Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Media Literacy: the language of sound and images

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about information literacy, digital literacy and digital citizenship.  As I'm reading on in Curriculum21 I have now come across a chapter by Frank W. Baker about media literacy.   Frank describes how we are surrounded by "a culture filled with visual images and messages" and explains that literacy is not just words, but also still and moving images.  Even if we are looking at words, students need to know how to do more than just understand print - they need to be able to use wikis, blogs, nings and so on.  Yet, as Frank Baker points out, "few educators have been trained in the effective use of media in instruction".  This is in contrast to students who are often already able to do things like text and instant message; connect and communicate via social network sites; upload, download and mashup music, photos and movies; create blogs and podcasts; play video games and participate in virtual reality worlds, and so on.

Although students are surrounded by media, they receive little training in how to analyse or evaluate the messages contained in this media, or how to communicate effectively using it.  Many teachers still don't really understand how useful some of these new tools are, though it's clear that that media literacy is interdisciplinary and can be used across many different subjects and in many different ways.  Media literacy, in fact, is about the analysis of the message as well as the process of creating media.

Frank Baker quotes George Lucas who says:
If students aren't taught the language of sound and images, shouldn't they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read and write?
He goes on to list ways in which media can encourage students to develop their critical thinking skills, as they ask questions.  I've been thinking about how the key concepts of the PYP can be applied to media literacy and how becoming media literate can be inquiry based.  Using the key concepts of form, function, reflection and perspective students, for example, can ask:

  • Who created or paid for the message?
  • Why was it created?
  • Who is the message designed to reach?
  • How does the message capture the audience's attention? 
  • How might different people understand this message differently?
  • What values or points of view are included or excluded and why?  
  • Where can I find out more to verify the information?
  • What can I do with this information?
Photo Credit:  Face the Music by JD Hancock Attribution 

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