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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 )
 

World of Spycraft

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Most players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games are familiar with “trolls”—players who hide behind the anonymity of their avatars to harass other players.  But, as a recent New York Times story reveals, these are not the only users who exploit multiplayer online games for purposes not intended by producers. International government agencies have infiltrated Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, “trolling” for intelligence on potential terrorist plots carried out online.  In this MediaLit Moment, your middle school students will work with the media triangle (of text, producer and user/audience) to consider the different kinds of players who inhabit online game spaces.

Ask students to compare differing uses of online game spaces

AHA!: I thought it’s just the ‘sys-ads’ who look at what I do in online games, but the government might be doing that, too!

Grade Level: 6-8

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

Story from digital edition of New York Times, December 9th, 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/world/spies-dragnet-reaches-a-playing-field-of-elves-and-trolls.html?_r=0

Reference:  Mazzetti, Mark, and Justin Elliot.  “Spies Infiltrate a Fantasy Realm of Online Games.”  New York Times online  9 December 2013.

Activity: Ask students what they know about massively multiplayer games.  Not everyone in your class will be familiar with them, so enlist the help of students experienced with such games, if needed.  Do they know that the makers of the games are able to view their in-game activity?  Why do they think Blizzard Entertainment does that?  As it turns out, the great bulk of monitoring is done to enforce its end user license agreement—to enforce penalties for players who “grief” other players, cheat the game, or use game content or system files in a way that violates Blizzard’s copyright.

Play the video that accompanies the print story.  Display excerpts from the print story as needed, or simply present key facts during discussion.  Some background should be given on Edward Snowden’s leaking of documents revealing the scope of NSA domestic surveillance programs.

Use a media triangle diagram to highlight the novelty of the relationships involved.  How do they feel about being ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with secret government agents as users of the same game space?   Direct students’ attention to KQ/CC#5, and ask them to consider the differing purposes of game producers and government agencies for monitoring games.

If time permits, stick with KQ/CC#5, and ask students why they think a print-oriented publication like NYT created a video which includes so many scenes of World of Warcraft gameplay.


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, © 2002-2013, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 January 2014 11:40 )
 

Serving Thanksgiving Twitter

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Twitter is a unique medium.  In a single feed, it can serve up expert and professional blogs, personal opinion, and news from international outlets and from widely varying viewpoints.   In this MediaLit Moment, your social studies students will have fun examining different flavors of tweets (and linked content) about the first Thanksgiving, and will learn how to ask questions to evaluate their source and point of view.

Ask students to evaluate a spectrum of tweets on the same topic for their sources and points of view

AHA!: I’m getting some of the same information, but the way it’s put together is so different from tweet to tweet!

Grade Level: 7-9

Key Question #1: Who created this message?

Core Concept #1: All media messages are constructed.

Key Question #4: What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

Core Concept #4: All media messages have embedded values and points of view

Materials: computer with high speed internet access; LCD projector and screen

Activity: Twitter feeds are designed to change rapidly, so you will need to strike a balance between pre-screening for useful content and discovering it along with your students.  On the night before the lesson, search Twitter with the following terms:  “Wampanoag first Thanksgiving,” and “first Thanksgiving Native Americans.”  The first search should yield several tweets linking to an article written by a Native American woman for the website “Indian Country Today.”  Other notable tweets from this search may include a short blog post on the contemporary Wampanoag by Maia Weinstock (@20tauri) and the story of Squanto from @executedtoday (linked to a web address of same name). The second search should yield a variety of tweets.  Search for specific tweets if you wish.  Useful tweets for this activity might include:  tweets linking to a Buzzfeed article on “15 Things You Didn’t Know About the First Thanksgiving,” a tweet linking to a short article posted by the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, and a tweet linking to Ron Charles’ Washington Post review for Nathaniel Philbrick’s e-book  “The First Thanksgiving.”

We suggest that you limit your searches to top tweets.  Doing so doesn’t guarantee top quality tweets, but it can increase the odds of finding useful content.  Do make sure to pre-screen any tweet which is marked “sensitive.”

Display your searches for students, and have students practice with asking questions that help determine a text/author’s credibility, and that help to reveal the author’s point of view:  Who is the publisher? Who is the author?  What authority does he/she have on the topic?  What kinds of sources, if any, does the text reference?  Sample questions about values and points of view:  What seems to be the author’s main point?  Is there a larger point of view about the world that he/she would like you to accept?  Questions about purpose may also be useful.  For example, why would a U.S. Embassy in the Middle East bother with posting an article about the First Thanksgiving?


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, © 2002-2013, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com


Last Updated ( Monday, 25 November 2013 11:48 )
 

Building Up and Tearing Down: Women on Television

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The portrayal of women on talk shows, news and reality TV can sometimes be easy for audiences to recognize as positive or negative, demeaning or empowering.  Are they role models for other women?  Are they portrayed as someone you would never want to have as a friend?  While the character or social position of these women may seem natural, or given, they’re still constructed by the media in which they appear.  In this MediaLit Moment, the sharply contrasting images of women in our media samples will give your middle and early high school students an opportunity to ask questions about the production decisions which support those portrayals.

Ask students to analyze production elements in television shows which cast women in a favorable or unfavorable light.

AHA!: Women aren’t just themselves on news and reality shows.  The people producing the shows can make them look like creeps or model citizens, too!

Grade Level: 9-10

Key Question #1: Who created this message?

Core Concept #1: All media messages are constructed.

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 if there are any female television personalities that they really like or love to hate.  What made them feel that way about that person?

Play a selected excerpt from the Sixty Minutes interview with Sonia Sotomayor:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50148540n

Follow this with a video from Dance Moms in which two of the mothers have a drunken fight on the streets of New Orleans.  It may help to give students a little background information about the show.  This clip is PG13 for language and content.

http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/dance-moms/video/season-3/episode-37/fight-in-the-streets-of-new-orleans

Allow students some time to express their reactions to the women portrayed in each of these videos.

Next, introduce students to Core Concept #1, and to Key Question #2.

Show students the videos again and ask:  Aside from the things these women do or say in these shows, what else might have created a positive or negative picture of them?  (a couple of examples: footage of Sotomayor in the halls of the Supreme Court; the wide-angle, epic shots of the New Orleans street fight).  You may wish to let students know that reality show producers often aim to heighten conflict between participants.

Do these shows support a portrayal of Sotomayor and the Dance Moms as empowered women?  Why or why not?


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, © 2002-2013, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 October 2013 12:14 )
 
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