It has become apparent to educators around the world, that the 21st Century learning model must be different that the 20th century. In fact, 46 states around the country are making plans to implement a new initiative called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS standards “are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
Fortunately in my classroom, I have worked hard the past eight years to help students become media literate, which I believe parallels the necessary skills of a 21st Century learner. In fact, I believe these skills will also make a positive impact on the Common Core State Standards for all of our students.
Media literacy is a term that has been around a long time, but some people may not understand the concept, or even know the definition. Media literacy encompasses skills and abilities that enable us to analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a variety of media. Most prominently now for me and our students, digital media. There is a tremendous St. Louis organization for which I belong, the Gateway Media Literacy Partners (GMLP), who are devoted to educating our community, and to advocating for this necessary life skill.
- Who created the message?
- What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
- How might different people understand this message differently?
- What lifestyles, values & points of view are represented in; or omitted from, this message?
- Why is this message being sent?
Television and film consumption used to monopolize my generation. But now all forms of digital media, laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc. are consuming our current generation’s interests and time. Studies are finding that while many educators are seeing the value with an increase in technology among their students, there are concerns as well. And with schools deploying a 1:1 learning initiative (one computer or device for every one student) or close to 1:1, or at least hopefully incorporating more digital media in their curriculum, there is a real opportunity to discuss media literacy in classrooms across the country.
Now although media literacy lessons through the consumption of media are important, I believe there is a real opportunity to engage students in the creation of their own media. A full video production suite resides in the mobile devices our students carry in their pockets and backpacks each day. The time is now to find ways to incorporate digital media projects in every core subject class, at every grade level, to fully help our students comprehend the media messages they are creating, and receiving.
As we begin to understand what the CCSS hopes to achieve by implementing shifts in English Language Arts and Mathematics, there are important references to media in the standards to grasp. These references to media offer the perfect opportunity for teachers to analyze their current curriculum and decide how better to implement media literacy lessons as they develop new ways to adopt the impending Common Core State Standards. This is also the perfect opportunity to embrace and celebrate the current media and journalism production classes in our schools. At the core of print and broadcast journalism education, are the 21st Century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.
On page 4 of the corestandards.org website, a “key design consideration” for the standards are to incorporate research and media skills that will be blended into the Standards as a whole.
“To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.”
As the CCSS seek to assess students on applying their knowledge, then wouldn’t it make sense to leverage the creation of student-generated digital media to illustrate that application? And in doing so, we are then teaching students extremely important media literacy skills of:
- Outlining and documenting ideas.
- Researching and gathering information.
- Deconstructing and reconstructing messages through digital media, such as videos.
- Revising and editing their work.
- Sharing their creations online to a digital society by publishing their work to the world.
- Critically analyzing their own work through written reflection by blogging, and receiving comments and feedback from others from every part of the globe.
From my past research and presentations on student digital creations, specifically student-generated videos in the classroom, I have learned that teachers across the country are reporting increased retention of information through innovative techniques in public service announcement projects, science experiments,math equations and more. And with that creation, comes an opportunity to weave in media literacy lessons, and answer those 5 key questions. Our students are no longer just consumers, but creators, and we have an obligation as educators to engage in conversations with our students about media messages, to analyze or critically think about what messages are being conveyed, and the lasting impact of those messages.
5 major benefits of media literacy as it relates to the Common Core State Standards
- Thoughtful media consumption becomes a stimulus for better student comprehension.
- Differentiated learning models are available for all students.
- Easily accessible and free technologies can improve or enhance curriculum.
- Innovative media creation leads to increased student engagement and a real-world experience.
- Improved overall literacy is achieved through research, digital reading, interdisciplinary writing and personal written reflection.
The conversation related to the Common Core State Standards is still in its infancy stages. Yet, as educators are required to adopt these standards, my hope is that media literacy will finally develop as a major part of this discussion, so that it becomes as integrated into our core educational values as reading, writing and arithmetic.