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Monday, August 3, 2009

Quote du jour

Is it possible that media, news and technology literacy could be the new civics class?
- McCrae Parker, VP of Strategic Initiatives, Youth Radio

What's the New What?
- Sex Without Condoms is the New Engagement Ring
Boss of Me

Journal of Media Literacy Education

Thanks to Frank Baker and the Media-L listserv for this release:

The National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) unveiled the premiere issue of its Journal of Media Literacy Education Sunday night, August 2, at the NAMLE conference in Detroit Michigan.

Volume 1, Issue 1 can be found here:

Each issue of the journal is divided into three sections:
Voices from The Field
Professional Resource (reviews)

To access all of the journal, be sure to register (it's free). Follow the link "register" to set up your username and password.

Contributions are encouraged. The deadline for submissions for the second issue is October 1, 2009

Parents and Media Literacy -- Fear or Facilitation?

The session on parents and media literacy took a somewhat frightening turn, as a number of people in the audience reacted with amazement (and perhaps even a little disdain) to findings that parents prefer to regulate media in their own households over government regulation. At least two audience members suggested we need to educate parents to demand government intervention; but where is the media literacy gain in telling families that they’re not capable and need Big Brother to do it for them?

This discussion followed on an excellent challenge by Faith Rogow about the disconnect between how we train teachers to provide media literacy education – an inquiry-based foundation – and how we most often deal with parents in media training settings, which tends to be to scare them with media effects findings, then tell them what to do.

One effect often posited about media’s influence on audiences is that it leads them to have a more negative or fearful view of the world. Based on reactions from some of the researchers, educators and pediatricians in this session, we may well be creating that fear in what we tell them about the mediated world, even more than what that world contains for many or even most kids. If you lead into media literacy with the dangers, it’s very hard then to change up and promote the positive potential.

OK, editorial finished. Below is a more dispassionate rundown of this session.

Kelly Mendoza of Temple University studied parents and their family Internet use strategies, particularly how they balance protectionism (defined primarily by the media effects research model) and empowerment (more attuned to the cultural studies and new media literacy models). She explored what strategies parents use along this continuum, using four variables: internet mediation strategies, confidence in using strategies, perceived usefulness of strategies, attitudes about children’s use of Internet.

Mendoza found that parents say they are reliant on rules about time and where kids can go (but recognizes that there is often a disconnect between what kids and parents report about what the rules are and how well they are enforced). Fewer parents report asking questions about what their kids are doing on line, and even fewer report encouraging their children to be creators online.

Parents reported little confidence in filtering and monitoring tools, a concern for the researchers given the size of the market in this software. At the same time they also claimed little confidence in their own ability to guide children to productive ways to be online creators.

Parents said they were very concerned about content, especially about inadvertent exposure to inappropriate content. Still, most parents deal with such incidents as they happen, rather than taking preventive measures.

Interviewed about their best hopes for the Internet, the parents focused on the “wealth of information” aspect, the Web as research resource. Few talked about its potential for communication or connection.

Catherine Chiarello, a lecturer on parenting digital kids, noted the gap between the typical advice given to parents and the realities of kids’ and families’ lives today. “Timers are great for cooking, but they stink for trying to regulate a kid who’s in the middle of a game. The advice not to have media in the bedroom is fine, but most kids today have laptops.”

So, Chiarello focuses on management strategies designed for the particular family – different strategies for a kid who is susceptible to bullying vs one who gets along with a wide variety of others; different needs of a latchkey family vs. one with a parent home most of the time. She also advocates understanding that this is a young person’s world, one that they are born into while we are reacting to it as a new and changing landscape.

Laurel Felt, Annenberg School for Communication, USC, conducted a pilot study on parents’ perspective on media and their children. Her hypothesis was that parents’ SES, their own childhood media experiences, and the age of their children would influence perceptions about children and media.

SES did impact parents’ preference for TV regulation – but regulation by parents, not government, broadcasters or independent organizations; low SES parents are most in favor of parental regulation.

Regarding children’s age and perceptions of TV quality, parents of now-adult children perceive TV quality as highest (perhaps a function of nostalgia?); parents of pre-school children also had reasonably high assessment of quality, while parents of elementary age children had the lowest view.

Finally, the more time the subjects had spent watching TV as a child, the higher opinion they had of current TV quality.

Emily Hunt, Parent and Teacher Media Education Manager at Common Sense Media, demonstrated the organization’s action-oriented materials program, built around positive and practical strategies and information on parents’ central concerns. Media offer Common Sense an opportunity to strengthen the home/school connection.

Media Literacy Exercise: Tree Octopuses

Take a group of students; divide into smaller groups.

Assign the following research topic: Tree Octopuses.

Send one group to the Internet, another to the encyclopedia, another to the library, etc.

See how many groups come back with information on the Tree Octopus.

Science Resources and Media Literacy - Hidden Persuaders

The presentation on media literacy resources and science learning, led by Daniella Quinones from WGBH Educational Productions, diverged into a fascinating back and forth about vetting educational resources for accuracy and bias. To borrow from “Shrek,” doing so is like peeling an onion; sometimes it’s necessary to go several levels deep to find clues.

The “About Us” section of a website may reveal potential sway, as might a list of funders; however, corporate backing or profit motive isn’t the only form of influence. The “Integrity in Science” database, for example, is a project of the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has its own point of view and interests.

Quinones produces Teachers Domain, a WGBH project supported by the National Science Foundation and others, linking to 2200 different resources (video, websites, etc.) in science, social studies, English, math and performing arts.

For reference, other resources noted in the session for educational video and other resources included DLESE – Digital Library for Earth Systems Education, Source Watch (a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, the Adolescent Literacy and Science Collection (part of Teachers Domain), iTunes U, Safari Montage and Net Trekker.

NAMLE: President's Address

Sherri Hope Culver (shown left talking to her video doppelganger), President of the National Association for Media Literacy Education opened the NAMLE conference in Detroit noting that participants came from 34 states and 7 countries.

Culver’s President’s Address posited that 2009 will prove to be the tipping point for media literacy as a “social epidemic” – it is being taught in all sorts of new places, formal and informal, and the meme is central to every emerging platform from YouTube to Facebook to Twitter. We have gone almost instantly, Culver said “from ‘how can I find that out’ to ‘I can find anything – see it, watch it, download it, edit it…’ and media literacy adds the key question, “but should I.” Availability, access and fear – the perfect storm for media literacy.

But, if we stop talking about what media literacy isn’t, or why different organizations have different definitions, the opportunities are stronger than ever to integrate media literacy into the highest levels of education.

The Senate is working on a bill that would provide federal matching fund for states to support 21st century technology skills, including media literacy and critical skills. The Department of Education, as well, is incorporating media and technology education.

Even in popular culture, media literacy has edged its way into the mainstream. NBC’s “30 Rock” deals explicitly (the “Snapple product placement” episode) and implicitly (behind the scenes of a conglomerate company with media as one tentacle) with media literacy issues. Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” has covered topics like ownership, censorship, access and product placement; young people can watch the series, then go online and see the webisodes that were being produced on TV.

(Below, Renee Hobbs uses her Flip video camera to document Sherri Hope Culver's speech up close.)