Tag Archives: media education lab

Digital Media Literacy Opportunities Galore!

[Note: This post was originally featured on the Media Education Lab]

 The Consequences of Attending the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

I peered across the dim expanse of the art space, AS220 as I participated in “speed dating.” In a whirlwind I met librarian, Brooke; media consultant, Jen; and English educator, Erica. We formed dyads, shared lots of laughter, and together experienced the first weeklong URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. Brooke and I collaborated on a Storify called “Upstanders, Arise!” that helped students to advocate against bullying, and I later incorporated the composition into a Sports and Popular Culture curriculum unit I had designed in my position as a secondary English teacher.

Could that fabulous Summer Institute really have happened five years ago? Padlet, Socratic, Kahoot!, Edmondo, and Animoto were the Cool Tools that year, but curricular cohesion and literacy learning were just beginning to merge with digital education then. So it was in that latter direction I ran, and so many proverbial doors opened for me as a result of the conceptual framework I obtained from participating in the 2013 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy.

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Revisiting Media Literacy through a Digital Lens

I admit it, readily and happily:  I’ve been an advocate of media literacy instruction since the late 1990s, when I came face-to-face with students who just didn’t want to read the required Western canon.  Students would locate and share copies of Spark Notes and, without blinking, recite plot points and character distinctions.  Yet, when I pulled out magazines and asked students to identify images that had parallel themes to A Separate Peace or Flowers for Algernon, they were hooked and genuinely engaged in learning.

I knew I was onto something significant with media literacy.

Now, two decades later, I’m ready to end full-time public school teaching.  With closure comes insight into the progress we have made toward infusing media literacy and popular culture as part of what Giroux calls “serious academic discourse” (1989).  I’m also keenly aware that challenges continue to exist and daunt the most insightful and progressive media educators, even with the seeming ubiquity of digital tools and resources.

Looking Back at Two Decades of Media Literacy in the Classroom

mind over media tvMuch of my grounding in media literacy (and, later, digital culture) was framed by Dr. Renee Hobbs of the Media Education Lab.  Through Renee’s influence, I came to understand media literacy analysis from the early Know TV Curriculum; then it was onto analyzing advertisements, copyright and fair use, news bias, one-minute teen films, and, most recently,  propaganda through Mind over Media which curates a majority of its collection from users.  My students contributed, linked, and critiqued ads surrounding Dove Soap and parallel ads pointing to the destruction of South Asian rain forests, among others.

I also learned about the National Alliance for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) and their analysis categories of author and audience, representations and reality, and meanings and messages.  That framework jump-started me and helped me to create my own deconstruction model for students, called the Visual Analysis Protocol. Regardless of the course I teach — which can range from Children’s Literature, Sports and Popular Culture, Masculinity and Sport, The Art of Film, Conspiracy Theory, or American Literature — my students have the requirement to analyze media texts incorporating a social justice lens and then to compose their own media texts.

The importance of original composing can’t be overlooked:  students assume critical distance from texts and persuasion when, instead of consuming, they produce.  The shift to production requires them to design within commonly accepted conventions of a genre and with clear language expression.  This is tough work for any age group, but it’s essential for teens, whose identity experiences have been formed through constant media influences. Media composition also helps students to recognize the narratives employed in mainstream media texts, alongside their associative values, as a necessary step in questioning the dominant culture.

Add in “Digital” to Media Literacy Education, and What Happens in the Classroom?

As my years of teaching continued, an evolution toward 1-to-1 technology devices was slowly occurring.  I was eager to move from familiar print text and paper-and-pencil literacy practices to on-demand online inquiry and digital multimodal text sets.

evolution of digital engagement

Digital applications have changed my pedagogy and the way that students engage with texts. I am both a teacher and digital media literacy curriculum designer, and in both roles I have reminded myself to be conscious of several pedagogical components of digital media literacy education. It is important:

  • to engage students in media literacy learning in ways that foster their currency in companion digital skills and strategies;
  • to develop instructional experiences that connect youths’ in-school and out-of-school literacy and learning;
  • to offer inquiry into topics that arouse youth passions so to guide them as they become more deeply literate;
  • to balance opportunities for analysis with original composition so that critical examination is lessens negativity and reductionism;
  • and, to think of media literacy as a socially inclusive approach which calls upon civic participation and lifelong learning.

