Since its appearance as a fourth strand in the 2006 Language Curriculum (K-8), Media Literacy has evolved. New technologies, specifically based on web 2.0 applications and social networking, have left educators feeling a growing need to catch up and keep up with our students. Schools and school boards struggle to create and utilize print documents as a focus for teacher’s work. Simultaneously, students are spending greater amounts of time online, and the terms “digital native” and “digital immigrant” over the past ten years have been used synonymously with “student” and “teacher”. How do we then bridge this gap within our classrooms in a manner that both meets the needs of our learners, and relates to curriculum expectations? Moreover, how do we as media literacy leaders, facilitate this bridge-building with our teachers?
Break it Down
Looking at specific grade expectations is a great starting point. Asking ‘what do my students need to know at this grade level?’ provides a framework for accountability within the teacher’s professional practice. The Ontario Language Curriculum http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/language18currb.pdf is the obvious starting point, but one would also encourage teachers to reflect on core subject areas in order to chunk expectations. For example, integrating grade 5 science Body Systems, and Healthy Living in Phys. Ed., teachers would realistically view Canada’s Food Guide and PSA’s for Participaction. Chunking these expectations and the Media expectations to view a who creates media texts, what techniques were used and who is the intended audience allows students to dig deeper into the resources from a variety of different lenses.
Integration and Access
Allowing students to bring to the table what they already know isn’t new, but is a great strategy for teachers to fill the other gaps- access to technology being number one. When asked, many students as young as grade 1 or 2 can re-count a commercial or television show where kids like them were portrayed (i.e. This is Emily Yeung doing judo). With a single computer and a few minutes to search the reference made by a student, teachers will immediately make the learning more meaningful because it is student-directed. (This is certainly evident in the emergent learning of the Full-Day Kindergarten program!) At any age, students can bring to the table that which they know, and often there is a connection to the topic of study. As such, the diagnostic stage and design-down planning has a slightly updated face in the planning cycle. More innovation and release of control- have students show the commercial on their i-Pod or cell phone!
Work Together and Share What You Know
Have a lesson that worked? Need a fresh start to a subject you’ve been teaching for years? Look online! As media literacy leaders it is most important to provide opportunities for sharing and accessing information. Mostly free, online groups, blogs and organizations offer plentiful resources including ready-made lessons, SMART notebook lessons, videos and tutorials, chat and support, and assessment tools to make sure the learning is measured at the end of the day. Highly important: Organization and accessibility is key. I recommend choosing ONE online sharing tool and allowing educators time to get comfortable with it. Keep it simple. Whether it is a wiki, blog, public folder, Diigo, Google Docs or website… teachers need to be able to view and retrieve the information in a way that works for them. Sending e-mail links to resources, while standard practice for many of us, does not ensure long-term access nor is it organized in way that works for most. (Sorry!) However, using digital sharing tools is well worth the time learning how to effectively use it- with regular use everyone benefits. Sharing these in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and other working groups is a great way to show best practices. Nothing is more contagious than the enthusiasm of “This worked for me!”.
Bridging the learning gap for teachers and students often requires subtle leadership. The GREAT NEWS is that although they are not solely dependent on one another, in many ways media literacy and technology go hand-in-hand, and both are a vehicle for keeping teaching fresh. Being a model of this is perhaps the best means of leading others.