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MediaLit Moments

Keep Your Comments Brief and Planet-Sized

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Most science and media literacy activities are based on news stories, which are rich fields for questions about the agendas of scientific researchers, and the agendas of media producers.  But what about science as entertainment?  The recent re-boot of the classic science television series Cosmos uses many eye-catching media techniques to inform, to inspire wonder, and occasionally to persuade.  What would it be like to speak not just the language of science, but to speak the visual language of this series?  In this MediaLit Moment, your middle level students will learn how to conceptualize and use these techniques to inform, to persuade, and to provide audience opportunities for perspective taking.

Ask students to create a storyboard or produce a visual that uses perspective or scale to reinforce the purpose of their media message

AHA!: With a show like Cosmos, it's the use of scale and perspective that really grabs my attention!

Grade Level: 6-9

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Key Question #2 for Producers: Does my message reflect understanding in format, creativity and technology?

Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power

Key Question #5 for Producers: Have I communicated my purpose effectively? 

Materials: Computer with high speed internet access, LCD projector and screen. OR DVD player and television.

Activity: Engage students in a conversation about the new Cosmos series.  Have they seen it?  Did they like it?  If they did, what did they like about it? What really grabbed their attention?  Depending on your schedule (and depending on whether you teach science or some other subject), screen the entire Cosmos episode 12, "The Worlds Set Free," about global warming.  Single episodes are available to stream on Amazon and other platforms for about $2.  A DVD of the entire series would require an investment of about $50.   Alternatively, screen clips.  In any case, find sequences which illustrate the problems of or solutions to global warming; for example, the cliffs of Dover rising to illustrate the world's increasing carbon output, or a massive wind farm in the ocean illustrating wind power as an alternative energy source.

Screen these sequences at least a couple of times.  Ask students, what kinds of visual techniques were used?  How are they different from the kinds of visuals presented in other TV series? You may want to discuss KQ#2 with students.  You may need to introduce the concepts of scale and perspective.  Also ask, for what purpose were these techniques used?  Direct students' attention to KQ#5. 

Next, ask students to write a comment about global warming.  They can comment on problems, or solutions.  They may also write a comment intended to help audiences comprehend the planetary scale of the issue.  Students can use their comments as the basis for creating a storyboard - a visual sequence which reinforces their ideas.  Direct the attention of students to KQ#2 for Producers and KQ#5 for Producers. If media production tools are available in your school, so much the better.  If students are allowed to bring their own device to school, this may provide an avenue for production as well.  Make production feedback available in whatever format is desired--individual, online, group, whole-class, etc.

Extended Activity: You may wish to screen the sequence of deGrasse Tyson's commentary on the change of perspective brought by images of Earth sent back from Apollo lunar missions.


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 June 2014 09:04 )
 

A Penny for Your Trouble

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The human interest news story has been with us for some time--at least since the turn of the 20th century, when Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst deployed them to lure readers away from competing newspapers.  What may be the latest and best source of human interest stories today?  Crowdfunding sites.  Take the personal fundraising site GoFundMe, for example.   In a 2012 interview with Fast Company magazine, CEO Brad Damphousse, described GoFundMe as a "human interest gold mine."  In this MediaLit Moment, your middle level students will learn how visitors to crowdfunding sites aren't just contributing to a deserving person or worthy cause, but are paying for a good story as well.

Ask students to compare personal crowdfunding appeals with personal interest stories in other media.

AHA!:  I'm paying for a story that pulls on my heartstrings!

Grade Level: 6-9

Key Question #1: Who created this message?

Core Concept #1: All media messages are constructed.

Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Materials: Computer with high speed internet access, LCD projector and screen.

Activity:   Pass out, play or display a human interest news story for your class.  Local television news broadcasts and websites are a good source for such stories.  Give your students some time to respond to the story.  Ask, what do they find interesting about the story?   You may wish to display a page or chart of news values, and ask students to identify which news values the story appeals to.