Tying It All Together in a Common Language of Digital Media Literacy

At the spring, 2016 conference sponsored by the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME), co-president Julia Freschette outlined how digital distribution adds to consumer-generated content in a change to the entire digital landscape.  She argued that the end goal now of digital media education is to understand the means through which communication is created, deployed, used, and shared. Sacred Heart University’s Director of the Master’s Degree Program in Media Literacy and Digital Culture, Bill Yousman, extended that discussion to reinforce how, even in a digital age, critical media literacy continues to deal with issues of power, and such power arises when media messages benefit dominant social groups at the cost of underrepresented groups.

Source: ACME

ACME co-president Rob Williams outlined a series of ways that a critical digital media classroom can also help students to identify how the social media environment fosters skills that apply to the real world. Yes, social media offers teens the opportunities to create and curate their own identities.  But, with teens’ average 7 hours, 40 minutes per day of total media submersion — not including multimedia tasking— teens can also use social media for larger purposes.  Williams suggested that educators help students to gain language to discuss what they are doing on/ with social media, which can leverage them to gain the power of the network with their particular set of skill strategies.

In a conference session titled “Global Media Literacy Education:  Teaching Beyond Borders,” by Belinda De Abreau and Melda N. Yildiz, critical digital media literacy goals pointed to “global competence,” or the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. To gain global competence, we can recognize cultural nuances among people around us as a beginning place to examine mediated environments and topics from culturally different points of view. A companion classroom activity compares newspaper representations of specific topics through a site like NewspaperMap and ask why different interpretations of the same text occur culturally.

Censored2016_COVER_1024x1024Project Censored director Mickey Huff described some of that organization’s earliest instructional activities, in which students identified the stories were being covered by independent news organizations but not being disseminated by the mainstream media.  They asked, “Why is there such a discrepancy?” Today, Project Censored also teaches students about logical fallacies through news headlines, and they play “Déjà Vu” when news outlets do pick up and report a previously absent story.  Huff and co-author Andy Lee Roth recently published the book Censored 2016, which captures the top censored stories and media analysis of 2014-2015. Huff stated that, until we have a news system that is diverse, we need to engage in such critical media analysis.

Sut Jhally, Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts and founder and Executive Director of the Media Education Foundation, was absolutely mesmerizing as the culminating keynote speaker at the ACME conference!  He revisited Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death introduction and argued that both Orwell and Huxley were right: fear and pleasure are driving our current worlds.  Jhally suggested that we read not McLuhan but McLuhan’s mentor, Henry Innis, who describes the essential influences of empire on society. Jhally also spoke of New York Times‘ Chris Hedges, who has a new book, Empire of Illusion. In it, Hedges discusses “the triviality of American popular culture… the mindlessness that makes the magic….”  I’ve added lots of material to my summer reading list as a result of hearing Jhally speak.

Carolyn at ACME delivering presentationAnd, in my own presentation, Reaching Magazines that Reach Us, I argued that media images of athletes of color reproduce generational stereotypes, and, through digital media analysis, we can help students to transcend such embedded messaging. Anytime we reproduce images from a former generation for a new generation, we expose youth to another framework with which to know their worlds.  If we are to assist our students become active advocates for equity in the world, we must, instead,  empower them to speak as systemic reformers. Digital media literacy can offer students the skills and structures to organize and act on a larger scale in order to change laws, policy, and larger social conditions. With digital media literacy analysis, they can, in turn, educate each other about racism. Through digital media literacy, we can help students to gain tools to transform institutions for justice for all.  Advocating for equitable images is one way.   

Barriers to Full Access to Digital Media Literacy Education in the U.S.

Of course, there are many issues when considering full implementation of digital media literacy programs in U.S. schools and other U.S. cultural sites.  A tendency seems to exist in many professional development programs to emphasize digital tools without focusing on the more important learning application of those tools. Moreover, instructors who lack the technology expertise cannot fully utilize the potential of digital media education, and, additionally, teachers can feel compelled to choose preparation for high-stakes testing over digital media production projects.

internet connectivity graphIn June 2013, President Obama announced his ConnectED initiative, which aimed to equip practically every school in the country with a high-speed broadband connection by 2018. We often speak about ubiquitous digital access, but it is important to remember that not all individuals, schools, or cultural institutions have the capacity to offer free wireless or to supply personal technology devices to their constituents, especially in an on-needed basis. Indeed, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the affluent and educated are still the most likely to have good access to digital resources.

And, finally, we have to remember that the U.S. is one of the very few Western countries that does not mandate media literacy education in its public schools.  Canada has media literacy requirements for their K-12 students. Countries like Sweden, Finland, South Africa, and the U.K. have some form of media literacy education for primary and secondary students. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of all European students receive some media literacy training by the time they graduate high school. If we want to teach our youth to be informed citizens in a democracy, the U.S. needs to reconsider its blatant disregard for the place and importance of digital media literacy instruction and to implement curricular standards that require students to analyze and interpret the vast amount of information that we all encounter every day.

An informed citizenry may depend on it.

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She has a twenty year background in public school teaching, and she is a part-time faculty member in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

Resources

Freire, P. and Giroux, H.  (1989).  Pedagogy, popular culture, and public life:  An introduction.  In Popular culture:  Schooling and everyday life. Eds. H. Giroux and R. Simon.  New York, NY.  Bergin & Garvey Publishers, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Analyze Super Bowl Commercials!

In 2015, You Tube Super Bowl ads accumulated 133 million views, and many of these views came well in advance of the actual Super Bowl broadcast, offering advertisers a rich (pun intended) opportunity to attract online audiences. The Super Bowl is the largest advertising event of the year, with costs to air a 30 second ad in excess of $3 million. Clearly, planning, design, and execution of Super Bowl commercials requires meticulous persuasive rhetoric.

Source: Super Bowl Commercials 2016

Source: Super Bowl Commercials 2016

As Super Bowl audiences, we enjoy the commercials; they’ve become part of the bigger picture of the Super Bowl as a mega-media event alongside the halftime entertainment spectacle and the actual football competition.  But the Super Bowl commercials also present us with an opportunity to unpack the methods by which we are made to feel a particular way about a product or service.  And, when we step back from the content of a text like Super Bowl commercials, we become reflective. Reflexivity is a developable capacity—the ability to self-reflect is not separate from the process of coming to know and understand. When we recognize the persuasion infused within text structures like Super Bowl commercials, we become better readers of other texts and our world.

So, what language and visual analyses can we apply to Super Bowl commercials?  How can we move from deciding what the Super Bowl commercial topics are to how their composers are crafting their arguments?

Persuasion, Messages, and Assumptions 

Source: Emergent Media

Source: Emergent Media

It helps to understand what “persuasion” is in order to get started with Super Bowl commercial analysis.  Persuasion is communication intended to induce belief or action. If they’re successful, text composers will capture and hold their audiences, and those audiences will be persuaded to think, to know their worlds, and to behave in particular ways based on persuasive appeal.  The messages that are embedded within texts like Super Bowl commercials are part of an information exchange that contains a definite world view. Composers disseminate messages in ways that attempt to persuade their audiences to see the world in particular ways.

Those particular ways of seeing the world are sometimes called “assumptions.”  Assumptions are ideas that are accepted to be true without having much accompanying evidence.  Amateur and professional sports are constantly-evolving spaces, and Super Bowl commercials describe these sports spaces and the larger society in which we live through embedded assumptions.

A Four-Part Process to Analyze Super Bowl Commercials

So much happens during a Super Bowl commercial! A full story is told within 15 or 30 seconds. As the audience, we respond not only to fictionalized characters and conflicts but stylized images made possible through sophisticated digital editing  techniques. Together, a series of elements create effects that cause us to respond in particular ways.  Breaking these elements into parts and synthesizing them afterward can help us to show evidence of measured thought and to digest multiple possible interpretations of Super Bowl commercials as persuasive media texts. 

Content and Context 

Source: Super Bowl Commercials 2016

  • Start by listing objects within the commercial and offering detailed descriptions of these objects.
  • What do people say to each other in this commercial?  How do individuals respond to and build upon others’ language choices? Note the most important conversational exchanges.
  • Consider the structural mechanisms that are used to draw the viewer into the text. For example, how are lighting, sound, music, voice overs, special effects, editing, color symbolism, and/ or casting used to foster audience interest?
  • Is there any specific implied prior knowledge that would be important for a viewer to hold in order to understand the commercial?  If so, name it.
  • Describe the setting: time and place.  Why did the composer choose these instead of other possible times and places?

