INTEGRATING DIGITAL AND MEDIA LITERACY INTO THE CLASSROOM
Renee Hobbs and David Cooper Moore answer your questions about all things digital and media literacy and share their experiences working with elementary and secondary teachers who are discovering media literacy’s value in advancing critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration.
Q: How are teachers exploring digital and media literacy?
A lot of the teachers we work with think that “digital and media literacy” will require them to change what and how they teach. But in our experience, digital and media literacy practices enrich how teachers already conceptualize their work in the classroom. Over the course of the next few months, we’ll illustrate the powerful impact of digital and media literacy practices by highlighting a few of the teachers that we work with across the country. Today, we feature Sue Sabella, reading coach at the Narragansett School District, who has been experimenting with digital and media literacy as a mean to engage all children and young people in active learning. In one lesson, students in Grade 4 compared and contrasted a short film and a poem, using a T-chart to identify similarities and differences. In this video, you’ll see how Ms. Sabella integrated inquiry, film analysis, and the recognition of formal components of visual and print media to expand and extend a classic poetry analysis lesson.
Q: What is digital and media literacy?
Today the concept of literacy is expanding to include forms other than language on paper because we share meaning through so many different forms of expression and communication. As part of the process of sharing meaning, learners must decode, comprehend, find, evaluate and synthesize. Those important reading practices can happen with picture books, chapter books, and textbooks, but also with documentaries, websites, newspaper articles, games, apps and photographs. When we think of writing, we focus on being able to use language skillfully to express ideas. But we now use language in many forms, including text messages, tweets, and blog posts. We also combine language with images, sounds and multimedia to share our thoughts, feelings and ideas. So digital and media literacy is the knowledge, skills and habits of mind that people need to share meaning in many different forms.
Q: What can teachers do when they’re just beginning to explore the use of media and technology in the classroom?
Many teachers actively “read” the images in picture books or the photographs in textbooks, modeling for their students how they think about images and how they convey meaning. Teachers who are just beginning to explore media literacy may enjoy finding digital or multimedia texts (like a YouTube video, website or photograph) and asking students questions to encourage them to describe their interpretations. Discovering that the meanings of media vary depending on the reader’s background and life experience can be a big “aha!” for learners -- and it can increase their intellectual curiosity and respect for others.
DIGI-LIT 101: TRY THIS!
Type in a keyword related to your lesson into Google and display the images that result. Ask learners to select one of the images and answer these questions:
1. Which image do you like best? Why do you like it?
2. What three adjectives describe your feelings when looking at this image?
3. Describe what this image actually showing.
4. Is this a realistic image that accurately depicts something in real life? Why or why not?
5. How was this image created?
Q: What are some of the challenges that digital and media literacy projects might bring to my classroom?
We won’t sugar-coat it -- opening your classroom up to contemporary media, new technology, popular culture, and news and current events can make teachers nervous. But there’s good news: digital and media literacy is not synonymous with technology integration, complicated production projects, or extensive use of popular culture media. In our book, Discovering Media Literacy, we describe meeting techie teachers who use all the latest educational and media production technologies. Trendsetter teachers are up to date with popular culture and love to integrate news, celebrities, and popular media into their lessons. But you’ll also meet no-tech teachers who know that the heart of digital and media literacy education is in inquiry and action around media’s role in our lives. They want students to think about why and how messages are created. If you are a teacher who values the classics in the arts and sciences, or if you love alternative media that open students’ eyes to the wider world, you’re probably motivated to integrate digital and media literacy into your teaching. If you’re interested in learning more about your own motivations for pursuing digital and media literacy in your classroom, take our quiz to discover your customized digital learning horoscope.
Q: Will these digital and media literacy practices take time away from reading and print literacy competencies?
Many teachers have discovered that an “all print” classroom simply doesn’t meet students where they live. By incorporating media texts, tools and technologies into the classroom, teaches find there is a boost in student engagement, of course. But we have also discovered that when children learn concepts like purpose and point of view with familiar texts of video and visual media, they can apply those concepts when they encounter less familiar texts in a variety of written genres, like expository or persuasive texts.
Q: How does digital and media literacy fit into my needs to meet state standards, like those outlined in the Common Core?
The digital and media literacy community has been thinking about Common Core along with K-12 educators across the country. We know that there are some specific benefits that digital and media literacy education offer to Common Core practice, such as strengthening analysis of a variety of texts, promoting composition in a variety of forms using new technology tools, and making inferences about how all media is constructed. David is a board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, and has helped them create an educators guide to connections between the Common Core State Standards and media literacy education. You can preview this document here.