Media can be used in almost any discipline to enhance learning, both in class, and also for out-of-class assignments. Short film and television clips, written articles, and blog postings can be viewed to reinforce concepts and spark discussion. Songs and music videos, especially when the lyrics are made available, can be used to the same effect.
Research suggests that people learn abstract, new, and novel concepts more easily when they are presented in both verbal and visual form (Salomon, 1979). Other empirical research shows that visual media make concepts more accessible to a person than text media and help with later recall (Cowen, 1984). In Willingham’s (2009) research he asks a simple question to make his point, “Why do students remember everything that’s on television and forget what we lecture?” — because visual media helps students retain concepts and ideas. Bransford, Browning, and Cocking (1999, p 194) also note the crucial role that technology plays for creating learning environments that extend the possibilities of one-way communication media, such as movies, documentaries, television shows and music into new areas that require interactive learning like visualizations and student-created content.
– Many media sources (feature films, music videos, visualizations, news stories) have very high production quality capable of showcasing complex ideas in a short period of time. This helps develop quantitative reasoning.
– Media offers both cognitive and affective experiences. It can provoke discussion, an assessment of one’s values, and an assessment of self if the scenes have strong emotional content.
– The use of media sources help connect learners with events that are culturally relevant. As a result, a positive consequence of utilizing media is that instructors must keep their materials and examples up-to-date.
– News stories can be used to connect theories taught in the classroom with real world events and policies.
– Popular media (films, music, YouTube) are a familiar medium to students that helps gain attention and maintain student interest in the theories and concepts under discussion. Students can see the theories and concepts in action. In more than a figurative sense, theories and concepts leap from the screen.
In addition to numerous advantages, there are also a number of cautions that faculty should keep in mind in utilizing media. Using media requires a complete understanding of copyright law, an appreciation of the workload involved, and some skill in recognizing content that will enhance learning, instead of becoming a distraction.