audience that new media encourages rather than a passive audience with a test. Users felt engaged in the action and had the ability to pick certain questions and get immediate feedback, rather than stare at a piece of paper, fill in some bubbles and get results back weeks later after they forgot what they wrote. According to Kinney and Dennis, “Feedback is important to the speed and effectiveness of communication because it enables the sender to recognize the extent to which the receiver understands the message and to adjust the message presentation accordingly”( p256-274). Inside the gameshow when giving an answer, users could see the professors eyes perk up or down and feel a sense of hot or cold as they attempted to mutter out an answer. This example of immediate feedback helped the user to adjust his message presentation during mid sentence. Whoever adjusted there statement best and quickest ended up winning the game. This idea illustrates one way that the medium of ICT’s allow the user to create interaction allowing for an entertaining way to get an education and a helpful way to use a new medium to get results and feedback fast and effectively.

With new communication technologies allowing more entertaining ways to learn, the possibilities are endless as to what teachers and students can create. As long as technology keeps expanding to give users a high level of interaction with the content then new communication technologies will remain the impetus behind the new found entertaining education movement. Since both students and teachers can understand this medium they must continue to work together to change the way we learn and interact with boring material and make it fun!

 


References

Clarke, Roger. (1998). A Primer in Diffusion of Innovations Theory. Retrieved on 11- 29-06 from http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/SOS/InnDiff.html

 

Flew Terry. (2002) New Media: an Introduction. Online Media and the Future of Higher Education. Ch.9 p171.

D’ambra, John., Rice, Ronald., & O’Conner, Marcus. (1998). Computer-mediated communication and media preference: an investigation of the dimensionality of perceived task equivocality and media richness. Behaviour & Information Technology 05-01-1998, Vol 17 (3), p164. retrieved on 11-26-06 from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.bond.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoa h&AN=T4DNTH059A43D1PVFUEQ&site=ehost-live

Dennis, Alan., & Kinney, Susan. (1998). Testing Media Richness Theory in the New Media: The Effects of Cues, Feedback, and Task Equivocality. Sep98, Vol. 9 Issue 3, p256-274, 19p. Retrieved 11-27-06 from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.bond.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh &AN=1249952&site=ehost-live

National Schools Boards Foundation. (2006). Are we there yet? Research and guidelines on schools’ use of the Internet. Retrieved on11-29-06 from http://www.nsbf.org/thereyet/fulltext.htm

Steuer, Jonathon. (1995). Classification of various media technologies using the dimensions of vividness and interactivity. Retrieved on 11-29-06 from http://www.thethoughtshop.com/research/atextr/dpthesis/download/dp_illus/f14st eue.jpg

Wimbley, Jason. (2000). McLuhan’s Medium is the Message. McLuhan Hypothesis. Retrieved11-28-06from http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/Speech/rccs/theory31.htm

 

 

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