Oh, Mr. Bates…

Oddly enough, I’ve never really considered my own learning preferences related to digital resources.  I’ve often considered my choice of digital resources when it comes to teaching, but not necessarily when it comes to my own learning.  So when I sat back to think about it, I realized that my choice of digital resource both for my learning preference and my teaching preference usually comes down to the same thing …. purpose.  What am I trying to learn?  Why am I trying to learn that?  What am I teaching?  How might students learn that best?

Flickr creative commons

Initially, like Ashley and Kelsie, I would’ve indicated that my preference for learning was text. I visualize in text.  Sometimes, I actually visualize words and punctuation when people are talking – weird, I know.  In addition, memorizing has always been fairly easy for me as I can see the original text on a page so I’ve always assumed that I have an affinity for text.  However after some careful consideration and the following quote from Bates, my thinking has evolved. (An aside … I am one of the few who is just now watching Downton Abbey and every time I write the name Bates, I think of the valet for Lord Grantham, for whom I have a soft spot. Anyone else?!?  Downton is also the reason my blog is posted today and not yesterday, but I digress.)


Media differ in their ability to handle concrete or abstract knowledge. Abstract knowledge is handled primarily through language. While all media can handle language, either in written or spoken form, media vary in their ability to represent concrete knowledge.

Read Learn Glasses Text Highlighter Book Pen
Photo credit

If I am learning something particularly philosophical or academic, I prefer text.  I like to be able to read and reread and go back to reference particular sections.  I would find it endlessly frustrating to have to rewind video or audio to locate a particular idea.  As well, I can interact with and annotate text more easily.  So to process something, I need text to develop my ideas, even if that means that I am responding in written text to different media (such as this blog).  I process abstract concepts better with text.

Basketball gateway to youth mentoring program
Wikimedia commons

However, if I am going to teach a new Phys. Ed. skill, I find text is often convoluted and wordy. Video is often much better as I can see progressions and what needs to happen in order to teach the skill. Rewatching/rewinding isn’t difficult as I’m looking for a visual, concrete image instead of a particular phrase or concept.  In this regard, my preference would be video.  So, I suppose I agree with Bates (the author, not the valet) that media differ in their ability to handle concrete or abstract knowledge.  The choice of media I prefer depends on what I want to learn.  That being said, I rarely choose audio to learn (okay, never) – unless I am watching someone speak.  I just start daydreaming.  I must have a need to “see” something which is implied by a preference for video and text or an actual speaker.

After analyzing my own learning, I considered what digital media I use most frequently in my classroom.  Of course, I use text in almost all subject areas at some point or other. However, I use a lot of videos to teach both abstract and concrete ideas as I believe students prefer it.  I think video allows a different type of interaction as there is audio and visual (and often music) which engages people in different ways.  In addition, I have a variety of reading levels in my classroom so video levels the playing field as far as taking in information.  Also, the ease of access to video is another draw for using it in the classroom.


I wonder if my assumption that video is the popular choice for my students is actually true. Is it actually what they would pick if given the option?  I guess I should consult them.

Ultimately, I choose media for my classroom depending on purpose.  Am I teaching the students a skill (audio/video)?  Do they need to see it (visual)?  Should they create their own visualizations (text/audio)?  Do they need to interact and develop their own ideas (text/audio/video)?  Andrew wrote a great blog this week about the value of different types of media for different purposes.  He often has students utilizing multiple media at the same time based upon their preferences.  This is something I aim to try despite the limitations of access to tech.  How can I allow/teach my students to access media in a way that best meets their learning needs/preferences?  How do I facilitate that type of environment with middle years students and still achieve my purpose?

Well-designed media can help learners move from the concrete to the abstract and back again, once more leading to deeper understanding.  – Tony Bates (still the author)

Quality media leads to quality learning Andrew Foreman

So, choosing purposefully and choosing quality media leads to richer, deeper learning. How do you choose media for your students?  Do you use multiple modes at one time?


5 thoughts on “Oh, Mr. Bates…

  1. Great review Natalie! I like the quotes that you included…Well-designed media can help learners move from the concrete to the abstract and back again, once more leading to deeper understanding. – Tony Bates (still the author)

    Quality media leads to quality learning – Andrew Foreman I am going to check out Andrew’s blog! Thanks – Jorie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with you in regards to situations like phys ed and text. Sure there is a time and place for text in phys ed, but imagine how much easier it would be for students to understand the idea of, let’s say offside in hockey, if they were able to see a video example along with an explanation rather than simply having to read about it. I think the same can be said about a lot of other concepts and skills.

    Liked by 1 person

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