Voices in Education

Strategies to Deconstruct Media and Encourage Media Literacy

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Media. It’s all around us -- online, print, cars, signs -- everywhere. It is important now more than ever that young learners have the opportunity to use digital learning  and understand how to use and decode media appropriately. With the uncertainty of COVID-19, educators are making it a priority to incorporate digital learning in their every day lessons. However, during the early months of COVID-19 and quarantining, not every student had the opportunity to access appropriate media at home. Media Literacy Week, which begins October 26, is a perfect time to re-think and review how we help our students and families absorb and interact with media.

Helping students become better media citizens

It is imperative that our students come to a learning environment that allows appropriate investigations, engagement and hands on experiences with media. There is no doubt that the media plays an important role in young learners' lives and what a joy it is to see it carried out. Children see, hear, and experience media from birth. And out of those experiences, they begin to imitate what they see, hear and ultimately experience. Although the media gives us tools and information to learn, it is important to advocate for media literacy. Media literacy gives us the power to become better media citizens as we consume, produce and share our own stories and knowledge. As educators, we should be the first to advocate for the success media literacy can bring. Families should be provided tools on how to decode media and advocate for themselves and their children. From that learning, we can move media literacy to their home environment which will create new ideas and opinions. Families can learn about the meaning of various messages and help translate appropriately as children flex their critical thinking skills by asking questions. 

Deconstructing media to help students and families understand and analyze 

As a parent liaison, my job is to translate for students and families the five main components of media literacy: Access, Analyze, Evaluate, Create and Act. Our students access media through web tools like: Google Docs, Google Classroom, Google Slide, Google Forms, Flip Grid and Seesaw. By creating virtual family technology and literacy nights, our families are given tools to bridge the literacy gap between home and school.

For educators, here are some effective ways to help convey and encourage media literacy: 

For students: Offer prompts to increase understanding of any media.

  • Who made it? 
  • Who was it made for? Grown ups? Children? 
  • What is about? 
  • What do you think and feel about this? 
  • What might other people think and feel about this? 
  • Is anything or anyone left out?

These questions will help students understand who the message is intended for, details about the author’s goal for the messaging, and how to use critical thinking skills to discern the content. 

For families: Teach parents and families to do the same deconstruction using the same language and questions. This effort creates a norm in the home to become aware and evaluate what is being placed in front of them. This teaches families what is appropriate through content ratings, language and experience. This activity models tools to use while children are at school, home or away for the weekend. 

Review of screen time: Encourage parents to review screen time by changing tablet and phone settings, awareness is key. There are also great opportunities for fun and engagement, have a family night and watch media together -- be the example. Children are sponges and will mimic actions, language and what is positioned as being safe. Media can be an amazing tool for families especially when modeled with a critical lens. 

Defusing negativity, teaching critical thinking when absorbing media 

We advocate media literacy education through our partners in education, school administration and legislators. Together we can make a difference in our communities and schools. We must encourage our Representatives and Senators to create more programs related to media literacy, online security and safety, and the understanding of digital citizenship. Our children across America are relying on media to gain identity and purpose. We can defuse a lot of negativity if we teach our children and families to think critically and purposefully when they see or hear the media. We have the power to shift and course correct with the power of education. Although we use digital media more than ever, we can create brave spaces in our schools and homes that will encourage our children to create, explore and advocate for themselves and others around them. There is power in understanding. Power in choice. Power in expressing opinions. Our world is filled with wonder and collectively we can change the narrative for those who are media illiterate. Our ultimate goal should be to leave our children with a healthy world. We live in a society where media can be influential and it is up to us to be the example of how healthy media literacy is carried out for generations to come. 

Kristen Valley

Kristen Valley Early Learning Champion

Every motivational poster should feature a picture of Arkansas’ educator, Kristen Valley. Kristen taught Pre-K for 15 years and works hard to bridge students’ home and school lives in her current role as the Parent Engagement Professional for Boone Park Elementary School in the North Little Rock School District. Kristen is a highly organized problem-solver who goes above and beyond the call of duty when working with children and families and is exactly the type of educator upon whom others depend. Kristen will spend some time this year researching trauma-informed teaching techniques that she can bring back to the families she works with. Colleagues describe Kristen as someone with a winsome personality and her energy, curiosity, and creativity make her an ideal teammate to her station partners at AETN in Arkansas.

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