Digital Media as an Educational Solution (Not the Problem)

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The American educational system is experiencing a crisis in literacy. Too many students are falling behind in the critical reading skills that provide the fundamentals of a successful education. At the same time, teachers lament the excessive time students spend on digital media like video games and television.

Though teachers may be loath to admit it, digital media provide an opportunity to revive the American educational system, James Paul Gee and Michael Levine write for Democracy Journal. Educators should use students’ enthusiasm for video games, television, and mobile devices to teach the skills needed to succeed in the modern marketplace.

“The current approach to the literacy crisis is locked in a time warp,” according to Gee and Levine, “almost totally removed from the ubiquitous digital media consumption that currently drives children’s lives.”

The solution to America’s literacy crisis, and the increasingly problematic digital divide, lies beyond simple access to technology. Gee and Levine suggest in a creating a “digital teaching corps,” modeled on programs like Teach for America, which would send bright young teachers into low-performing schools to mentor children on technology and communication. The writers also propose the creation of digital community centers, staffed by the digital teaching corps, to increase access to the technology as well. On a federal level, the government should modernize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and take educational programs like Sesame Street and The Electric Company into the digital age.

Teachers need to move beyond the “book-centered” learning, which too often devolves into standardized test prep, and explore “experience-centered” learning that digital media provides. This way, schools can modernize their overhead projectors and filmstrips to give students the skills they need in an increasingly digitized world.

Image by Michael Surran, licensed under Creative Commons.

SourcesDemocracy Journal (excerpt available online)

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