What is digital and media literacy? How can teachers integrate meaningful digital and media experiences into the classroom? This article from a series by Renee Hobbs and David Cooper Moore, of the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab, answers these questions and more. Renee and David share their experiences working with elementary and secondary teachers who are discovering media literacy’s value in advancing critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.
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Inquiry and Action
What Does the Text Mean and How Should I Respond?
Before we talk about what digital and media literacy is, let's acknowledge that opening the classroom to contemporary media, new technology, popular culture, and news and current events can make many of us nervous. Do we have the tools we need to do this work? In this article, we'll start to explain our answer.
When we say, "literacy," what do we mean? Digital and media literacy is notsynonymous with state-of-the-art technology integration, complicated production projects, or popular cultural media takeover, but it's more than words on paper. "Reading," or interpreting, practices and the way that we respond to a text can take many forms: picture books, chapter books, documentaries, websites, newspaper articles, games, apps, tweets, blog posts, text messages, and photographs (and this is not an exhaustive list).
How can we support their comprehension so that it goes deeper than compliance?Today's children live in a multimedia world. They are deluged by messages in many forms, and too many of these messages are commands asking kids to comply (without question) to someone else's expectations and needs: buy this, eat this, look like this, communicate like this, believe this. Do they have the tools to talk back to these messages? How can we support their comprehension so that it goes deeper than compliance? When children learn how concepts like purpose and point of view play out across different media and technology, they adapt a stance of inquiry and an ability to talk back or take action in response to what they read.
Students need to think about why and how messages are created. Digital and media literacy's goal is to expand our conceptualization of literacy and of what counts as a "text" or message-in an era when students engage with lots of forms of media in visual, audio, and interactive or digital environments for several hours every single day, students need the competencies of digital and media literacy to:
- access information thoughtfully
- analyze media messages well
- create media of their own
- reflect on how media influences and affects their own lives
- take action to make the world a better place.
Want to see how easy and effective media literacy instruction can be? Try this one lesson.
Students can learn to think more deeply about the topic of a print text by juxtaposing it with texts from other media. Identify several keywords related to a whole-class print text, and then enter a keyword into your online search engine. Click on "images" and choose three-five provocative images related to the topic of your whole-class print text. If you don't find the quality of images you want from this general search, try a more specific search through an online museum, like http://www.mfa.org/explore or ask your school's art teacher to recommend images that communicate a strong message about your keywords. You can then locate those online to share with your students. To give you an idea of what this might look like, here are some examples from one classroom.
For high school/college students:
|"Dulce et Decorum Est", Wilfred Owen||war, soldiers|| Guernica, PicassoOath of the Horatii, Jacques-Louie David
We Are The Not Dead, Lalage Snow
For elementary students:
|Spaceheadz, Jon Scieszka||jingle, slogan, advertisement||McDonald's print ad, McDonald's commercial|
As teachers, we need to build classroom experiences that teach the stances of inquiry and action in response to media's role in our lives.As teachers, we need to build classroom experiences that teach the stances of inquiry and action in response to media's role in our lives. These expectations don't just come from our own observations of the world, but are supported by expectations like the Common Core State Standards. Digital and media literacy practices strengthen analyses of a variety of texts, promote composition in a variety of forms using new technology tools, and encourage inferences about how media are constructed. David, as a board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, has helped create an educators' guide to connections between the Common Core State Standards and media literacy education. You can preview this document here.
In this series, we'll do more than argue that these competencies are important to thriving in today's society. We'll show you how to teach and strengthen these competencies in a way that makes your instruction feel more like an apprenticeship, not just to life, but to a life of value.
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