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MediaLit Moments

When a Scroll is Really a Scroll

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Today, many of us scroll through tens or hundreds of pages of content each day.  Scrolling is an activity or feature, and the pages themselves don’t seem to be worthy of much attention.  Yet we are often captivated by visual media in which scrolls or papers play a large part.  We’re right there with Charlie, gazing with rapt attention as he discovers the last Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: “In your wildest dreams you can not imagine the marvelous SURPRISES which await YOU!”

In this MediaLit Moment, your students will learn why papers and scrolls attract the attention of media audiences.  They’ll learn about the media genres in which they appear and the purposes for which they are used; and they’ll learn how to capture the attention of audiences with their own scrolled message.

Have students write and read aloud a scrolled message with attention to genre, purpose and intended effect on the audience.

AHA!: When I see a scroll used on screen, it means that the words are important, and a lot of people should hear them.  If I create my own, I can make audiences think I’m important and powerful, too!

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?

Grade Level:  5-8

Materials: DVD, computer, data projector and screen; or computer with high speed internet connection, data projector, and screen.  DVD of “Star Wars” or access to opening sequence from film on YouTube.   Butcher paper and markers.

Activity: Play the opening “crawl” of the movie, and briefly pause the sequence when the words fill the screen.  Ask, why do you think the director of this movie decided to use this format rather than a voiceover, or a “flat” paragraph, or even just action on the screen to make it clear who was fighting whom?  What does it suggest about the message that is being delivered?  Direct their attention to Key Question #2.  You may also want to work with one or more additional clips.  Here are a few suggestions:  a reading of the Declaration of Independence in which the written document figures prominently; the scene from “Amazing Grace” in which William Wilberforce unfurls a massive popular petition against slavery before Parliament; the scene from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) or “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) mentioned above; a scene from a Harry Potter movie in which a proclamation from Hogwarts or the Ministry of Magic is read aloud.

Next, ask students, what kinds of messages tend to be delivered in this format?  For what kinds of purposes?  Direct their attention to Key Question #5.  An extremely wide variety of documents could be included on this list, from jury verdicts to messages bestowing an award.

When a substantial list has been generated, it’s time for students to demonstrate their understanding of purpose and format by producing their own scrolled messages with markers and butcher paper.  Consider assigning students to teams.  Do ask students to read their work aloud.

Extended Activity: If students are feeling confident in their understanding of this format, encourage them to experiment with genres, or use humor and satire.  For example, students could write their personal declarations of independence.


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, © 2002-2011, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com


Last Updated ( Saturday, 07 July 2012 13:09 )
 

When the Story Changes the Picture

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Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was a photographer famous for his images of the Sierra Nevada and other iconic Western landscapes.  What may be less well known is that Adams spent the fall of 1943 photographing Japanese-Americans interned at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in Inyo County, California, just east of the Sierras.  Adams was so moved by the displacement of Japanese-Americans and the living conditions of internees at Manzanar that he published a photo essay, Born Free and Equal, the following year. 

In this MediaLit Moment, your students will view a single portrait taken by Adams during this period—without any mention of historical context.   Through this activity, your students will have the chance to note the changes in their perception when that context is revealed.

Ask students to describe the changes in their reactions to a photograph when the social and historical context of the photograph is revealed.

AHA!: Learning about the history of this picture changes the way I look at it!

Key Question #3: How might different people understand this message differently?

Core Concept #3: Different people experience the same media message differently.

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

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

Grade Level: 5-8

Materials: Computer, high speed internet connection and data projector; or overhead projector and transparencies of digital images from the Library of Congress.

Photo analysis worksheet, available at: www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets/photo.html

 A gallery of “collection highlights” of Adams’ photographs can be found on the Library of Congress website at:  http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/anseladams/index.html

The photo displayed on this page (of Tom Kobayashi) is the portrait for this activity.  Click on this photo for a larger image.  You may also want to click on the “Essay” link on this page, which will direct you to an electronic copy of Born Free and Equal.  The foreword offers some insight into Adams’ motivations for undertaking this project.

Activity: Display the portrait of Tom Kobayashi and explain to students that they’re going to get some practice making close observations about a photograph.  Pass out the photo analysis worksheet, and explain the difference between observation and inference before students start their work.  You could say that students are making their best guesses about the meaning of the picture after they pay close attention to the details.  Skip Question 3B on the worksheet if you wish.