Next, visit the GoFundMe site and browse individual funding appeals.  Ask students, if they don't have a close relationship with the person making the appeal, what would make them want to make a contribution? (The story).  Discuss Core Concept #1 with students.  What appeals do they respond to most?  Why?  (Most likely stories of personal adversity).  You may want to discuss the human interest news values these appeals embody.

Next, draw students' attention to the business model for each medium.  For news stories, the size of readership or the number of viewers helps bring in revenues from advertisers.  In the case of GoFundMe, the company deducts an average of 8% from each contribution for processing and other fees.  So contributors are paying for the media producer to publish these stories and to publicize these appeals across social media sites as well. 

Ask, what information or advice might they want to share with someone who's thinking of using a personal fundraising site to make a contribution?

The Fast Company article on GoFundMe can be found at:

http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680780/crowd-funding-for-everything-else-pets-healthcare-college-you-name-it


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Monday, 26 May 2014 10:58 )
 

Demolish Stereotypes Build Confidence

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In late 2012, Legos unveiled its Legos Friends line for girls, which seemed to focus more on hanging out with best friends than anything else.  Girls could put together a Lego cafe or style salon if they were in a building mood.  A Change.org petition to the Legos CEO bearing nearly 70,000 signatures challenged the gender stereotyping in the new line. A year later, Debbie Sterling, a recent Stanford graduate in mechanical engineering and product design, released the first GoldieBlox construction kits, which also targeted girls, but actually taught them skills in elementary mechanics.

The web and television advertising for both product lines demonstrate clear differences in the expected purposes for which the toys are to be used.  And, given that these are short commercials selling a product, they are jam-packed with visual and verbal signifiers which sell the values, lifestyles and beliefs the products are supposed to represent.  In this MediaLit Moment, your early elementary students will learn how to decode some of the larger clues to those values, and learn how to talk about what those values mean for girls and boys in society.

Ask students to describe the differences between advertisements for similar toys, and to explore the significance of those differences.

AHA!:  The second ad actually shows girls building things!

Grade Level:  1-3

Key Question #4 for Young Children: What does this tell me about how other people live and believe? Is anything or anyone left out? (What values, lifestyles, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?)

Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view.

Key Question #1 for Young Children: What is this? How is this put together? (Who created this message?)

Core Concept #1: All media messages are constructed.

Materials: Computer with high speed internet access, LCD projector and screen.

Activity: Begin by asking students about the kinds of toys that they like.  You may wish to point out differences in preferences between boys and girls. Next, show students the Legos Friends ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYW_zEYtXeQ&list=PL1E2EC6AAAD0C422B

Ask students, what kinds of things are the girls doing in this ad?  Play the video at least twice, so that students can recall significant details.   Next, play a GoldieBlox ad: http://www.goldieblox.com/pages/beastie-boys-rube-goldberg-machine

Finally, ask students what the Legos Friends and GoldieBlox ads seem to "say" about girls.  What are they supposed to be like?  What are they supposed to do?  Is there anything in particular in the ads that tells them these things? What do they think about these messages?

Extended Activity: Turn the lesson into a multimedia activity by asking your students to come in with a favorite toy, or even the package for one of their favorite toys, and discuss the different messages about gender in their toys and the GoldieBlox video. 


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com


Last Updated ( Monday, 21 April 2014 09:44 )
 

Witness to Change

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With a single phone or camera, individual citizens have the power to shape the course of history.  In 1991, George Holliday videotaped the beating of criminal suspect Rodney King by LAPD officers from his apartment balcony and sent the tape to a local television station.   Several days of riots ensued after a local jury acquitted all four officers involved.  Two officers were found guilty of federal civil rights violations against King in 1993. 

