At the beginning of September, I wrote a blog post, What do we need to become good consumers of Digital Media, which got a comment from Frank Baker of the Media Literacy Clearninghouse.
I am impressed by not only the wealth of information available in the Media Literacy Clearninghouse, but also the way it is organized! I sent Frank Baker an email thanking him for the comment on my blog and sharing my thoughts about the clearinghouse.
Then I got to do a Question and Answer session with him to share with you. A few things he mentions in his answers jumped out at me, but I will leave my discussion of those for another time …
I watched part of your Mixed Media interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFQicsmXf9A) where you defined Media Literacy in connection with critical thinking. I also saw how in your book, Media Literacy in the k-12 Classroom, you named skills that can fall under the media literacy category.
- How has your definition evolved and changed over time?
My definition has not changed. But I am still attached to the definition created by the Ontario Ministry of Education in its 1997 document, which I feel is closest to what I want educators and others to understand and appreciate:
”Media literacy is concerned with helping students develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of mass media, the techniques used by them, and the impact of these techniques. More specifically, it is education that aims to increase the students’ understanding and enjoyment of how the-media work, how they produce meaning, how they are organized, and how they construct reality. Media literacy also aims to provide students with the ability to create media products.”
- Do you feel it has broadened or become more refined?
Broadened most certainly, and mostly because of the rise of the Internet as the central focus of communication and creation. School librarians, for example, have used the phrase “media literacy” to mean everything from teaching “information literacy” to teaching digital citizenship, ethical behavior and cyber-bullying awareness, among many other things.
What influences have had an impact on your definition of Media Literacy?
I just mentioned Ontario, but I have also been influenced by what I read coming out of Australia, the United Kingdom and the Canadian provinces—three regions that have very strong and rigorous media literacy education in their schools. Just reviewing the media literacy texts, for example, used in Australia, tells me volumes about the serious and deep approach they have to helping students understand media in all of its shapes and forms.
What would you do, say, or show to convince someone of the importance of Media Literacy?
1. Media literacy is specifically mentioned as one of the key/important/vital 21st century skills all students need, in order to succeed. (See the Partnership for 21st Century Skills; Future Work Force 2020; 2012 Horizon K-12 Report)
2. Without media literacy, we might believe everything advertisers and politicians tell us; we might never be able to think for ourselves, or produce messages counter to the prevailing mainstream media.
3. I like to think of media literacy as a lens through which we see, understand and interpret our world. Unfortunately, this lens is not widely used, and so many people are media ILLLITERATE, failing to understand how messages work to influence and persuade.
4. Everyday, it seems, there is something new either in pop culture or the news which could be used by a teacher to engage her students in media literacy. If educators don’t already know about the Making Curriculum Pop ning, I hope they’ll join and learn how other educators are successfully meeting state teaching standards by using pop culture.
Since much of your focus is on K-12 education and Media Literacy:
- Is there a certain grade/age where you feel Media Literacy is more important?
No, we should start teaching students in kindergarten.
- Please list three ways teachers can incorporate Media Literacy in the classroom
Just three? Ok.
1. TV Toy commercials and how they influence young people
2. How propaganda exists beyond just WWI and WWII
3. Bias in the media? What about the biases we bring to our reading of media?
- With the emphasis on Common Core, where and how can Media Literacy play a role in helping to meet these standards?
Media are also texts, even though most textbooks don’t mention it and most teachers have not been trained to approach media in this way. But as you read CCS, every time you see the word “text” you need to remember that text and literacy are not confined to words on a page.
I like to refer to the introduction of CCS, in English Language Arts, which says:
” Just as media and technology are integrated in school and life in the twenty first century, skills related to media are integrated throughout the standards.”
A couple of specific examples:
Students are required to: “integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually.” and “delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text.”
Analyzing, Questioning, and Creating with a Purpose fall require some high order thinking skills …. What would you say, do, or show to a teacher who does not think his or her students could do those things as it relates to media literacy?
Let me take this one step further. At the top of the new Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is creating. Media literacy involves both analyzing AND creating media messages.
A teacher who tasks students with bringing in ads to analyze and deconstruct, would be wise, to also engage her students in creating ads. In creating ads, students must consider purpose and audience, as well as form, technique and content.
Today, in addition to producing an advertisement for print, students could be creating ads for radio, television, a website, a blog and more.
When you hear the excuse of “I don’t have enough time” to focus on media literacy …. what is your response?
I would pull out the standards and show a teacher that media literacy already exists, even though it may not be called that. Since media is the world of young people, we would be wise not to ignore the rhetorical power it possesses. We know they love movies, for example, so why not teach them how movies are made (using user-friendly mobile phone cameras and freely available editing software).
A teacher could show techniques used in classic and contemporary films and involve students in an evaluation of whether a particular technique was effective. Once students are exposed to the tools and techniques in media making, they’re now ready to do it themselves, which many of them are already doing, outside of formal education.
Other Frank Baker resources:
- From Education Week: Should we care about Media Literacy? An interview with Frank Baker
- From NCTE: Frank W. Baker (you can listen to him describe the work he does on media and critical literacies to help teachers in schools across the nation.)
- Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom