Media Literacy
Media in the Classroom

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Computers Give with
One Hand and...
Because of the economic implication, there is plenty of policy about the integration of the computers in the classroom, a bone of contention for teachers who want to use camcorders. Compared to the cost of other technologies, video makes sense as a school medium because of its low cost. Even so, video teachers complain that the school technology budgets go to the computer laboratories.

Ironically, although it is true that computers absorb the lions' share of human and economic resources in he nation's schools, they may ultimately usher in increased production of video in the classroom. The "technology master plans" around the country are primarily directed to the use of computers and secondarily to instructional television. But there are indications that the one-way, "medium-specific" way to plan for educational technology use is reaching its limits as information channels such as telephone, video and audio implode into one "communication box" - a trend that portends well for advocates of student video production.

As images blend with sound and text into emerging digital forms, educators are rethinking ways that information can be accessed and presented. If schools are to encourage reform-minded approaches to education, these "black boxes" for communication have as much potential to send student communication to a wide audience as they do to receive the communication of others.

Although high-profile policies about the application of computer tools in education proliferate, policies that knit video production with reform-based approaches in the classroom are only beginning to pop onto the radar screen of policy makers in the United States. First, students must have access to the tools.

Access and Application
A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prelude to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. 9

It is not that the students lack access to the electronic information services. The use of television and VCRs to access consumer fare in the home is ubiquitous, even among the poorest in society. The use of educational television, a hybrid between several genres, is also on the rise in the classroom. Until recently, neither of these means of access had much relationship to students producing their own video information.

The assumption that information will be delivered to students in the form of prepackaged educational resources fits into the traditional industrialized model of education-a model that gives short shrift to both analysis and production of student work, as it asserts the public's "need to know" about commercially produced media and the students' need to sit quietly in their seats and listen attentively.

The one-way mode of delivery from producer to consumer is still so pervasive that it had dominated U.S. electronic information policies since the 1930's, when the Communications Act of 1934, federal regulatory legislation that asserts public access and ownership of the nation's airwaves, was passed.

Even with improved two-way communication technologies, U.S. policy makers are still preoccupied with the need for equal access by all citizens to commercially produced information. As the National Information Infrastructure promises hundreds of channels, delivering a torrent of digital and broadcast info-nuggets, questions of who has access to what information become increasingly acute. Based on the simple philosophy that "knowledge is power" (and the assumption that those who provide information will be wealthy), the rush to define policies to endure equal access to information has obscured other critical facets of the access debate: what will people do with all this information once they receive it? Will citizens have ample opportunity to produce and disseminate information independent of commercial vendors?

If access to information is the first plateau of the Information Age, application of information looms over the horizon as the next challenge. Application-how education integrates the use of communication channels into school culture-calls into question the usefulness of the industrial model of educational delivery, as it seeks out constructive approaches compatible with contemporary school restructuring. If technology proves compatible with constructivist reform efforts, hands-on student production across the K-12 curriculum will increasingly make sense.

Media Literacy Education
Literacy is primarily a technology of which records are the end-product. The technology based on Greek and Roman alphabetic script, which has dominated European culture for more than two thousand years in its classical (papyrus), medieval (parchment) and modern (printed paper) forms, may be entering its final century. 10

The emerging field of media education assumes that access is imperative, but it addresses the application issue through approaches that foster media literacy, "the ability to access, evaluate, analyze, and produce communication in a variety of forms." 11 Media education, as such, is not an alternative discipline, but a set of analytical tools that cut across the curriculum and tie into constructivist classroom approaches. This is not to say that media literacy education is particularly new. Media literacy subscribes to the tenets of plain, old-fashioned literacy, but extends traditional forms of print literacy to include electronic forms of communication and popular culture venues. Like print literacy, it is a combination of decoding, analysis, and evaluation of media texts (reading) combined with hands-on productions of print and electronic forms (writing).

The ultimate goal of media education is to strengthen democratic institutions through an informed citizenry. As articulated by Len Masterman, British author of Teaching the Media, a seminal book in the international media literacy movement, "media education aims to foster not simply critical intelligence, but critical autonomy," 12 that is, the ability to think independently through a disciplined examination of evidence; discursive techniques; and articulate inquiry, reflection, and response.

Key Concepts of Media Education
In 1989, the Ontario Ministry of Education in Canada published a book that has become a cult favorite with U.S. teachers. The Media Literacy Resource Guide is a framework of principle, curricula, and activities to serve as a resource for Ontario's language arts teachers who teach media literacy education as a mandated part of the secondary language arts curriculum. The Media Literacy Resource Guide, compiled by the Association for Media Education in Toronto, lays out key concepts for media education, based on a survey of media literacy efforts in England, Scotland, and Australia. The main concepts are:

1. All media are constructed.
2. Media construct reality.
3. Media have commercial implications
4. Audiences produce meaning.
5. Media contain inherent values and ideology.
6. Media have social implications.
7. Media have political implications.
8. Media have unique forms that influence content. 13

The concepts are important principles that help to structure the curriculum, but the Association for Media Literacy goes on to suggest classroom approaches to create optimum conditions for teaching about media. Similar to those advanced by democratic pedagogists in the United States, 14 these teaching approaches include student-centered curricula; democratic governance of classrooms and institutions; interdisciplinary education; Socratic, inquiry-based methods; cooperative group processes; and hands-on student production.

