Amy Stern (bigbrotherreads) wrote,
Amy Stern
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Teaching Media Literacy: a How-To-Do-It Manual and CD-Rom

De Abreu, Belinha S. Teaching Media Literacy: a How-To-Do-It Manual and CD-Rom. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc, 2007.


Key Excerpts:

Today's educators have an obligation to help students understand the media-saturated world. Media literacy education encourages students to examine media messages critically rather than accepting them at face value. (ix)

The role of media literacy in the classroom should not negate the prominent importance of popular culture in the lives of individuals, but instead channel that energy so that it can help to uncover codes and conventions that can be influential, disempowering, and manipulative. (12)


More quotes:

Today's educators have an obligation to help students understand the media-saturated world. Media literacy education encourages students to examine media messages critically rather than accepting them at face value. (ix)

media literacy provides a new way to teach higher-order critical thinking skills. (ix)

Media literacy instruction is a way to use real-world topics in the classroom while giving students skills that will remain with them for a lifetime. (x)

Media literacy is vital to the growth of our students' perception of the world around them. (3)

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate information in a variety of forms and formats. These terms are ones that most educators will recognize as being part of Bloom's Taxonomy, which promotes the concept of critical thinking at its highest level. Media literacy promotes critical thinking beyond its traditional forms. It also includes visual and computer literacies. (5-6)

The partnership for 21st Century Skills, an advocacy organization made up of business leaders, educators, and policymakers, have tried to define what a future citizen in the twenty-first century will need to have in order to work in our global society. They have proposed that the study of media, visual, and information literacy must be included in school curriculums nationally. (6)

The role of media literacy in the classroom should not negate the prominent importance of popular culture in the lives of individuals, but instead channel that energy so that it can help to uncover codes and conventions that can be influential, disempowering, and manipulative. (12)

This idea of "suspended belief" is what doctors call when children view violent events and do not realize the consequences of the actions portrayed in fiction versus reality. This is a very real phenomenon that exemplifies the need for media literacy training in all ages. (15)

Children of all ages will proclaim that the media they listen to, watch, or partake in are just fun entertainment and that they would not want them disturbed. David Considine, a professor at Appalachian State University who coined the phrase "putting the 'me' in media," exemplifies this attitude (Considine 2002, 6). This phrase basically means that the media are about the individual children or students and their media likes and dislikes, not about whether we as educators like what they are immersing themselves in within this context. (15)

Students have a wide variety of choice when it comes to media preferences. They can select different genres of music or different artists, or they can mix and match many genres and artists. Television offers the same wide variety of selections, even if the choices are not always what adults consider to be the best. Clothing, jewelry, and other elements of popular culture become a unique part of choice. Students can easily place themselves in the media sphere, and they do so quite readily. Because it is such an important part of their landscape, the importance of being able to deconstruct what they see, hear, buy, or select makes the teaching of media literacy valuable. In the classroom, the topic of media provides the opportunity for healthy conversation to take place, where students can agree and disagree over content and material and where an educator can interject and offer another avenue of thinking. (16)

The consistent sentiment from many educators is that television is not teaching students anything worthwhile. Television is teaching our children. The real question is, what is it teaching? How do we know if the messages our children are receiving are accurate and informative? (35)


Interesting references:

(page 3)
"Media literacy courses can give young people the power to recognize the difference between entertainment, television that is just bad and the information they need to make good decisions. What they need is a clear awareness of how the media influences, shapes, and defines their lives." --Richard Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education, December 13, 1995

(page 6)
"Media literacy is a set of perspectives that we actively use to expose ourselves to the media to interpret the meaning of the messages we encounter. We build our perspectives from knowledge structures. To build our structures, we need tools and raw materials. These tools are our skills. The raw materials are information from the media and the real world. Active use means that we are aware of the messages and consciously interacting with them.
--James Potter, Media Literacies, 2005, p. 22

(pages 16-18)
the T.A.P. model (photocopy in my white folder.)


My feelings on this book/on my project:

According to this book, the "five core concepts" of media literacy are as follows:
1. All media messages are "constructed."
2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
3. Different people experience the same media message differently.
4. Media have embedded values and points of view.
5. Media messages are constructed to gain profit and/or power.

