As an educator, you understand the value of teaching your students to become media literate. Today’s world is radically different than the one most of us grew up in. It’s important for us to help kids learn to competently navigate the issues surrounding Internet safety, privacy, cyberbullying and online marketing.
Kids are relatively inexperienced in the game of life, and they often lack the ability to evaluate information critically. But they’re no less subjected to pushy marketing or skewed information than the rest of us. It’s incumbent upon us—their teachers, librarians and parents—to equip them with the tools that will help them make good decisions in the face of biased, misleading or hateful information.
Literacy today means more than just knowing how to read and write. For centuries, literate people were those who could read and understand texts. Nowadays, visual images are equally important in conveying ideas. But who’s teaching kids to read the meaning of visual images?
You are. Media education is powerful, offering you dozens of opportunities to capitalize on the “teachable moments” in your students’ world. It’s relevant to kids’ lives; it integrates with every subject across the curriculum; it develops critical thinking; and it’s easy to bring into your classroom. Best of all, kids enjoy media education, because they get to discuss and examine what they are naturally drawn to!
A few key points about the power and pervasiveness of the media:
- Media do not represent reality. They convey carefully crafted ideas and information from one perspective.
- Most new information comes to us through newspapers, the Internet, television, radio, advertising or magazines. Unless we learn from personal experience, we find out about events and ideas through the media.
- Media use specific techniques to create emotional effects. Ever cried at a movie? Laughed at an ad? Our feelings are easily manipulated. The media use this fact to whatever advantage they seek.
- Your students probably will have even more experience with the media than you do. So prepare yourself. Meet them where they are—and then guide them to where they need to be.
Media education is active, participatory and built around dialogue. It develops kids’ ability to think by themselves and to apply that thinking to issues that affect them. Teaching media literacy helps kids deconstruct the messages that attempt to inform, persuade and entertain them a certain way. In the end, media education—where the goal is increasing your students’ media literacy—achieves what we hope a good general education achieves: it teaches students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Blogs, Facebook, podcasts, YouTube, Twitter, reality TV, video games…the list of what shapes our kids’ lives is long. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Nobody handed us an instruction manual for how TV, magazines and the Internet would shape our culture, never mind our entire global economy. And things change so rapidly in the electronic world that it’s a challenge to keep up. But already you’ve taken a definitive step: By reading an engaging, action-packed Graphic Guide Adventure with your students, you’re opening the door to a rich and meaningful discussion about how media messages impact our lives. Media Meltdown is perfect to get kids thinking about the tools they can use to interpret these messages. Enjoy the discussions ahead!
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