Posts Tagged 'mediaLiteracy'

Competing copyright curricula

A recent eSchoolNews article about dueling copyright curricula couldn’t have surfaced at a more opportune time, seeing as how I literally just days before had utilized some materials from one of the curriculums in question.

On the one hand, the Copyright Alliance Education Foundation (CAEF) recently published Think First, Copy Later, seen by some as slanted toward the interests of copyright owners.

On the other hand, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), unveiled Teaching Copyright. The EFF is characterized as an advocacy group that serves the interests of users and consumers of digital media.

Admittedly, I was not aware of the CAEF curriculum when I recently selected and distributed some of the EFF’s support documents to a group of pre-service teachers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. But I am inspired by the prospect of having access to and using “dueling curricula,” if and when I teach about copyright again in the future.

What an opportunity for teachers to exercise professional discernment! What an opportunity for students to see copyright law presented from two different perspectives — owner versus user, industry versus consumer! What an opportunity to engage higher-order thinking and some good, old media literacy skills, such as evaluating audience, authorship, message, and meaning!

Teachers need these resources now more than ever. It was not too long ago that teacher training on the vagaries of fair use doctrine were conducted in the faculty workroom, usually between classes, as we waited in line at the photocopier. We traded in stories, myths, and half-truths and competed for bragging rights to the title of “Greatest Copyright Infringer.” We made half-joking references to a sinister, Gestapo-like “Copyright Police” waiting in the wings. (I know. I was one of those teachers.)

The surge of web-based information and communication technologies makes it easier than ever to facilitate content creation and sharing in our classrooms, but we must first be equipped to engage students in conversation about content creation that is safe, ethical, and legal.

The alternative is to do nothing for fear of violating the law. This phenomenon was documented by Hobbs, Jaszi, and Aufderheide in their 2007 report for the Center for Social Media, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy. In 2008 the Center published the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, which states that fear and confusion about copyright:

detracts from the quality of teaching. Lack of clarity reduces learning and limits the ability to use digital tools. Some educators close their classroom doors and hide what they fear is infringement; others hyper-comply with imagined rules that are far stricter than the law requires, limiting the effectiveness of their teaching and their students’ learning.

Check out the accompanying video:


What is literacy advocacy?

Photo of child engaged with book

Support the youngest literacy learners

Cross-posted at Media Literacy.

April is Literacy Education Advocacy Month, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English.

What is “literacy advocacy”? Check out NCTE’s advocacy calendar for March and April 2009. I like how it breaks down advocacy into manageable steps for the novice agitator, er, I mean advocate.

Each day on the calendar contains a small, simple act we can perform to gently persuade our colleagues, legislators, and other education stakeholders about the NCTE 2009 legislative platform.

You can start being an advocate by simply reviewing the calendar. Check it out!

“Media convergence,” succinctly put

A rare treat — home alone, folding laundry, drinking coffee, and watching CBS Sunday Morning.

Even better, media critic Jeff Greenfield’s segment, in which he attempts to capture the meaning of “media convergence” in under four minutes. It’s an intriguing exercise, especially within the context of the venerated Sunday Morning, a rather conventionally formatted news program that just marked its 30th anniversary on the air.

As we are all too well aware, a lot has changed in media in these last 30 years. What makes Greenfield’s commentary worthwhile are his parting words about “fundamental” values. Do these values endure despite the sweeping changes brought on by digitization, as Greenfield asserts?

It’s a great discussion starter.

Another fun exercise: how does Greenfield’s definition of “convergence” contrast with the definition put forth by media scholar Henry Jenkins? In his 2006 book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Jenkins argues that convergence has less to do with devices and technological advances and more to do with cultural practices and heightened levels of participation and interactivity.

What do you think?

Media lit blog carnival, Feb. ’08 edition

Nick Pernisco of has started a media literacy blog carnival, with the first edition now posted. If you are a newcomer to the field, this is a great way to sample the possibilities that media education offers.

A “blog carnival” is an online roundup of blog posts from different authors relating to a common theme. See Wikipedia for a more thorough explanation of blog carnival.

This month’s theme is a general introduction to the world of media literacy with an eclectic mix of posts ranging from media education in practice to a critique of mainstream media to a funny satire about media figure Maureen Dowd. Two ThinkTime posts are featured. Yea!

Next month’s theme is about using technology in the classroom. If you have a relevant article to share, submit your entry to the media literacy blog carnival.

A moment for media awareness, part III

From Ewan McIntosh’s blog yesterday:

The Illiterates of the 21st Century
The fact is, that most of those working in education, in politics, in the civil service are the equivalent of modern day illiterates. Without understanding how to read and write on the web, there is no other way, really, to describe this state of being. This is why media literacy teaching and learning need to be the top of every school’s literacy strategy. Reading and writing is about more than pen and paper these days.

This is strong stuff.

Read more about the state of media literacy education in the UK in this post by the Guardian’s Kevin Anderson, and take a look at this interesting Charter for Media Literacy launched by a broad coalition of advocacy groups in the UK.

In the U.S. the closest thing we have to a “charter” is Core Principles of Media Literacy Education unveiled this year by the Alliance for a Media Literate America. (A new web site is expected to launch by the end of this year.)

What do you think of McIntosh’s definition of the new “illiteracy”?

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A moment for media awareness, part II

Did you know that news reports leading up to the current Writers Guild strike provided a great moment for media literacy education? Mainstream publications like the Washington Post and USA Today carried stories advising television audiences to prepare for a steady diet of “reality” programming if the writers’ contract negotiations reached an impasse.


