Reflecting Upon the Need for Media Literacy in our Classrooms

When I was doing my first degree in Visual Arts, I was asked to be part of CREATE, a program in Regina Public Schools that gave classrooms the opportunity to work with an artist. The opportunity was in tandem with a SHAW media program where students were asked to watch pilots for different kids programming, and to rate which ones they enjoyed the most. How this ever got green lighted and allowed into the classroom is beyond me (see: $ and backroom handshakes) but rather than just go with it and teach the kids how to use iMovie or some such project, I saw it as an opportunity to teach the students about media literacy, as in how to better understand and recognize the ‘hidden messages’ that existed in all forms of media, but especially in this case video.

“Sure, our kids will love to watch your terrible programming and write about it. Ties into curriculum!”

Not having a lot of experience teaching grade 6 kids, and a lot of time writing highfalutin artist statements, much of what I taught may have been too difficult and a little too direct instruction-y, but even then the students began to pick up different hidden content once they began adding context to the videos. Once a question such as “what is this trying to sell me” was inserted before a clip, students became much more savvy.

I believe that as educators we need to be forward thinking about how better to educate our students in media literacy and digital citizenship, and the first thing to do is to better educate ourselves.

A good place to start would be the Potter reading on media literacy we read as an introduction to this class. I think it is a perfect choice to help educators better understand both the need for, and how to go about teaching media literacy to others, at least as a beginning conceptual framework. Understanding how one’s perceptions are affected by media is an important step towards learning how to better re-organize and prioritize one’s own understanding of themselves and the way they see the world around them.

Students need to learn to be critical in how they look at everything around them, as well as have the opportunity to practice these skills. With the current election happening, Rochelle made a great point in her blog that her students took the attack ads against Trudeau for face value, not stopping to think of the context, or the intent of these messages were. I think we are doing our students a disservice if we are not giving them the opportunity to ‘unravel’ the media around them, and to have a supporting environment in which to critique it.

Teachers also need to reflect upon their own understanding of digital citizenship, and to ensure that they understand that their perspective is one that doesn’t mirror their student’s. While most teachers engage in social media, it fades in comparison to the importance social media plays in the lives of children who have been surrounded by it for the entirety of their lives, often without anyone providing them any opportunity to practice it or to better understand the potential consequences in the short and long term.

To jump on another idea we spoke about this class, I’d like to quickly reflect upon my own attitude towards new technologies. I would consider myself a techno-progressivist as I believe that it is how we choose to use the technology that makes it either valuable or worthless. To make this relevant to the classroom, I’ll use the Smartboard as an example of this. The smartboard is often heralded by many as one of the greatest bits of tech to ever come into a classroom, and that student engagement is vastly improved. While I would agree that there is potential for the smartboard in terms of its interactivity, it’s not the tool itself, but the content being put through it, as well as the ease to which a tool can seamlessly integrate itself into the classroom momentum. There’s nothing worse than a poorly made smartboard lesson that doesn’t work properly, resulting in significant downtime of student engagement, leading to losing your classes interest. In the end lessons end up being created for the sake of including the smartboard, as opposed to ensuring that lessons are in the best learning interests for students.

While I am still skeptical of the smartboard (always glitchy, often very laggy), I do love the digital projector as it can be used seamlessly in a lesson, provided the content is already cued. This tool allows for interaction through the student use of laptops and Google Drive; it’s awesome to watch an inquiry spreadsheet first fill up with questions about a topic, then watch those same questions get answered by other students in the classroom through use of researching via the net.

My classroom uses the slightly upgraded version
My classroom uses the slightly upgraded version

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