Next, discuss the observations and inferences that students have made about the photograph.  You may wish to ask why they think the photographer took this picture.

Now take a little time to explain where, when and under what circumstances the photograph was taken.

Next, ask students how they interpret the photo now.  How have their perceptions of the picture changed?  Draw students’ attention to Key Question/Core Concept #3 during this discussion.  Also, what aspects of the photo seem to reflect Adams’ purpose?

Extended Activity: Explore the photographs from Born Free and Equal at greater length.  You may want to devote some time to the two-page photographic spread which frames the title graphic for the book.  What techniques are used, and to what effect?


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, © 2002-2011, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 May 2012 19:19 )
 

Space Alien Lands Audition on American Idol!

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It’s common to speak of tabloid news writing as a kind of journalism which can be easily separated from any other kind.  From this point of view, all other news publications uphold journalistic standards which tabloids do not begin to meet.  And there’s some basis to the argument.  For example, tabloid writers—in flagrant violation of the rules of attribution--fabricate quotes from fictitious “sources” or “insiders” to pique reader interest in their stories.  But in one essential respect, tabloid and mainstream news publications are more similar than they appear to be.  They share the same set of news values—the criteria by which news organizations select stories to be published (as listed later in the activity).  In this MediaLit Moment, we take advantage of that essential similarity:  your high school students will not only have fun producing their own tabloid news, they’ll learn something about the way in which all news is constructed.

Ask students to write a tabloid news headline and identify the news values they reflect

AHA!: The crazy headline that I wrote follows the rules for writing any good news story!

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

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

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

Key Question #3 for Producers: Is my message engaging and compelling for my target audience?

Core Concept #3: Different people experience the same media message differently.

Grade Level: 10-12

Materials: Sample tabloid newspapers or headlines; paper, pencil, imagination

Activity: Ask students about their knowledge of and experience with tabloid news.  Do any of them like reading tabloid newspapers?  Why or why not?

Next, tell students that they’re going to learn something about tabloid news by writing their own tabloid news headline.  Students should write something they find entertaining, but it needs to be something appropriate for the general public to read.  Distribute sample stories or headlines if you wish.  Once they’re finished, have fun sharing headlines in class.  You may want to ask a few students about the thinking behind the headlines they wrote.

Next, display or distribute a list of the news values which editors use to select stories which are likely to appeal to readers.  Here’s our list:

·         Currency – Has the story just happened?  Is it of interest right now?

·         Relevance – Does it relate to your life, your family or your community?

·         Impact – Does the story affect a large number of people?  Are the consequences serious?

·         Proximity – Did the story take place nearby or does it relate to local concerns?

·         Prominence – Does the story deal with well-known or powerful people or countries?

·         Clarity – Will most people be able to understand the story?

·         Personalization – Is it a human interest story about an individual person (or animal?)

·         Conflict/Controversy – Does the story deal with an issue about which people strongly disagree?

·         Emotion – Does the story produce strong emotions such as fear or suspense?

·         Uniqueness/Unexpectedness – Is the story about something unusual, unsuspected or odd?  Is it about something wonderful or awesome?

·         Extension – Is there a relationship with other news stories?

Next, ask students which news values their headlines reflect.  Many will fall under the heading of “prominence” or “personalization.”  Many will fulfill more than one news value.  Did any of them think about these values as they came up with their headline, or did they just churn out a headline without having to think much about it?  Which headlines do they think a tabloid editor might have found especially appealing?

Extended Activity: The celebrity news in tabloids often “shadows” the coverage found in more reputable weeklies devoted to celebrity news such as People and Us.  Ask students to compare the different treatments of the same story in each kind of publication.  How do news values drive the tabloid version of the 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, © 2002-2012, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 May 2012 12:12 )
 

How to Edit a Candidate

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In 1960, Richard Nixon didn’t think about the possibility that his unshaven, haggard appearance could influence viewer responses to him during his debate with John F. Kennedy.  Fifty years later, tens of millions of dollars are spent each election cycle for televised political advertisements.  According to a recent story in the Washington Post, expenditures on television advertisements for the 2012 presidential campaign are already approaching $70 million (“Tracking TV ads in the presidential campaign,” 15 February, 2012). 

 Between 1960 and 2012, it has practically become a tradition for producers of television ads for one candidate to use heavily edited excerpts of appearances by opposing candidates to evoke highly unfavorable impressions of both them and their policies. 