Analysis and Production
If various reports about the need for critical thinking in U.S. curricula are accurate, there is a demand and need to build students' analytic skills in the nation's schools-beginning with print media. The dominant mass media in the nations's classrooms is not Channel One, but textbooks, and those critical of ideological biases in textbooks point out that most teachers do not encourage the critical analysis of printed information in the classroom. By modeling critical challenges to the printed work, teachers lay important foundations for students to analyze electronic media.

Although analytic skills are undoubtedly important to a student's independent thinking, Masterman stresses that analysis alone, uncoupled from hands-on student production, is half a program at best. At its worst, strict media analysis has the potential of creating cynical student attitudes about commercial media, without the outlet for change, expression and citizen feedback that hands-on production provides. He says, "media education consists of both practical criticism and critical practice. It affirms the primacy of cultural criticism over cultural reproduction." 15

Students have already informally learned to "read" commercial media, although they may not yet have the vocabulary to articulate its codes and conventions. Hands-on student production demonstrates levels of understanding about the way print and electronic media construct popular culture, as well as a deep understanding of various genres and the way they overlap.

The media teacher's challenge is to bring highly symbolic and emotionally charged electronic texts into the realm of rational discourse so that students have the skill and vocabulary to analyze and evaluate their usefulness as information sources. The most effective way to accomplish this is to let students produce their own media.

The goal of media production is not self-expression or job readiness for media industries, although these may be important by-products of production in the classroom. Media educators recognize that although some of their students will go on to become artist, producers, and media workers, most will not. Even so, all students are ardent consumers of media. Therefore, the primary emphasis of hands-on production is to inform analysis of commercial media products. In turn, students analyze their own and other media products in order to make them more satisfying, thus strengthening their knowledge of media codes and conventions. The analysis-production formula creates a spiral of success: analysis informs production, which, in turn, informs analysis.

Hands-on Video Production
Compared to film and digital reproduction, low-end consumer video provides relatively low cost and ease of use for students, factors that explain video's popularity as the medium of choice for hands-on student production in the K-12 classroom. Model programs that integrate analysis and practice in a structured program of video production are largely untracked in state school data, although case studies by Strategies for thoughtful programs in public schools. 16

Curiously, national film organizations, such as the American Film Institute, have kept their distance in recent years, unlike their counterparts in England, Australia, Scotland, and Canada, where educational departments in the British Film Institute, Scottish Film Institute, and National Film Board of Canada are devoted to working with teachers in the field to create media education resources. In other countries, national film organizations have been at the forefront of research, development, and policy for media education. The film organizations are interested in audience development, promoting independent work, and repurposing film collections for school markets. The teachers are delighted to have access to high-quality resources that facilitate media instruction and bypass stringent copyright restrictions.

A number of community-based arts organizations in the United States maintain education programs that bridge the gap between video production and school culture. From these programs, policies, techniques, and strategies that foster hands-on production in the K-12 classroom are beginning to emerge. These include a host of media arts and museum-based programs such as Educational Video Center in New York, Southwest Alternate Media Project in Texas, and L.A. Mobilization Project in California, nonprofit centers with a track record for hands-on media arts education for young students.

These community-based groups go far beyond simple teacher and student training in the use of video equipment. For example, Educational Video Center (EVC) supports student documentary production in a program with strong reform-minded educational principles, compatible with the international media literacy movement. EVC purposefully focuses on documentary production because of it ability to offer alternative voices, representations, and ideologies for students who may belong to groups that are marginalized or stereotyped in mainstream media.

In 1993, EVC embarked on a research project in collaboration with Bill Tally, a researcher at the Center for children and Technology in New York, to explore the use of video in authentic assessment, a project that also raises questions about the ability of teachers to assess student video productions in the classroom. Work in assessment such as that initiated by EVC and the Center for Children and Technology is essential if media education is to gain the respect it needs to argue for its place in the curriculum. As the push for national standards intensifies, assessment emerges as a key issue in media education.

National Standards
With the passage of the Goals 2000 legislation in 1993, national standards have emerged as an engine to drive school reform in the United States. Whether national reform efforts will foster media education, and what this means for video production, remains to be seen.

Arguments for video and other emerging tools of technology are salted throughout Goals 2000, national standards, and state documents. Some of the best arguments for the inclusion of video in the classroom come with the adoption of National Standards for the Arts, in particular the visual arts components that specifically mention video tools.

