Sunday, September 2, 2012

Playing with Media by Wesley Fryer - Book Review

Fryer, W. (2011). Playing with media: Simple ideas for powerful sharing.  Edmond, OK: Wesley A. Fryer.

As I’m preparing to work with graduate students studying inquiry into digital content, I continue to search for appropriate readings and activities for the online education course.  One of the optional texts I’m recommending is Fryer’s (2011) self-published “Playing with media: Simple ideas for powerful sharing,” which can be accessed in either electronic or printed versions. The electronic versions are interactive with a wealth of additional resources.  The author’s weblog -  provides links to the ebook versions and additional resources.

The book offers excellent teaching ideas and detail about incorporating digital media, including digital text, audio, images, and video.  Fryer (2011) supports all the ideas with compelling examples that can be easily accessed online.  The illustrations in the book are provided by his daughter and many of the examples used in the book to support ideas are ones provided by his children and numerous professional collaborators.  Fryer (2011) also references many of the authors I have included in the reading list for the inquiry into digital content course – which also makes the book an excellent supporting document for students who may want more detail in “how to” incorporate digital media in teaching and learning activities.  

The sections of the book are organized and clearly labeled which allows readers to access appropriate sections as needed instead of reading the whole text from cover to cover.  However, there are common messages interwoven in all the chapters and I would like to highlight four of the key ideas discussed throughout the book: 1) the need to be media creators and share multimedia messages effectively; 2) the need to empower students to become fully literate which includes digital communications fluency; 3) the need to create and share quantity in order to lead to quality; and 4) the need to consider the ethic of minimal clicks when integrating technology.

Media Creation and Media Sharing
The primary focus of the book is to inspire educators to use a variety of media and share with others.  It is commonly argued that teachers need to foster a constructivist learning environment whereby the teacher is more of a coach and supports learning by providing engaging and stimulating learning activities.  Fryer (2011) takes this argument a step further and contends educators need to get hands-on and play with media in order to effectively integrate technology in teaching and learning and engage students versus entrall students with media.  We should not substitute ongoing professional learning for educators on the reliance that today’s students come equipped with the prerequisite technological skills necessary for learning or that students will automatically be engaged by simply integrating media in the classroom.  For example, creating a video and showing the video to students in the classroom may be construed as technology integration in a lesson but without careful attention to appropriate use of the video, we may enthrall students with the video instead of engage them in learning and promote creativity.

After reading the book and paying close attention to the ideas about media creation and media sharing, I decided to move some of the course assignments for the graduate students to public spaces instead of keeping everything contained and password protected in the course learning management environment as I have previously done for courses.  Students will post public blogs during the course and will share media creations through Posterous, one of the new (to me) technology tools discussed in the book.  I’m also considering using Posterous for a 12 week photo build with students.  Each week two students will add a photo with caption to the Posterous site depicting one or two ideas they would like to share with classmates regarding the weekly assigned readings.  For example, the ideas can include key concepts, new questions that arose from the readings, connections to professional practice and research or memorable quotes. This will help build a synthesis of the major themes and concepts highlighted in the course.    One of the benefits in using Posterous is that students can directly contribute to the blog by sending an email message with the attached media.  Posterous automatically embeds and formats the media on the site using the accompanying text provided in the body of the email message.

Digital Communication Fluency
Communication is an integral component in learning and in today’s world communication involves multiple forms of media. Fryer (2011) states “we should not mistake digital use for digital understanding or communications fluency” (p.22).  How do we build digital communication fluency in schools?  Everyone needs to practice communication and practice in the art of media creation and media sharing, including teachers and students.  Developing and sharing media artifacts can empower learners to demonstrate their knowledge and skills and communicate understandings in new ways not possible using traditional communication methods.  Media creation and media sharing can empower teachers to design creative learning and inquiry experiences with differentiated assessments and amplify learning through sharing.

Quantity leads to Quality
In previous presentations I have used the Dr. Tae’s example (Ted Video - of skateboarding where he promotes the idea that learning should be more like skateboarding and that you need to work hard and practice over and over in order to learn something new which is similar to the perseverance required when learning a new skateboarding trick.  Fryer (2011) shares similar examples demonstrating that it is important to create a lot of media and increasing the quantity created may in fact lead to creating quality media.  Conversely, in school it is common for media creation to end or culminate a large project where students use media to share their understandings or display their final product.  Educators need to consider designing learning tasks with more no-edit or quick-edit assignments instead of deferring technology integration to final-one-time edited products. There needs to be more emphasis on the creating and sharing media on a daily basis in schools to increase the likelihood of creating and sharing quality media.

Ethic of Minimal Clicks
In working with educators for professional development, Fryer (2011) noticed that reducing the number of clicks or steps required to accomplish a task using technology increases the probability the technology will regularly be used.  It is recommended to design learning activities using new technologies with careful attention to using minimal clicks in order to increase the percentage of adopters for that new technology.  One of the reasons I decided to use Posterous for the 12-week photo build is due to the minimal clicks needed in setting up the site and the minimal clicks required for the students when adding their photos.  It is important to keep the ethic of minimal clicks in mind if we want to increase media creation and media sharing.

Lastly, I will discuss two areas that would be helpful in extending the content of the book, that is, creating and sharing media for research purposes and the need for more information regarding Canadian fair use/copyright.

I believe the content of the book could be extended with a discussion on the use of media for research purposes.  It would be interesting to see examples and share resources on how media and technologies could be used by researchers for purposes of gathering data and stimulating dialogue with participants.  Many researchers would also benefit from ideas of how collecting media as artifacts would support qualitative data collection.  

The chapter on copyright and fair use is necessary when promoting the idea of media creation and media sharing.  Fryer (2011) emphasizes the importance of proper attribution and discusses the guidelines for media creation and media sharing in four distinct categories: homegrown, public domain, creative commons and fair use.  He also notes that laws are not the same in each country and it is important to learn about copyright and fair use in your own area.  Canadian educators would definitely benefit from a section on copyright and fair use with attention to Canadian laws. 

I would highly recommend this book for educators interested in media creation and media sharing.  This would be a great resource to support professional development for teachers and leaders!