I had a hard time getting through this book, because I kept getting offended. I have absolutely no doubt that I'm being unreasonable (I can't look at how to teach media literacy and then be offended that the ways that are suggested don't fit my personal model), but it's hard for me to separate this out into all of its parts. This was the first time I realized why people legitimately question why someone would watch reality television. I had been taking it for granted that all people recognize media is constructed as a matter of course, and the challenge would be explaining exactly how editing works. It's the difference between breaking bad habits and starting from square one.

The implicit assumption in this book seems to be that these ideas need to be taught- that the natural state is to completely miss out on the amount of manipulation going into any and all media. Part of the problem with "teaching media literacy" as it stands is that kids growing up in a culture as saturated as we are with media already know a lot of this instinctively. What this book is identifying as "higher critical thinking skills" are things that I'm having a hard time accepting as not intuitive. If nothing else- and I believe there are a lot of other things- DVD commentaries, where writers/directors/actors/whoever talk about what they wanted to accomplish and what they did, should be proof that these things don't spring, fully formed, into the wacky box with the antennae. (Or digital media box. Wow, kids growing up now are never going to have experienced rabbit ears. THAT IS SO WEIRD.)

This book is basically "media literacy for dummies," which on some level is good- I need to see what people are assuming is the standard- but on the other is kind of crappy, because I am so hugely offended by all of it. The part of me that had a complex system of labeling and arranging video tapes set up before I started high school is foaming at the mouth, reading some of this. Also, the casual condescension in some of this bothered me. I ended up skimming over some parts because I got so frustrated.

(I wonder how much of my seeing condescension in this text comes from reading books targeted at young adults, which tend to take for granted the idea that teenagers are people with rational thought processes and the ability to analyze situations.)

The Johnson book mentioned that kids today know how to program VCRs not because they know each individual model but because they know the basic underlying principles- a dichotomy I hadn't even realized existed. It's bizarre to realize that my own interactions with media came largely during this seismic shift that occurred when I was just the right age to absorb it. It's doubly bizarre to realize that other people aren't being exposed to that now- that the people this book is targeting are presumably the ones on both sides of the divide. On page 23 the author acknowledges that "students understand podcasting, know how to blog, Instant Message (IM) each other on a regular basis, play intricate and detailed video games, and so much more. Yet, if we were to ask a classroom teacher, and even a library media specialist, to demonstrate the same knowledge, many of them cannot." Were I studying media literacy (which, again, I'm not- this is all research to direct how I'm looking at reality television), I would really be interested in who is supposed to be teaching and who is supposed to be learning. I wonder how much of phrasing media literacy as a conversation comes from the knowledge that adults aren't able to just provide information that isn't known. The two-way flow of information incorporates both how to use new technologies and how to understand them.

Other issues I had with the book, which have no bearing on my project but need to be stated: I have issues with the scientific "proof" in this, about what ignorant TV watching can lead to. The only thing that kept me from scrawling CORRELATION IS NOT THE SAME AS CAUSATION all over the book was my inability to deface library books. Also, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data". Also also, the book has a fair amount of in-depth back matter, and it might well be helpful if you're approaching this as a teacher, but for my purposes, I have a limited tolerance for any serious pedagogical book that identifies a Berenstain Bears book as a good fiction resource. (I own my bias here.)

The short version here, I think, is that I knew my own feelings about media literacy much more than I thought I did when I sat down to read this the first time. So I'm counting this as a win.


My other big experiment today is figuring out how to use MySpace. I know most of the people I want to contact are on MySpace. I have added them on MySpace. I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA where to go at this point. Same with Facebook.

And yes, I see the irony of an entire post about how I'm offended about assumptions related to media literacy, followed my admitting I don't have a clue how to use some of the most popular social networking tools. Maybe if their designs were more intuitive I would understand!

I did find Jeff Probst's behind the scenes photo gallery, though. SO COOL.

I mentioned to my parents that, despite the masters degrees and everything, maybe I would be happiest working behind the scenes on a reality show. I'm sure eventually, when they start talking to me again, they'll agree it was hilarious.
Tags: anecdotes, contacts: myspace, research: media literacy, teaching media literacy
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