Digital media: Are we better students or just class clowns?

MORE than a decade has passed since I studied at university and with so much new digital media available, will I be a better student?

Social Media was in its infancy way back in 2003. When I was at
university Facebook wasn’t yet available to the public and Youtube was still years away.

Back then I was just happy to have survived six years of “refer to the back of the book” and “copy this from the blackboard” at High School. Let’s face it, interacting and sharing hasn’t been on school curriculum priorities when ultimately students are expected to sit an exam in silence.

In the past I’ve learnt by reading text, looking at examples and attempting to decipher a strategy to answer the questions. You could test yourself against someone else’s old answer and replicate the method for the man_edited-1

But what if you had to come up with the testing phase yourself? Would it be more difficult to learn with so many different opportunities and examples flying around online?

I remember sitting in a Maths class at High School and listening to my teacher rant about how he believed the way we learnt was all wrong. First you learnt this and then you learnt that and then there was a TEST! After the test you moved on to the next area and repeat. Revision seemed to be less important compared with following the instructions, the formula and examples.

Learning in the post digital revolution seems to be quite different. There are so many platforms to access information online; it seems never before have we been asked to engage and interpret information rather than just solely consolidate it.

Thinking versatile; Learning fast.

When I think about my own digital media learning experiences since the early 2000s, I think of jumping from one Youtube channel to the next in order to learn a guitar lick or reading forums to find good fiction writing advice.

It’s this ‘superfluity of communication and publishing’ that Thompson states is a result of our new digital tools and has a huge impact on our ability to think. ‘Today’s tools make it easier to find connections – between ideas, pictures, people, bits of news – that were previously invisible’ (Thompson 2013, p. 11).

Digital media is helping students like me to be better. We are seeing, retaining and communicating more. (Thompson 2013, p. 9).

Thompson argues that we’re smarter now due to a shift from static contemplation of information to a more versatile and delegative approach. ‘This transformation is rippling through every part of our cognition-how we learn, how we remember, and how we act upon that knowledge emotionally, intellectually, and politically’ (Thompson 2013, p. 9).

It seems the spoon-fed must now learn how to direct the spoon. A somewhat culture shock for those who studied before the seismic shift in information sharing. Learning is now participatory more than ever.

Strength in numbers.

Collaboration has become a fundamental aspect of learning in the 21st century and along with digital media provides students the opportunity to gain feedback from 360 degrees. There’s someone on Youtube with a video of the process, there’s a discussion forum about the author’s earlier work and you can download the entire catalogue with a click.

David Gauntlett (Making is Connecting 2010) says that digital media has provided a massive boost to everyday creativity and that by sharing what we’ve created in turn increases engagement and our connection with the world.

Learners like myself will benefit from this interconnected environment of mass information consumption and thanks to the shift from just a few global producers the individual broadcaster has become empowered. ‘Very simply, today, everyone is a producer. So, today, this user, their capacities and their skills have become central to the discipline.” (Merrin 2014, p. 36, p. 147)

With just a few quick tweets I have found myself sharing, producing and learning a vast amount of information via different mediums. It’s possible that I am venturing into the realm of ‘Produsage’ which I hope to explore in future blog posts. While the new experience seems to be quite different compared to my secondary education and early tertiary studies.

When I think back to whether I was a better student at High School with limited resources or now after the Digital Revolution, I hope that I made the best of what I had at the time and understand that now with so much more – I should be better.

Are you better off with digital media? Or are things pretty much the same?


Thompson C, 2013 Smarter Than You Think, Penguin Group, New York.

Making is Connecting 2010, Youtube, David Gauntlett, 13 January, retrieved 14 March 2016,

Merrin W 2014, Media Studies 2.0, Routledge, New York.



Welcome to In Search of i, a blog regarding identity, participation and the possibilities for dystopia within digital media.

The purpose of these pages is to help crystallise theories of digital media participation for my Media Studies major.

The first post is an attempt to understand how I learnt at High School in the early stages of digital media compared to present where I learn online, participate in a ‘virtual classroom’ and find myself wondering if digital media will help me to be a better student?

What do you think?

Follow me as I attempt to understand just who I suppose myself to be online. I hope to explore questions like: What image do I want to portray online? Why do we do that? What perception do we have of ourselves online that must differ from who we know ourselves to be? Is there a difference? And is this difference related to pressures of societal norms or something else?

I hope to also explore reasons for refusal and why I’ve been a lazy bum until now and not participated online.

Please comment, subscribe and share your thoughts on each post as I attempt to learn and create in a ‘Produsage’ environment.