Media Knowledge

The video “A Private Universe” describes the teachers struggle with communicating new concepts to students as they hold on to their preconceived ideas and have difficulty creating new knowledge structures. Students discover new ideas form a multitude of places.  “Everyday experiences, everyday communication, mass-media,and language,” (Driver, Guesne, Tiberghie, 1985).  No other time in my teaching experience have I seen media such as Youtube dominate my students opinions on so many topics in Science and Math. Not only that but it guides the direction of knowledge and focuses their attention on singular topics.  The area which I believe is becoming more prevalent as we move into the digital age is the power that mass media has on students preconceptions and knowledge base.


Learners use their existing knowledge (i.e. their conceptual ecology), to determine whether different conditions are met,”(Hewson, 1992).  They come into class with so much information fed to them through their personal media outlets that I find it is hard at times to draw their attention away from that focus to create a contradiction that will lead to an accommodation. For example, we are currently focusing on Mars and every student talks about the movie Martian and the 175km wind storms that they have to deal with.  I told the students that really the atmosphere on Mars is only 1% as dense as Earth so winds of that magnitude would have little effect.  To which my class responded, “Don’t ruin the movie!” It is a bit of a comical example but this Net Generation has their heads filled with “false facts” or “non facts” (useless information) through their digital repositories on a daily basis.  This “intuitive or naive knowledge. Its primary characteristic is that it constitutes the person’s reality, something the person believes in,” (Fosnot, Catherine, 1994).) combats on a daily basis with the knowledge I am trying to imbue.  


A second area of interest in childrens concepts  is the preconceived idea that all technology is primarily for consumption.  At the start of this year my grade 5’s felt as if the technology they were using does not work the way they want it to they could just give up or find a new piece of technology that would work.  They had little understanding of what lay behind the technology they were using, how to manipulate it and how to create with it. All of the apps, computers, software and hardware has its base in Math and Science yet we give our students little understanding of what lies under the hood and how to tinker with it. This is why in my class we use Raspberry Pi’s daily in Science and Math to learn physical computing.  To remove the prior conception, which is almost universal in my school, that computers are used to create knowledge not just entertain, word process and research.  I believe we are facing an increasing amount of children with a large amount of knowledge given to them through technology and it is our job to help them culminate that knowledge in meaningful and productive ways.


Driver, R., Guesne, E., & Tiberghien, A. (1985). Children’s ideas and the learning of science. Children’s ideas in science, 1-9. Available online: search the title using any engine.  

Fosnot, Catherine. Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. Teachers College Press, 2013 or 2005 version. Chapter 1: Introduction: Aspects of constructivism by Ernst von Glasersfeld or Chapter 2: Constructivism: A Psychological theory of learning or Cobb, Paul. “Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematical development.” Educational researcher 23, no. 7 (1994): 13-20. Available in the course readings library.

Hewson, P. W. Conceptual change in science teaching and teacher education. June 1992, National Center for Educational Research, Documentation, and Assessment, Madrid, Spain


  1. Technology for consumption. A mixed blessing! Even among the teachers in my school, there are quite a few who would prefer to use pre-made apps with linear progressions leading to easy-to-mark outcomes. Using technology to create something amazing is an experience that every child should have. I would love to hear more about what you do with the Raspberry Pi’s!

    1. Hi Laurie, I run a program teaching the children how to use code to interact with physical objects and make music. We have 12 Raspberry Pi’s in my classroom and I use them as stations for the students. Each station has a different lesson and a varying progression so the students can become comfortable with multiple aspects of the little single board computer. For example one of the first lessons is how to turn a LED off and on using the coding language Python, it then progresses into motion sensors, building Graphical User Interfaces and making motors turn. The lessons generally all come from the excellent resource which has over 120 lessons to help get students involved in computational thinking. I tie it in with our new ADST curriculum in BC as well as Math and Language Arts content. The Pi’s are cheap, about 60 bucks for the board and they can be hooked into old monitors and keyboards. You can run a browser off of them, word process and they come packed with an Operating system filled with coding programs aimed at teaching children: from block based such as Scratch to powerful syntax based coding, Python, and music coding applications like Sonic Pi. They have changed my classroom and my students views on computers. The kids are amazed at what power a tiny cheap computer can give them.

  2. Mass media definitely has significant impact on student learning, for better or worse. Youtube for example provides countless opportunities for learners to upload videos to ‘real-world’ audiences for more authentic and genuine assessment, though that same freedom comes with possibilities for misinformation. As people, we would like to assume that shared knowledge is self-corrective to the benefit of society, though the sheer volume of data make information hard (if not impossible) to monitor against self-interest.

    Another point that stood out for me is how students may remember ‘over-simplifications’ of topics, without fully ever grasping concepts. Learners can recite mnemonics for example (ex. LEO GER), without appreciating these reactions go hand in hand. I wonder how we can effectively balance memory aids, and focus students on acquiring fundamental knowledge.


  3. Dear Nathan,

    I found your thoughts on preconceived ideas particularly interesting. I would agree that the age we live in is one of convenience and we need to push hard for problem solving and critical thinking. Using technology can be the best way to do this because as you say the technology we rely on is based on math and science. Things like rasberry pi, programming apps, and robotics are fantastic tools to inspire thought and figure things out. This is what I am trying to encourage in my school next year.

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