In 1991, the recording of violent events like King’s beating was a relative novelty.  Today, they are commonplace—so much so that “social news” agencies such as Storyful (www.storyful.com) have been able to make a living by verifying the authenticity of videos recorded by citizen journalists and human rights activists and charging larger news agencies for their services.  In addition, human rights organizations such as Witness (www.witness.org) are training average citizens in the technical, journalistic and ethical practices of human rights videography.  In this MediaLit Moment, your upper elementary and middle school students will learn how to think more deeply about the purpose and social significance of such videos, and they’ll consider some of the choices citizen journalists make as they record and publish them.

Ask students to consider the purposes and techniques of videos which document conflicts or abuses of human rights.

AHA!: People who make these videos can have a lot of power to change things!

Grade Level: 5-7

Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5:  Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Key Question #2:  What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Materials: Computer with high speed internet access, LCD projector and screen.

Activity: Ask students about any videos they’ve seen which documented civil disturbances or human rights abuses.  You can screen an age-appropriate video if you wish (You may find appropriate material from The Square, a Netflix documentary about the 2011 Egyptian revolution and events which followed).  Ask, how do they feel after watching videos like these?  Why do they think that people make videos of these kinds of events?  What’s the purpose of uploading them so that a lot of people can see them? Who is likely to pay attention to them?  What are these people likely to do?

Screen the Witness Tool Kit video “How to Film Protests”

http://www.youtube.com/user/WITNESSToolkit?feature=c4-overview-vl

Why do students think that the narrator tells the people who want to record these videos to make sure that audiences see and hear what they want them to?  Why are they told to select specific images when they’re getting ready to publish them?  You may also want to ask, why does the narrator warn people who want to record these videos that adversaries might use their videos if they’re made public?

Why do they tell the people who want to make these videos to avoid giving away the identity of the people they film or interview?

Extended Activity: Screen the Witness “welcome” video:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlYRTtNrWZk

Why would it be important to verify that the videos are real?  What do they think “curating” means?  Why is that something important to do?


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, ©2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com


Last Updated ( Monday, 17 March 2014 08:51 )
 

Breaking Down Breaking News

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“The fact. . .that this individual has been described as someone dressed up in a black top, black jeans—what does that say, if anything, about a possible motive, or whatever?  Can we begin to draw any initial conclusions?  And I want to alert our viewers, sometimes these initial conclusions can obviously be very, very wrong.”  -- CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, speaking about the Washington, DC Naval Yard shooting of September 16, 2013.

News commentary of this kind raises some serious questions.  What is the difference between “initial conclusions” and pure speculation?  And why would a respected correspondent like Blitzer be so anxious to offer them?  In this MediaLit Moment, your middle school and early high school students will have a chance to tackle such questions about breaking news stories, and they’ll receive resources to help them keep asking relevant questions about what they see and hear.

Ask students to consider the reasons why broadcasters convey inaccurate or unverified information about breaking news stories.

AHA!: Breaking news reports can be really, really wrong!

Grade Level: 8-10

Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Materials: computer with high speed internet access; speakers to amplify volume of podcast file; handout to accompany lesson

Activity: NPR’s On the Media website features a TLDR [“Too Long Didn’t Read”] blog that posts original stories on contemporary media issues.  Point your browser to this TLDR blog entry:  “The Breaking News Story Handbook,” from September 20th, 2013.  Currently, the blog post is archived here:  http://www.onthemedia.org/story/breaking-news-consumers-handbook-pdf/?utm_source=local&utm_media=treatment&utm_campaign=carousel&utm_content=item5

In the text of the blog post, you’ll find a link for a “handy, printable PDF” which offers tips for “sorting good information from bad” about breaking news stories.

Select an excerpt from the podcast story which accompanies the blog post, and play it for your students.

Ask students, why are breaking news stories often inaccurate?  Why would news outlets broadcast them if they’re not sure of their accuracy?  Direct students’ attention to Key Question #2 (about news gathering techniques) and Key Question #5 (motivations for early reporting).

Share and discuss the breaking news tip sheet with students.

Extended Activity: Use the podcast, handout and Key Questions to help students practice their skills with a current breaking news story.


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2014, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 February 2014 09:45 )
 
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