Symbols 

Source: PBS

Source: PBS

  • Return to the list and descriptions of objects you created.  Now isolate certain objects that seem to stand out as unusual, important, or curious.
  • Explain what these isolated objects often represent in society.  This type of representation is sometimes called “allusion.”  Allusions use one object to remind us of a deep series of meanings through calling to mind popular culture, history, politics, literature, religion, or art.
  • Make a hypothesis for each isolated object:  what might the composer of this commercial be trying to tell us about our own lives through this allusion?

Composer and Target Audience 

Source: Driving Sales.com

  • Research who commissioned the text.   Since Super Bowl commercials are so expensive, it’s likely that a corporation paid to have the commercial produced.  What do we know about the corporation and its holdings?
  • Who actually designed and produced the commercial?  What is that company’s or individual’s reputation and experience within the world of advertising? For what other advertisements is the designer/ producer known?
  • Who is the target audience for this commercial?  How do you know?  What features of the commercial appeal to a particular age and demographic group?  
  • What are the possible economic consequences of this commercial’s success? How might it lead to new audiences adopting the corporation’s product or service?

Messages 

Source: Subliminal Messages for Alienation Paulo Zerbato

Source: Subliminal Messages for Alienation Paulo Zerbato

  • What themes or lessons is this commercial telling us about our world and ways that we should behave?
  • What evidence or reasons does the text composer supply to support the theme or lesson? How good are these reasons or evidence? Why do you trust or distrust the reasons and evidence?
  • How might different people interpret these themes or lessons differently?  What are the possible consequences of such themes or lessons for different audiences?

Critical Thought through Analyzing Commercials

Breaking apart Super Bowl commercials like this takes methodical thought and effort. However, such textual analysis through both visual and language deconstruction moves us from being passive recipients of messages to active interpreters of media and society.  Sound bites have less power when we can demonstrate why media messages reproduce certain cultural norms in our society.  

Because we both consume and produce media texts, we can integrate the critical analysis techniques we learn through Super Bowl commercial analysis into our lived media experiences. Super Bowl commercial analysis opens us up to how advertising is played out between corporations and changing objectives of economic and cultural fields. The interplay between corporations and the media can become a bit more apparent when we recognize media’s changing forms and content and its impact on lifestyles, social norms, and belief systems that most people consider “normal.”

When we investigate the pleasure we derive from media consumption and learn how to question it, we achieve a duality of purpose that helps us to weigh the costs and benefits of media messages. Through our social media interactions, we can use media analysis to shift to our own greater community involvement and understand of media’s contributions to our collective culture. 

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches English Language Arts at a New England public high school and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

URI Education Professors, Graduate Win Education Awards from International Literacy Association

Media Contact: Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-2116UR

KINGSTON, R.I. – Aug. 5, 2015 – Two University of Rhode Island education professors and a URI graduate have won international awards for their accomplishments in literacy.

The awards were given by the International Literary Association at its annual conference in St. Louis July 19.

“It’s a special honor for me to be recognized by my peers,’’ says Julie Coiro, a URI associate professor of education who won the Computers in Reading Research Award. “I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the growing body of work on how to best support teachers and students learning how to read, write and think more deeply with new technologies.”

Coiro’s award honors reading researchers who have made a significant contribution to research about classroom literacy instruction and technology integration.

Coiro, of Quaker Hill, Conn., teaches courses in reading and digital literacy and is an expert in the field of new literacies, which seeks to understand and develop literacy in a digital age.

She has lectured from Taipei, Taiwan and Manitoba, Canada to Brisbane, Australia and Mendillon, Colombia about her research on the new literacies of the Internet, online reading comprehension and practices for technology integration and professional development.

She recently completed a five-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop assessments to measure online reading comprehension to support classroom instruction.

Coiro also co-directs the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy at URI, a graduate program that allows educators, librarians and media professionals to learn how to use digital media to create learning opportunities for students. Under her leadership, educators and media experts from throughout the world attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus, also in July.

