Balancing media environments: Design principles for digital learning in Danish upper secondary schools

Mogens Olesen


Based on a case study on pupils at a Danish upper secondary school this paper reveals that the pupils’ media experiences in school are dominated by frustrations and feelings of ambiguity. Two pupil groups with different attitudes towards digital media were identified: one ‘IT positive’ group that call for more activating uses of digital media, and an ‘IT skeptic’ group that call for less experimentation and a return to traditional teaching methods and paper books. The case study reflects several ways in which new technologies challenges our educational system. This results in schools today generally being caught between practices of the literate, book-based environment, on the one hand, and the interactive, networked digital environment, on the other. The paper uses the concept of affordances to demonstrate how different media environments shape learning possibilities differently, and that any technology elicits desirable learning outcomes as well as undesirable learning outcomes — or challenges. Essentially, the educational system faces a fundamental challenge of balancing logics and principles of digital learning with traditional, paper-based learning. On this basis, a theoretical framework is developed that sets up didactical principles — distinguishing between affordances at individual, social and societal levels — for applying digital technologies in learning contexts. The paper concludes by demonstrating the principles through a learning design case concerning the climate debate.


Affordance, media environments, e-learning, digital media, attention, networking, motivation, authentic learning, situated learning

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