In this MediaLit Moment, your students will have the opportunity to examine the edited ‘gaffe,’ both as media technique and rhetorical strategy for re-framing the representation of candidates.  Along the way, your students may be motivated to articulate what they see as the rules of fair play for campaign advertising.         

Have students compare a televised interview of a political candidate with a political advertisement which contains an excerpt of the interview

AHA!:  The political ad turned the candidate I saw in the interview into a very different person!                                               

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 #5:  Why is this message being sent?

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

Grade Level:  8-10

Materials:  high speed internet connection, computer, data projector, screen - test

 

Activity: Introduce students to the topic by asking them if they’ve seen any of the political ads for the 2012 campaign season, and ask them if there are any they really liked or disliked.  Explain that in this lesson, they’ll get to see the difference between a political ad and a news interview.  

Lest your students believe you’re teaching from a partisan point of view, you may want to visit FlackCheck.org for critiques of ads by both Democratic and Republican candidates.  This particular ad was chosen for no other reason than to facilitate the lesson and generate discussion. Begin by playing an ad posted online by the Democratic National Committee on February 1st which takes Mitt Romney to task for his tax policies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T34KR02E7O8 How persuasive is this ad?  Why or why not?   Next, play the CNN interview between Soledad O’Brien and Mitt Romney which was excerpted in the political ad: http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/01/mitt-romney-middle-income-americans-are-focus-not-very-poor/  What did the producers of the DNC ad keep from this interview, and what did they edit out?    What’s the message that most people would ‘take away’ from the interview excerpt in the DNC ad?  From Romney’s interview? What’s the effect of the editing? Keeping Key Question and Core Concept #5 in mind, ask students why they think the DNC edited Romney’s interview in this way.  Feel free to show the ad again.  FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, rated the DNC ad as one of the worst ads of the 2012 campaign season (The rating actually comes from FlackCheck.org, a sister site to FactCheck).  Do they agree?  Why or why not?  If they agree, what’s wrong about the way that DNC producers edited Romney’s interview? 


Extended Activity:  For a humorous (if labored) comparison between attack ads and ‘trash talk’ on social media sites, you might want to screen and discuss “Attack Ads Ain’t Pretty” http://www.flackcheck.org/taking-down-the-worst/2012/attack-ads-aint-pretty/  

 


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, © 2002-2011, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 05 May 2012 12:01 )
 

DIY Zombie Apocalypse

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A single film, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” with its legions of ‘undead’ mass murderers, has created one of the most enduring archetypes in pop culture history.  Since then, all of us have become familiar with the attributes of the modern zombie--blank stares, a slow, jerky gait, subsistence on an all-protein diet.  Zombies are also a trope or figure of speech.  “Ted, you really shouldn’t be working those ten hour days.  You look like a zombie!”  Most importantly, zombies are tropes with a social significance.  They come in packs and herds, and they raise the question, why are they so mindless, and what are they following?

The answers which film producers have given to that question have been very different.  Released in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, “Night of the Living Dead” has been dubbed “hippie horror” for its apparent commentary on the terrors of a war without purpose.   In 2004, “Shaun of the Dead” featured many characters in “dead-end” jobs who seem little changed by their transformation into zombies.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will be able to unleash their social imagination as they answer the ‘zombie question’ for themselves. 

Have students write their own version of the zombie apocalypse                                                                                                                                                    

AHA!:  When I write about the future zombie invasion, I’m saying something about the kind of world we live in now!

Key Question #4 for Producers:  Have I clearly and consistently framed values, lifestyles and points of view in my content? 

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

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

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

 

Grade Level:  5-12

Materials:  paper, pencil, imagination

Activity:  Discuss the social implications of zombie film and fiction with students in the way it’s been introduced above.  Perhaps the single best example to give students is the Resident Evil series.  It’s not just a video game.  The Umbrella Corporation featured in the movie and video games treated all its employees as expendable—and they all became zombies as a result.  Present sample clips, or excerpts from novels and/or graphic novels if you wish.   Ask, what kind of people in the world seem like zombies to them now?  Why?  Next, ask students to use their answers as inspiration (and perhaps as characters for) for the zombie apocalypse story they are about to write.  Students can sketch out apocalyptic scenarios instead, but these should be detailed enough to “flesh out” their social commentary.  Assign students to work in pairs or groups as you wish.   Once students have completed the openings for their stories, compare, discuss and enjoy the variety of social worlds they’ve created. 

 

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, © 2002-2011, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com
Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 January 2012 18:05 )
 


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