Home Educational Trends The Transmediated Learner: The Story of Self (Part 1)

The Transmediated Learner: The Story of Self (Part 1)

by Miguel Guhlin
painted hand

Note: This is the first in a series of blog entries exploring the concept of the transmediated learner. It is less focused on a handy app list and more about asking the fundamental question “How can we more swiftly assist in the disintermediation of teaching frames so as to better reflect on increasing students’ opportunities to engage in building learning connections between systems?”

learning“Are teachers and curriculum departments being disintermediated as students engage in self-transmediation, crafting the story of themselves across time and space?” When I first wrote that question down, I had no idea that The Transmediated Self was actually a real term. Rather, I was searching for a term that defined learning in a hyper-connected present where people AND things were constantly plugged in and communicating information. Yet it is a term that has profound implications for self-determination in learning. We do not yet appreciate the always-connected aspect of technology and its impact on in transforming our  teacher frames for creating and managing instruction:

Technology is becoming ubiquitous to our daily lives to a point we are constantly connected to “the cloud”. . .To the present day, technology has evolved where certain technologies have become well integrated into everyday experiences whereby it become impossible to tell when one begins/ends or even to do without the technology.
Source: The Transmediated SelfResearch and Essay

How does this daily reality affect our students’ learning, and our conventions, as expressed from a teachers’ perspective in approaches like The Differentiated Classroom (Carol Ann Tomlinson’s 1999 book) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)? Are they still effective for learners? It may very well signal that students have adapted themselves to how various technology systems work, while educators are adapting technology to how they work. This fundamental difference in perspective presents problems for those eager to adopt an Internet of Things (IoT) perspective.

As we set out to design learning opportunities for students, UDL reminds us how important it is to keep learning goals in mind while helping learners:

  1. Show information in different ways;
  2. Help learners show what they know in different ways; and
  3. Offer learners options that engage them and keep their interest. Differentiated instruction, of course, refers to the way a teacher anticipates and responds to a variety of student needs in the classroom.

In both approaches, as many others, it is clear who is in control of learning—the adults. Yet being an adult means having access to information and knowledge networks, as well as the authority to translate information from one system and make it usable in another. In a previous time, that meant navigating physical roads and byways. Now, it involves navigating networks and virtual spaces with aplomb. With that definition in mind, younger learners are “adult” because they engage daily in these types of activities.

Join the ongoing TCEA Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) SkypeChat via your mobile device or online. Explore and share concepts at the intersection of teaching, learning, leading, and technology!

When we seek to empower learners to engage in reflective thinking about what they are learning across various technology systems, learners become more “adult.” Instead of students being led through learning activities, students can be co-creators in learning as they negotiate learning and sharing to and from different technology systems (e.g. Instagram, ITSLearning, SnapChat, Schoology, Facebook, Edmodo). This is known as transmediation, which is defined in this way for the independent learners our children have become at an increasingly early age:

Transmediation, the act of translating meanings from one sign system to another, increase students’ opportunities to engage in generative and reflective thinking because learners must invent a connection between the two sign systems, as the connection does not exist a priori. Source: More Than Words – The Generative Power of Transmediation for Learning

This is why the Internet of Things (IoT) serves as a powerful frame for learning. The five paths to becoming an IoT learner enable learners and educators to organize how learning can occur in classrooms, even though it means abandoning current teacher-centric frames of learning. Each IoT path provides learners with rich opportunities for inventing connections between systems. Being always connected suggests an alternate approach to school and curriculum than what we are comfortable with and struggling so hard to assess. Today, the world is available to young learners.  This means students self-determine what they need to know, understand, and are able to do.

Note: Find out more about the Five Paths to Becoming an IoT Learner at the TCEA Maker events.

For learners, this means using technology to connect and share ideas and information across language and cultural barriers. Students are increasingly relying on primary sources. These primary sources of content, which include a wide diet of music, video, text, and images, are instantly available via social media, and there is less need to seek out “processed” information.

Rather, technology-based transmediation tools empower students to “process” information in ways only educators could in the past. As Howard Gardner writes, as cited by Siegil (1995) in ASCD’s Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age, “The best representations are multiple. And so our search should be for the family of representations that can convey core ideas in a multiplicity of ways at once accurate and complementary” (1999, p. 202).” This means that transmediation can be a relevant, life approach for students to achieve deeper learning.

Students must develop or acquire a process for working through raw information, making sense of it, then finding a way to express it. Instead of processed curriculum, the content becomes the world around them, and digital tools disintermediate the curriculum and the teacher. Fortunately, teachers may be invited to exert influence as co-learners with the benefit of experience and reflection.

In future blog entries in this series, The Transmediated Learner, we will explore more ways to flip our thinking as teachers so we may adapt ourselves to the technology systems our children navigate daily.

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