Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Middle Years Students' Experience with New Media

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Middle Years Students' Experience with New Media

Article excerpt


This study draws on a survey of 800 upper primary school students concerning their knowledge of certain 'new media' applications. The findings concur with other studies in suggesting that students' relationship with technology is more complex and nuanced than is conveyed by a simple branding of 'digital native'. Some differential experiences between classes and genders are identified, along with an important minority of students who have much more out-of-school experience with new media than others. The role of the school and teacher in inducting students to new media is presented as central, with important implications for curriculum leadership and teacher professional development.


Digital literacy, media use, information and communications technology, curriculum development, primary education, middle years


The world inhabited by school students is increasingly digital, multimedia and online. They are active users of what can be called 'new media', a broad term referring to media that are 'flexibly' available on any digital device and that fosters creative participation and community formation (New Media, 2013). Amongst these are You Tube, (1) Facebook, blogs, Twitter, podcasts, online worlds and gaming. With online environments such as Facebook claiming to have 900 million active users (Facebook, 2013), Twitter with 500 million active users (Twitter, 2013), over 11 million subscribers to Worm of Warcraft (Bainbridge, 2010, p. 1) and The Sims shipping over 16 million copies (The Sims, 2013), it is clear that 'new media' occupy an important position in the daily life of the population at large. Certainly, its ubiquitous presence makes it easy to agree with Prensky (2001, p. 1) that the members of the current generation live their lives 'surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age'.

The relationship between new media and school education is increasingly being explored (e.g. Apperley & Beavis, 2011; Barab, Pettyjohn, Gresalfi, Volk, & Solomou, 2012; Beavis, 2010; Cope & Kalantzis, 2009; Gee, 2007; Lankshear & Knobel, 2006; New London Group, 1996; Thomas, Barab, & Tuzun, 2009). Despite this growing interest, Knobel & Lankshear (2006) have expressed concern that the kinds of digital-age expressive communication required by emerging knowledge economies, and favoured by school-age students, are generally inadequately addressed in classrooms. Portrayals of the knowledge and background school students have of new media are patchy at best. Jenkins (2006) suggested that over half of all American teens, and 57% of those who use the Internet, are media creators, having published some form of multimedia such as blogs, webpages or videos. Several Australian studies point to much less penetration by new media in the lives of young people. In relation to Australian first-year university students, Kennedy, Krause, Judd, Churchward, and Gray (2006) found that 21% of respondents maintained a blog and 24% used social-networking technologies. Smith, Skrbis, and Western (2012) reported on the Internet use by 6444 lower secondary students, finding that it is considerably more nuanced and varied and probably not as high as popular culture might lead us to believe. There is, however, as Rutherford, Bittman, Brown, and Unsworth (2011) observed in their study of young children's engagement with new media, a notable gap in what is known about Australian students' use of new media more generally. The study reported in this article contributes to the emerging profile of Australian young people's familiarity with new media, focusing on upper primary school children specifically.

The commitment of some Australian Education Departments (Australian Labor Party, Australian Capital Territory Branch, 2004; Office of the Minister for Education and Training, Victoria, 2004) to provide authoring software such as Kahootz 3 (Maggs, 2008) to all primary and secondary schools in their jurisdiction created an ideal opportunity for research and development in multimodal authoring (see Chandler, O'Brien, & Unsworth, 2010) and--somewhat coincidentally--students' awareness and experience with certain new media more generally. …

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