November 13, 2013
21st Century Information, Media & Technology Skills
According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, media literacy is a skill that students need to master in order to succeed in work and life in the 21st century. Media literacy involves understanding both how and why media messages are constructed and for what purposes. It also involves examining how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors.
Here are some ideas for developing your students’ ability to analyze media effectively and create media products.
Fact or Fiction?
The News Literacy Project, a nonprofit educational organization, has developed a media literacy curriculum now used by teachers in middle and high schools in the New York, Washington and Chicago areas. The organization has enlisted dozens of journalist volunteers—including Gwen Ifill of PBS, James Grimaldi of The Wall Street Journal and Eric Schmitt of The New York Times—to speak in schools.
The curriculum was designed with help from trained educators to be compatible with the new Common Core standards. So far, nearly 10,000 students have taken the courses in those three metropolitan areas. The long-term goal is to reach every student in every American school. To that end, a digital version of the curriculum is being developed and tested.
In October 2013, some videos and other resources, such as a “teachable moments” blog reacting to current events, became available for free to schools everywhere. Plans call for a full, free digital curriculum to be offered online beginning in the fall of 2014. Teachers can use the lessons as a separate social studies unit or integrate them into their other curricula. The curriculum teaches students to think critically and question the sources, accuracy, fairness and truthfulness of information they encounter in all forms of media. They also are encouraged to get their news from a variety of sources.
Mass Media, Popular Culture
The Media Education Lab at The University of Rhode Island’s Harrington School of Communication and Media provides key resources and curriculum materials for developing your students’ media literacy. The site includes links to My Pop Studio, an online game that focuses on media literacy for girls aged 9–14, and Assignment Media Literacy, resources for use with K–12 students. You’ll also find songs and video clips that you can use with your students or in your professional development workshops.
To start, students choose an image from among nine categories: Immigration, Cities, Industrialization, The West, Leisure & Amusement, Progressive Reform, Women & Suffrage, Children, and World War I. After students have chosen an image, the teacher or students pose a question about the image, and students identify clues in the image that will help them answer the question. Then they investigate background information about the image and/or topic it represents, and finally they draw conclusions about the image and compare their analysis to the conclusions of others.
Students can also create a web-based exhibit about Modern America. Just like a museum curator, they’ll choose a theme or question about Modern America that interests them. Then they’ll choose the images and documents for their exhibit, conduct research about them and write text that will help their audience understand the artifacts and their theme. Students’ exhibit will be stored on the web, so they can view and show it to others at any time.
I research funding and grant opportunities for several district departments. This publication is invaluable.