“It’s a thrill to get so many different types of educators revved up about literacy and learning with technology,’’ Coiro says. “Then you watch them go back to their districts and do incredible things.”

Coiro is co-editor of The Handbook of Research On New Literacies and has co-authored a book for classroom teachers, New Literacies for New Times: Teaching with the Internet K-12.

In 2011, she won the Early Career Achievement Award from the Literacy Research Association. The following year, she received URI’s Early Career Faculty Research Excellence Award in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.

And in 2014, she received an Elva Knight Research Award – with her colleague Carita Kiili of Jyväskylä, Finland – to study how to support high school students as they critically read and write online texts involving controversial issues.

Theresa A. Deeney received the Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator Award for outstanding college or university teacher of reading methods or reading-related courses.

Deeney, of South Kingstown, is an associate professor of literacy education at URI, coordinator of the graduate literacy program and director of graduate studies in the School of Education.

Her research focuses on pre- and in-service teacher education in literacy and assessment and instructional practices for students who struggle. Her work has appeared in The Reading Teacher, Journal of Special Education and Intervention in School and Clinic, Yearbook of the Literacy Research Association.

“Being recognized by my peers for my work in literacy teacher education is an honor,’’ she says, of her award. “I’m so grateful to all of the wonderful teachers I’ve had the pleasure to learn from over the years. They’re really the ones who deserve recognition.”

As part of her work, Deeney directs URI’s After School Literacy Program, a yearlong program run in conjunction with the Graduate Reading Program. Under her guidance, URI students have helped more than 90 children and adolescents in local schools with reading and language difficulties.

Deeney is author of Improving Literacy Instruction with Classroom Research. In 2007, she received the Outstanding Outreach Award from URI’s College of Human Science and Services for her work with urban teachers, and in 2015, the Outstanding Service Award. She also received the 2014 Constance McCullough Award from the International Literacy Association for professional development in Kenya as part of her work with the Africa Teacher Foundation. For this project, she helps teachers in some of the poorest areas of Kenya learn instructional techniques for developing their students’ literacy skills.

“I am thrilled that Terry Deeney and Julie Coiro have been recognized internationally for their excellence in research and instruction in literacy,’’ says Lori E. Ciccomascolo, interim dean of the College of Human Science and Services and dean of URI’s Feinstein College of Continuing Education. “They clearly have had an impact in their field, and I thank them for setting such a high standard for how literacy is taught and researched.”

Another award went to Carolyn Fortuna, of Glocester, who won the International Literacy Association’s 2015 grand prize Technology and Reading Award. The award honors educators in grades K-12 who are making outstanding and innovative contributions to the use of technology in reading education.

Fortuna is a 2010 graduate of the joint doctoral program in education at URI and Rhode Island College. She attended URI’s Summer Institute in Digital Literacy in 2013 and frequently participates in URI’s Media Education Lab research. She is the founder and director of IDigItMedia.com, which offers digital media literacy and learning professional development to schools and nonprofits.

She teaches high school English in Franklin, Mass., and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College.

Pictured above: Julie Coiro (top); Theresa Deeney (middle); and Carolyn Fortuna (bottom). Photos courtesy of URI.

Reprinted with permission of the University of Rhode Island.

Give Me 5 Media Teachers Lab

Carolyn contributed her background knowledge of digital and media literacy at the Give Me 5 Media Teachers Lab as a facilitator for “Curriculum Integration.”  Topics of conversation included equipment problems, technology training, curricula design on digital platforms, navigating piecemeal school systems, navigating layers of administration, limited time, invisibility of media environment, risk-taking in online environments, and various degrees of teacher preparedness for digital and media literacy learning.  Media Education Lab in conjunction with the Rhode Island Council on the Arts.  October, 2013.

Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

Fortuna Leads Digital Assessments Workshop at University of Rhode Island

Carolyn offered a Hot Topic workshop at the 2013 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy called, “Is It Digital Art or Digital Learning?” Topics of conversations included what criteria should be considered when assessing digital compositions, the responsibility of subject area instructors to teach generic conventions, and how to help students create authentic compositions while demonstrating scaffolded learning. Providence, July, 2013.