September 29, 2023

Five media forms – learning technologies in 2020

Author: Clive Shepherd
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Back in 2009, I posted a simple analysis of learning technologies based on Diana Laurillard’s conversational framework. This became the second most popular posting ever on this blog, so I thought I’d give it a further look.

I was particularly taken by Diana’s five media forms (the descriptions are mine):

  1. Narrative media: explain, demonstrate, describe
  2. Interactive media: facilitate reflection, check understanding, encourage exploration, provide feedback
  3. Communicative media: allow exchanges between learners and between learners and tutors / subject experts
  4. Adaptive media: facilitate experimentation and practice
  5. Productive media: allow learners to articulate, express, demonstrate understanding

I was interested to see what light these categorisations would shed on my understanding of the wide range of learning technologies currently at our disposal. The following table is my updated 2020 attempt at allocating technologies to each of the five categories. I have added a column to explain whether digital content would be an input to the learning processes involved or an output.

Media form Example learning technologies The role of content
Narrative media Online videos, online articles and papers, podcasts, software demos, infographics Content is an input to the learning process
Interactive media Scenarios, quizzes, simple games, click-through e-learning Content is an input to the learning process
Communicative media Social networks, forums, virtual classrooms, online meetings and discussions, webinars, email / messaging Content is an output from the learning process
Adaptive media Simulations, AR/VR, intelligent tutorials, strategic games, intelligently curated content, adaptive learning pathways Content is an input to the learning process
Productive media Wikis, blogs, spreadsheets, apps for editing text, video, audio and slideshows Content is an output from the learning process

On re-visiting this analysis, I’m still not sure yet whether these categories move things along. Are some media forms more valuable than others? Are they situational? Should they be used in sequence or in combination? There’s plenty of room to take this thinking further.

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