Teaching to the curriculum: Bringing media literacy outcomes and expectations into the classroom
Television, movies, the Internet, video games, and music are popular forms of media that occupy much time in our daily routines. This is especially true of children and youth. In a time when young people are growing up in front of computers and televisions - and often know more about technology than most adults do - it is more important than ever to ensure they understand and think critically about the media that form such an important and enjoyable part of their daily lives.
Media literacy is the ability to bring critical thinking skills to bear on all media. It is the ability to interpret and value media content and to understand media's cultural, political, commercial and social implications.
Media education is the process through which we become media literate, a process that is grounded in the sound pedagogical approach of starting learning where kids are at and acknowledging and building on the positive, creative and pleasurable dimensions of our popular culture.
Gone are the days when teachers would integrate media activities into their classes as fun fillers. Canada is now a world leader in recognizing the importance of fostering literacy throughout a wide range of language systems that includes mass media and multimedia.
The recognition and endorsement by all Canadian provinces and territories of media literacy across the K-12 curriculum provides an immediate "green light" to teachers who are interested in teaching media studies. No longer consigned to language arts, outcomes and expectations for media literacy can be found in such diverse subject areas as health, consumer education, personal development, global studies, civics, multi-cultural/anti-racism programs, information technology, music and visual arts.
Media education encourages young people to probe behind media artefacts,
prompting them to pose questions such as: Who is this message intended
for? Who wants to reach this audience, and why? From whose perspective
is this story told? Whose voices are heard, and whose are absent? What
strategies does this message use to get my attention and make me feel
included? How do the unique elements and codes of a specific genre affect
what we see, hear or read? How might different audiences interpret the
same media production?
These questions apply not only to traditional media, but to digital media as well. Over the Internet, young people move effortlessly beyond geographic and regulatory boundaries at the click of a mouse: accessing, absorbing, communicating, creating and repurposing media content. And they're doing this largely without guidance and often without reflection.
To be media literate in this new environment, young people need to develop knowledge, values and a range of critical thinking, communication and information management skills. Teachers want to help - 85 per cent believe that helping young people to think critically about Internet content is an important part of their job 1 - but they cannot do this without the proper tools and resources.
Working with curricular outcomes
For teachers who are interested in integrating media education into their classrooms, MediaSmarts offers a number of free, bilingual, media education resources - lessons, activities, games and interactive learning modules - which are linked to media literacy curriculum outcomes and expectations for every province and territory in Canada. Housed in the Teachers' Resources section of MediaSmarts' extensive Web site (www.mediasmarts.ca) is a handy Lesson Library search tool that permits teachers to access any one of hundreds of free lessons for Grades K-12, according to grade level and topic.
Teachers can also find lessons through MediaSmarts' Media Education in Canada section, where media-related outcomes and expectations extracted from provincial and territorial curricula are linked directly to supporting lessons and resources.
In the Ontario section for instance, a Grade 7 teacher can choose from any one of over forty lessons and activities that meet elementary Language Arts expectations for understanding media texts; understanding media forms, conventions and techniques; creating media texts; and reflecting on media literacy skills and strategies a Grade 5 teacher in Newfoundland and Labrador may choose to satisfy outcomes for healthy living - where students are expected to demonstrate knowledge and strategies for managing emotions and expressing feelings - through an introductory lesson on cyberbullying
or a Grade 11 Social Studies teacher in British Columbia can choose from lessons on media portrayal of global development, analyzing the news, perceptions of race and crime, online hate, authenticating online information, war reporting and privacy - to name a few - in order to meet social studies curricular outcomes for politics and government, human geography and society and identity.
To mark the importance of media education, from November 7-11, 2011, MediaSmarts and the Canadian Teachers' Federation are co-leading Canada's sixth annual Media Literacy Week. This week shines a spotlight on the innovative ways that Canadian educators and students are promoting media literacy in their classrooms.
During the week, teachers and students are encouraged to celebrate, discuss
and think critically about media. Why not take this opportunity to join
colleagues across the country in making media education happen at your
school. The supporting Web site for the week (www.medialiteracyweek.ca)
has many ideas, resources and activities to get teachers started. Media
create a shared environment and are, therefore, great catalysts for learning.
No matter what the grade level or discipline, there are countless opportunities
to stimulate and engage students through media education.