Based on principles from the discipline-based arts education (DBAE) movement in visual arts education, the National Standards for the Arts also offer a contextual framework compatible with media education's emphasis on analysis and production within historical, economic, and cultural contexts. In the visual arts, the four basic disciplines advanced as the structure for DBAE study-aesthetics, art criticism, art history, and art production-could work with the principles of media education, although the idea advanced by DBAE boosters that students study art critics may raise eyebrows as students comb the daily newspaper for Joe Bob Brigg's column.

Clearly, standards and assessment for media education need to be strengthened in order for the filed to advance, but the problem with establishing media education standards arises from a basic conflict in the fundamental ideologies and principles that underlie the call for standards, pitted against those that underpin constructivist education. As the paths of technology and school reform converge, national standards may present significant roadblocks.

One of these barriers is the desire for learner-centered environments. Although the teams of citizens who developed national standards have made great efforts to encourage inquiry-based, critical practices, the national standards are developed by people far away from local communities. They fundamentally violate the constructivist principle that learners outline an autonomous course of study with guidance from their teachers, that is, student-centered education.

Of even greater concern is the way that national standards provide a chilling effect on interdisciplinary study in a way the University of New Mexico Professor Don Zancanella calls "a freezing of existing subject-matter arrangement." Thus far, national standards

freeze out subjects which aren't part of the traditional curriculum, or, on the other hand, send such {subjects} scurrying to find a home within a traditional discipline...If no traditional curricular area "adopts mass media," it seems likely to me that any thoughtful study in school of such influences on our lives as television, advertising and popular culture will remain rare. 17

Defining media educations's place in education is a problem that many educators have already solved by including it in their daily classroom practices. In the process of defining the goals and purposes of media education, educators glimpse a chasm that separates past notions about the value of literacy and its relationship to education from a future vision of the way schools can bet serve the literacy needs of contemporary citizens. As technology and school reform intersect, a fundamental question looms large: Why do we want to educate our children at all, and how do we go about the business of doing it? Of all the uses of technology in the classroom, video is a wedge that opens the chasm between what is and what could be. Media education promises great rewards for teachers who risk it, but is not for the faint of heart.

1. Barbara Means, "Using Technology to Advance Educational Goals," in Technology and Education Reform, ed. B. Means (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994)
2. Don Zancanella, "Local Conversations, National Standards, and the Future of English," English Journal 83 (March 1994): 26.
3.Telephone conversation with author, May 1993.
4.QED, "Technology in Public Schools, 1991-92," a national data base available from Quality Education Data, Denver Colorado.
5.Technical Report of the 1991 School Utilization Survey, Study of School Uses of Television and Video 1990-1991 School Year (Washington, D.C.: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1992).
6. Michael Wilkes, "California vs. National Responses for the 1990-91 CPB Study" (Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, San Francisco, 1992).
7. For a list of media arts organizations that include student and teacher video training and resources, contact the National Alliance for Media Education, c/0 National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, 655 13th Street, suite 201, Oakland, California 94612 (telephone: 510 451-2717). The National Telemedia Council is compiling a comprehensive media education database that includes media arts programs. Contact the council at 120 E. Wilson Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703 (telephone 608 257-7712).
8. Robert Gipe, telephone interview with author, May 1993. Appalshop's address is Madison Street. Whitesburg, Kentucky 41858.
9. James Madison, in a letter to W.T. Barry dated 4 August 1822, Quoted in Daniel B. Baker, Political Quotations: A Collection of Notable Sayings on Politics from Antiquity to 1989 (Detroit: Dale Research, 1990).
10. M.T. Clancy, From Memory to Written Record (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1993), 20-21.
11. Pat Aufderheide, Report on The Aspen Institute Leadership conference of Media Literacy (Washington, D.C.: Aspen Institute, 1993).
12. Len Masterman, Teaching the Media (London: Comedia Books/Routledge, 1985). these ideas are included in Masterman's books, but are clarified in "Media Education's Eighteen Principles," in Strategies (Spring 1970).
13. Media Literacy Resource Guide (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education, 1989).
14. For example, Foxfire Principles, Coalition of Essential Schools, as well as the books of Stanley Fish, Ivan Illich, Neil Postman, and Henry Giroux. For a scholarly analysis of popular culture's place in schools, see Henry Giroux et al. Popular Culture, Schooling, and Everyday Life (Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey, 1989).
15. Len Masterman, note 12 above.
16. Of special interest are the following: Dearborn High School, Michigan, video production program-teacher, Russ Gibb; Rowland Heights High School, California-teacher, Dave Master; Jefferson High School, Los Angeles-teacher. Gina Lamb. National Tlemedia Council, 120 E. Wilson Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703 (telephone: 608 257-7712).
17. Don Zancanella, note 2 above, 27.

Kathleen Tyner is founder of Strategies for Media Literacy and a research associate at Far West Laboratory in San Francisco

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