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.
The Advantages of Using Media:
- 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. Learn more about this technique using the Teaching Quantitative Reasoning with the News module.
- 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.
The Advantages of Media for Students:
- 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.
- Students can hone their analytical skills by analyzing media using the theories and concepts they are studying.
- The use of media in the classroom enables students to see concepts and new examples when they are watching television, listening to music, or are at the movies with friends.
- Students can experience worlds beyond their own, especially if the media is sharply different from their local environment.
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.