New media refers to any communication done via a digital platform. It embodies all which is related to the internet and uses a combination of technology, sound and images for delivery of information or messages. This could include (but not be restricted to) websites, blogs, streaming applications, podcasts, social media or any form of communication that uses the internet.

Technology is rapidly advancing with every passing day and keeping up entails a chase. There are certain ‘old media’ that have undergone a transformation to stay relevant in the digital space—this includes traditional newspapers opting for a solely digital presence with a website and an app to be accessed on your smartphone or tablet instead.

The implications of new media across fields is gigantic, especially education. There has been a shift towards incorporating media literacy into syllabi in schools with social media being used as a tool for teaching and learning, and several emerging new media tools tailored for use in the education sector. This comes with its fair share of advantages and a few disadvantages, all of which shall be discussed over the course of this article.

A Shift to a New Media-Centric Syllabus & Digital Literacy

The beauty of a media-centric syllabus shift is that the resources available via these communication systems can open doors to a whole new arena of learning for children across age groups.

In new media, there are a wide variety of tools that the learner can access at the click of a button. In the past, for information about another country, one would have to head on over to a library or look into an encyclopaedia but today it is as simple as typing in a few keywords into your preferred search engine or opening the YouTube app and watching a few videos. The learning experiences of today are more well-rounded and richer with imagery which wasn’t a reality a few decades ago.

We have become part of a ‘global village’ where different digital media converge into what constitutes our learning. Globalisation has allowed students from countries that were considered backwards to step up and propel their imagination beyond a world that they have grown in, with a tool as simple as a computer with an internet connection.

Digital literacy pertains to being able to make sense of digital media which happens once an individual has undergone a pattern of consumption and curation of the media in a meaningful manner to finally be able to become part of its community. The four principles of digital literacy include:

  • Comprehension: Refers to an individual being able to extract ideas from a given media in an implicit or explicit manner.
  • Interdependence: Relates to the potential, metaphorical, ideal or literal interrelationship of one form of media onto another. This goes beyond just their coexistence and talks about how they may enhance one another.
  • Social factors: Pertain to the creation of a digital ecosystem of sourcing, sharing, storing and repackaging media via these channels, all of which play a major role in its long-term success.
  • Curation could be in terms of repackaging available information in a more visually delightful manner for consumption for its continued accessibility and long-term use.

Using Social Media in Teaching & Learning

Until a few years ago, social media wasn’t as widespread as it is today and now it plays a part in being a knowledge-sharing and information-sourcing platform. The education sector has embraced the trickling of social media technologies into their curriculum and integrated it to take things a step further.

For students, social media has become a treasure trove of information that they would not have previously had access to. Interested students can become part of several learning communities and systems. These factors contribute to a more wholesome and engaging learning process. Students are engrained with the values of collaboration subconsciously when they become part of these social networks. It becomes a space beyond networking—connecting, sharing and generating knowledge also become a part of the bigger picture.

For educators, using social media allows them to connect and bridge the generational gap. They can easily embed a YouTube video or a TedEd link to a concept that they may otherwise have had to create a lesson plan around to teach their students. This allows educators to think beyond just information delivery—students can be encouraged to ask questions and delve deeper than what may have been permitted without the use of new media tools. Many technology companies are dedicated to the creation of ed-tech and these education-directed new media tools become safe spaces for teachers and students to augment the learning experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages of New Media’s Introduction into Education

As is the case with any tool, new media comes with numerous advantages and a few disadvantages.

Advantages of incorporating new media in education include:

  • Improves collaboration between the educators and pupils, and amongst students while encouraging a certain degree of partnership
  • Effective tools for education with the spark of several important conversations lit allowing teachers to create a safe space for exchanging ideas and indulging in meaningful conversation
  • As an extension of the previous point, an inquisitive mind will also foster a research-centric learning approach
  • Access to learning groups, blogs, virtual libraries and systems to supplement what is taught as part of the regular school syllabus
  • Preparing them for the competitive workforces of the future with digital skills to boot
  • Learning need not be location-centric—regardless of time or location, students can access resources to enhance their experience

Disadvantages of incorporating new media in education include:

  • Cyberbullying is one of the major drawbacks of embracing social media in teaching
  • Exposure to explicit social media content which may not be suitable for all age groups

The advantages outweigh the disadvantages, thereby cementing the belief that we must cope with the use of new media in teaching.