ne of the goals of a 21st century education is to foster students’ engagement with the world through inquiry learning while also instilling the skills and global mindedness they will need to succeed in a rapidly-changing workplace (THE INFLUENCE OF THE FUTURE WORKPLACE and ENGAGE & INQUIRE theme). One of the most effective ways to accomplish both of these goals is through the use of media creation as a learning tool. Due to the media-rich world we find ourselves in, we are witnessing a CHANGING ROLE OF STUDENTS from being content consumers to content creators.


It has been well-established for centuries that learning takes place by interacting with others, exchanging ideas and critiques. Current research shows how technology can strengthen learning because today’s students react more positively to the multi-media approach than to conventional methods of content delivery, i.e. lectures and essays. As a member of the Expert Panel that helped draft the 2015 and 2016 editions of the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report K-12 Edition (which examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in schools),

one of the trends we focused on was the “Shift from Students as Consumers to Creators.”

In our 2015 report, we recognized that a “shift is taking place in schools all over the world as learners are exploring subject matter through ‘the act of creation rather than the consumption of content’…Many educators believe that honing these skills in learners can lead to deeply engaging learning experiences in which students become the authorities on subjects through investigation, storytelling, and production.” Some examples of these media creation tools include Green Screen Technology, Stop-motion Animation, Digital Storytelling, Podcasts, Film Production, Websites, Blogs and Screencasting.


The benefits of using media creation as a learning tool go beyond the learning outcomes of individual assignments; they also help foster 21st century literacy and prepare students for careers in a globalized world. The New Media Consortium defines 21st century literacy as the set of abilities and skills where aural, visual, and digital literacy overlap. Beyond obvious skills of media creation (such as planning, execution, editing, interviewing, etc.), this approach also fosters critical thinking, such as:

  • showcasing complex ideas in a short period of time, which helps develop quantitative reasoning.
  • connecting theories taught in the classroom with real world events and policies
  • honing their analytical skills by analyzing media using the theories and concepts they are studying

These are skills our students will depend on in their future, no matter what jobs they hold or careers they pursue. It is our job, as educators, to prepare them for new media writing and publishing, and make sure they know how to get their message across and communicate within the new media landscape.

Being digital natives, students not only feel more at ease using these digital tools, but they also value the variety between using multiple formats to demonstrate their learning. With numerous “delivery channels” students are no longer limited by time, space or place. Furthermore, using media creation to demonstrate their learning allows students to create “digital artifacts” that will remain in circulation (meaning they are accessible to millions of people online) far after an assignment’s due date.

Although the media creation approach is not dependent on social media, the primacy and reach of social media can massively broaden the range and influence of the students’ work. While it may be true that students’ academic performance can be negatively affected by time spent on social networks due to distraction, there is mounting evidence that if used effectively, social media can facilitate higher-level learning outcomes through collaborative learning.  Knowing their media products are being shared across continents, languages and multi-media platforms really piques students’ interest in creating their best work. While teaching in Egypt, I witnessed this firsthand, as students worked much more diligently on assignments that were shared on-line (or with schools we were collaborating with in Asia and North America) than they did on assignments that only the teacher would see. This is not rocket science, but simple human behavior to exert more effort on those activities that will be viewed by more people; for centuries artists, athletes and musicians have made this clear!

Another reason student media creation is so important for the future of learning is because of the opportunities to instill 21st century skills like collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving. In today’s educational environment, if we as educators don’t integrate new media into our classrooms, we’re not preparing our students for the real-world environment to follow. After all, we need our learning outcomes to reflect the current way our society shares information, connects and communicates to each other. We as teachers must lead the charge. We must also become creators so we will be in the position to lead activities that involve developing and publishing educational content that will help foster these essential skills in our students.  

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