As the year 2011 drew to a close, a small but increasing number of science academics can be recognised as assigning students to create 'new media'. At the same time, scholars who study the conduct of science, science communication, and science education are more visibly acknowledging the need for graduates to have insight and facility with such digital media. Here is what both groups are saying.

Academics in Science conclude ...

University academics recognised as 'pioneers' in assigning their students to make wikis, podcasts, blogs, and videos were gathered in Brisbane in early November 2011. They learned to make 'slow-animation' with Assoc Prof Garry Hoban of the U of Wollongong. Then, they reflected on the experience and shared short presentations on their own, new media assignments. Toward the end of the workshop, the group brainstormed a list of insights from their experiences before and during the event.

1. Learned -- Common realisations

Slowmation is an easy and accessible tool, not a lot of legwork sorting tech
Ready access & easy to adopt tech is important
Getting students to create a product deepens their learning from the process
Multiple, iterative steps and documentation
Can use tech to engage non-science students

Get students engaged in cognitive and affective domains
Share-ability of student work with other students
Share-ability will become an issue with standards, TEQSA, share student output between institutions; accreditation exemplars
Sharing linked with peer assessment
Use tech that students are familiar with using, or even creating

Compatible with e-portfolios & documentation of grad attributes
Is assessment appropriate for new media -- assessment of end product and assessment of process, summative
Narration suggests that students are using their own words (e.g., each student appears once in a team's video)

2. Potential -- What has proven possible, what seems likely

Opportunity to tick boxes on GAs on one piece of assessment, which exams cannot do
Evidence of addressing GAs
Integrate current, local issues, pesonalised response, etc., as ways of avoiding plagiarism
Students might actually learn and retain something
Potential to decrease marking load

Composition of new media can make thinking visible
Could make material accessible to students who do not cope well with traditional forms of assessment
More inclusive curriculum
Tech is changing, grads will need these abilities (e.g., video-based CV)
Frame question carefully so that answer student comes up with hits on key concepts

Media produced at one level can inform a lower level at uni, at schools
Use new media as an introduction or abstract for a project, essay, ... to clarify content and structure of argument in students' minds
PR value of student products for outreach
Possible use in teaching language
Amenable to cultural patterns of communication, e.g., reluctance to ask direct questions

Generate research outcomes for us -- 'pioneers'
Nexus between teaching and research on teaching

3. Realities -- Logistics, students, curriculum context

Learnt about Moviemaker from my son -- more and more students are becoming increasingly experienced
PPT since kindie, need such creations for emphasis on QA (quality assurance)
Experience with new media related to education continues to Year 10, then the fun stops
New Australian curriculum?
Examples of level of deep engagement

School assignments with different media
Fun and engaging tool
Qualitative evidence suggests impact on learning, e.g., students learning composition
Students can use what is composed for one medium in another
What they focus on composing they tend to learn

More advanced students teach other students, generating a learning community
Graduates will face requirement to represent selves, organisation, cause in new media

4. Hurdles -- Remaining challenges

What proportion of assessment? 35%? less? more?
Evidence base to support use and weighting
Exam is the 'tin standard' -- not a great measure of learning but a common one
What is being assessed? What weight given to content? GAs?
Pros and cons of having Google, are students investigating or only plagiarising / 'satisficing' ?

Instruction on group process needed
How to assess new media; not a lot written about that yet

Academics in Science Communication & Science Education think ...

An international workshop at the Open University in the UK was held in December 2011. It was coordinated by Dr Richard Holliman, one of our project collaborators. He has summarised insights from the workshop in the following 'Comment':

"Telling science stories in an evolving digital media ecosystem: from communication to conversation and confrontation," Journal of Science Communication, Vol. 10, Number 04, Comment 4.

ABSTRACT: The globalised digital media ecosystem can be characterised as both dynamic and disruptive. Developments in digital technologies relate closely to emerging social practices. In turn these are influencing, and are influenced by, the political economy of professional media and user-generated content, and the introduction of political and institutional governance and policies. Together this wider context provides opportunities and challenges for science communication practitioners and researchers.
The globalised digital media ecosystem allows for, but does not guarantee, that a wider range of range of contributors can participate in storytelling about the sciences. At the same time, new tools are emerging that facilitate novel ways of representing digital data. As a result, researchers are reconceptualising ideas about the relationship between practices of production, content and consumption. In this paper I briefly explore whether storytelling about the sciences is becoming more distributed and participatory, shifting from communication to conversation and confrontation.

The complete four-page article is available at: