Single-media schools, multimedia world

If a picture tells a thousand words, then the two images below from a recent report by the Global Information Industry Center at the University of California, San Diego are of interest. The first image shows the average American’s hourly information consumption per day. Note that the small yellow wedge represents printed text, which of course is the overwhelmingly dominant information medium in P-12 schools.


The second image shows the decreasing prevalence of printed text in our lives since 1960:


These data represent average Americans. I’m sure they would look different if we just looked at our younger generations.

It’s simple, really:


How long are American schools going to get away with these kinds of expansive disconnects between how we consume information in schools and in our daily lives?

12 Responses to “Single-media schools, multimedia world”

  1. I think it’s also worth noting that the media (text or otherwise) used it schools is, exactly that, school media- content that’s created for educational use that would not be ingested by anyone who was not forced to do so.

    Simply increasing the use of multimedia will not fix our core issues. Educators need to reevaluate what good media looks like and what it should be doing for students in the classroom.

  2. Is it possible that the percentage of time spent on things like television or radio is not something the schools should try to replicate?

  3. @Tom: I think your note about non-ingestion is an excellent point. Thanks for bringing that up here.

    @Mark: Few of us probably would argue that schools should exactly mirror overall information consumption. But surely schools should be better in line with the trends of our overarching reality, no? Maybe that’s not TV/radio (b/c those are declining technologies) but rather Internet / computers / gaming (simulations)…

  4. I somewhat question those numbers in two regards:

    – anybody who works in a professional capacity deals with an awful lot of paper every single day (and does it really make sense to lump together all job categories into a single statistic)

    – an awful lot of what passes across computer screens is equivalent to paper (e.g., preparing documents – is MSWord really any different than a fancy typewriter?, is reading/writing email that different than postal mail on paper?)

  5. For me, this represents a continued control of educational content (both the content itself and the presentation of that content) by business interests who do not have true education as their goal, but rather a profit margin.

    Textbook publishers, standardized test generators, curriculum product publishers aren’t interested in a “no-holds-barred” approach to content.

    If education were to move to a process based curriculum and away from content based (allowing content to fluid and discipline neutral) it would mean a serious decline in the bottom line for the previously mentioned entities. Just like RIAA, the companies that have produce textbooks, test, and curricula want a “mostly single media” environment in schools – it insures their livelihood.

    There are enough books (not textbooks), enough pre-generated materials (generated by practicing teachers), and sources of information on the Internet (primary resources) that textbooks are no longer necessary. The are a drain financially, as well as intellectually on our schools.

    Text is still the primary (though not by much) source of information on the Internet – you still have to read. The difference is, like I am doing here, we get to interact with a lot of it.

  6. I agree. I see TV and radio as areas of individual consumption of information. Sitting around and talking about a TV show would be different, but not primarily how people use TV. On the other hand, schools should use and replicate Internet use as that involves everything from (evaluating) print, interacting with film, user created content, and social/learning opportunities beyond school walls. Let’s definitely take advantage of all that!

  7. It would be interesting to see the data broken down into a work window…. what do the percentages look like for the 21st century white collar job (8 to 5, M-F), and what do the percentages look like for a typical school day experience? If we take a stretch and equate digital text to print (really, what’s the difference?), then I’d expect a K12 school day to be more diverse in it’s information consumption compared to the professional workplace. Certainly this would be the case in any classroom taking a project based learning approach.

  8. Reply December 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Text is still important. If we are going to communicate our thought as we are doing here, we need the skills of reading and writing. If we are going to “write” a script for a video or words for a song we need text. Some people are worried that the written word will diminish. I think that it will increase as the audience we communicate with increases.

  9. Your post, Scott, and these comments raise a ton of good questions. I think the most important reason to see multimedia content consumption increase in schools is because that is the format being used most often to try to communicate and influence beyond schools.

    If we don’t give our students opportunities to practice drawing conclusions/consuming information/learning responsibly from multimedia content, they’ll be unable to efficiently or effectively navigate in a digital world—-and they’ll be duped by people who learn to manipulate through digital messages.

    Certainly fun to think about,

  10. I’m the only teacher at my school who teaches students how to read RSS. I may be the only teacher who reads RSS. RSS technology has revolutionized my own reading and I’ve been able to get some students excited too. I like your article. I’ve forwarded it to our superintendent who enjoyed it too. I’m prejudiced about commercial or MSM as I think it’s very slanted. Blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter provide a much needed contrast. Both mediums should be highlighted instead of what we currently are pushing if we are to prepare today’s students to be tomorrows citizens.

  11. While this is an interesting (and valuable) discussion, our frame of reference here is “quantity.” That’s what the graphic shows and so that’s what we are talking about. It would be interesting to develop some sort of “quality” rubric to further sift this info.

    I’ve never been a fan of doing something just because everyone else is doing it. Of course, I’m opening up a whole different can of worms here.

  12. This is quite interesting. Especially the illustration. I think with the way things are going, very soon the education sector will fully adopt social media learning techniques. There are currently heaps of online schools and learning and people are embracing it because of the ease and flexibility. These days people hardly pay attention to tvs and radios, The computer is taking over tvs and radios especially with the invention of mobile computers.

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