Well, in an excellent column at The Huffington Post, Jennifer Pozner argues that this news coverage, while technically accurate, performs a great disservice to the general public by perpetuating the myth of unscripted reality T.V. She writes, “. . . news reports have generally not clarified for readers that these shows do, indeed, involve writers. Non-union writers (and story editors, video editors, and hands-on producers and directors), all of whom collaborate to achieve the networks’, executive producers’, and integrated advertisers’ desired story arcs.”

Noting a general reluctance in the United States to adopt media literacy education, Pozner suggests that regular viewers of reality T.V. simply don’t understand the collaborative process behind television production in which writers and non-writers alike wield tremendous storytelling power.

This is the second in a series of posts in recognition of Media Education Week. Be sure to check out Part I in which I provide brief background on the state of media education in the U.S.

A project of Canada’s Media Awareness Network, Media Education Week is aimed at promoting media literacy activities in homes, schools, and communities.

The phrase “media awareness” makes me think of the old cliche about fish and water. Meaningful contemplation of media is like a fish trying to understand water: near to impossible. We are all too deeply immersed in it.

My Sunday school class touched on the same challenge in a recent study of Postmodernism. How can we step back and critically evaluate something so pervasive and embedded in our society? Someone in class astutely pointed out that we only see the impurities (think: pond scum). And that’s what we all tend to dwell upon.

It is so true; sometimes the only path to consciousness raising is to show people the “impurities.” For instance, the fact that every parent in the U.S. knows about their child’s MySpace account probably has less to do with meaningful dinner conversation about the benefits of social networking and more to do with Dateline’s outrageously popular To Catch a Predator series.

But here is the rub: the best media education is not about villifying technology and breeding cynicism.

Talking about the impact of media and technology on society is part of the equation to be sure, but in the last several decades the paradigm has shifted from one solely concerned with protection against media’s harmful effects to one focused on preparation for lifelong engagement as critical and ethical consumers and producers of media.

What does media education as preparation look like?

The folks at the Center for Media Literacy have constructed an entire curriculum framework around this question.  Part I: Literacy for the 21st Century: An Overview and Orientation Guide to Media Literacy Education presents the theoretical underpinnings, and Part II: Five Key Questions that can Change the World contains a practical collection of lesson plans for cross-curricular implementation. All materials are free and downloadable at the site.

But I think media education as preparation can be as simple as taking Pozner’s column and starting a conversation with students about the different roles people play in television and film production. What does a set designer do? What is a sound editor? What is the job of a producer? Answers to those questions might inspire students to undertake various roles in a video production project in which they experience firsthand how editors’ and producers’ decisions influence the storyline.

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A moment for media awareness, part I

Watch this video of a sleepy baby and his big brother. Watch as much as you can — it takes more than two minutes for the clip to reach its inevitable conclusion:

So, what did you think? Were you amused? disturbed? fascinated? frustrated? provoked? all the above?

Welcome to media literacy education!

Media literacy is the ability to access, read, analyze, evaluate, and create communication in a variety of multimedia and mass media forms. It is the outcome of a curriculum in which media are the focus of instruction, not just the means of instruction. For more details visit the Center for Media Literacy web site.

This is the first in a series of posts in honor of Canada’s National Media Education Week.

As far as I know, we in the United States don’t have an equivalent week to call our own. While several national media education organizations and conferences have emerged in the last ten years, a unified vision of media education — such as what is practiced in South Africa, the UK, and New Zealand and what was articulated by the 29th General Conference of the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — remains elusive in the U.S.

Robert Kubey has written about the obstacles to media education in the U.S., noting the sheer size of the country and the reluctance on the part of the federal government to overtly drive national curriculum standards. Media educators must also overcome a general disdain for attempts to mix traditional curriculum with elements of popular culture.

On a positive note, a systematic study of state frameworks performed by Kubey and Frank Baker reveals that media education principles have found their way into at least some curriculum standards in all 50 states (as of 2000), mostly in a cross-curricular fashion. Subject areas most likely to include media education elements are health, consumer sciences, social studies, and, of course, English/language arts.

Only seven states offer an actual media education strand.

A systematic approach to media education may be missing in our schools, but opportunities for media education abound, which brings me back to the sleep baby video.

I’m venturing to guess reactions to that video range from mild amusement to moral outrage, and the spectrum of responses invoked by the video point to the varied purposes and paradigms currently underlying national and international media literacy initiatives.

In his book Visual Messages: Integrating Imagery into Instruction, David Considine nicely summarizes purposes of media education as follows:

  • protection-teaching individuals how to resist media’s harmful effects
  • preparation-guiding individuals to internalize the intellectual and affective skills necessary for processing and filtering the multitude of media messages encountered in daily life
  • pleasure-celebrating and cultivating an appreciation for the many surprising and enriching encounters afforded by living in a media-saturated world

Historically, media education’s roots are in the protection paradigm, and that paradigm still has a lot of sway in the U.S. among politicians and advocacy groups. Media education theorists, however, have favored a paradigm shift in recent decades that is less reactionary regarding media consumption habits and more constructivist in approach. And in-the-trenches media educators will swear by the pleasure paradigm as the best inroad for engaging and motivating students.

So, take a moment to reflect on the sleepy baby video: what does it suggest to you about media education?

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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

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Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy