Reframing Digital Media for Learning

Photo Credit: SSRC

What do the media talk about when they discuss digital media and learning? In what ways does the media’s framing of this issue influence public opinion?

The FrameWorks Institute (with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) recently published a report this month entitled, “Where’s the Learning? An Analysis of Media Stories on Digital Media and Learning.” You can access the report on our new Digital Media and Learning Issue Page.

Media content analyses are an important part of the work that we do here at FrameWorks. By analyzing media stories, we can more clearly understand “the swamp of public discourse” that shapes how the public thinks about a particular issue.

There are 5 main take-aways from the media content analysis on digital media and learning. They are:

1- Media coverage focuses on digital platforms for use in the business (39%)  and political (26%) sectors. These stories discuss digital tools and applications used for professional development and civic engagement that pertain to adults.

2- Media coverage is often associated with risks associated with digital media usage (15%). These stories discuss the need to safeguard privacy, protect children from cyber-bullying, and avoid digital distractions from “quality” social time.

3- Media coverage also refers to the commercialization of higher education (13%). The mention of digital media and learning in these stories refers to university marketing, electronic textbook production and sales, and corporate sponsorship of research that leads to commercial digital media products. There is a conspicuous absence of any mentions of using digital media in a pedagogical or educational application in a university context.

4- Digital media and learning is associated with educational benefits for children and adolescents in only 4.5% of the coverage. These stories reference the use of digital tools for enhancing education in the classroom and shaping students into digital cultural producers.

5- Children and adolescents are largely absent from news discussions of digital media and learning. The majority of the media stories focus on adults (75%). This was followed by college students (13%), adolescents (6%) and children 12 and under (4%).

What these results tell us is that the swamp of public discourse on digital media and learning is not really about learning for children. Only 4.5% of the total stories that mention the terms ” digital media,” “new media,” or “social media,” combined with the terms “education” or “learning,” talk about digital tools for school-aged children.

How do we bring youth into media discussions on digital media and learning? Is there a way to structure these conversations so that the media understand the larger societal benefits of digital media educational applications for K-12 students? We will discuss two promising directions in future posts.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these findings, especially from those working in the field on this issue.



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