Friday, September 24, 2010

Using Technology to Support a Great Critical Media Literacy Lesson

This week started off fairly low tech; I showed students a VHS tape of an old (but classic), black and white episode of the Twilight Zone.  The episode, titled  "The Eye of the Beholder"  brought about an interesting conversation about the nature of "beauty" and the factors that influence our understanding of it.  The discussion served to raise plenty of questions and a variety of opinions,  but as a class,  students only found a couple areas of, that there is no one set standard for beauty, it varies from person to person; and two, that our environment influences what we perceive as being beautiful.  One influence that students identified as being most significant was the images we see in the media.

With those ideas in mind, students brought in magazines and examined the characteristics of the people shown in the advertisements, making lists of the characteristics we noticed of the men and the women featured in the ads.  These characteristics students typed into a Google Form I embedded on my website, enabeling me to paste these characteristics into a Wordle  (shown below).  The next day, students begain class by gluing these word clouds into their daybooks and writing about what they thought they revealed.

For Men:                                                                         For Women

After briefly discussing the thoughts these Wordles elicitited, we then watched and wrote responses from the following video from Dove:

As you could imagine, this sparked quite a bit of discussion, and with that discussion, more questions.....We decided that something wasn't right....that our perception of beauty was based upon seeing people that were edited by computers.  But we just couldn't figure out what consequences this reality of our society might have and why advertisers did this.

So, when we couldn't arrive at the conclusions we needed through discussing and putting our heads together, we looked outside of our classroom the web! 

Before students went to the web, though, I first introduced them to a tool that would make our search more collaborative and effective: social bookmarking.  Students created accounts on Diigo, then joined a class group that I had created.  I gave them an overview of how social bookmarking works and a brief tutorial about how to use the tools offered by Diigo and save websites to our group. 
      *NOTE: Teaching new technology always take a little time, but the lessons I learned from my previous post still held true today.   I also took an additional step this week of creating screencasts on Screentoaster of the steps I woudl be demonstrating and embedding them on my website, so students could refer to them if they got stuck. 

Armed with this awesome new web tool, students took to the web to find out what they could about advertising, the media, teens' self-image, and society's perception of beauty.  This is a huge topic, but with 70 of us working together and collaborating on Diigo, we managed to find over 50 sites on the topic and converse across classes about the information that we found on them:

Our new understanding and the information that we found is going to lead us into next week.  Starting Monday, students are going to get their own blogs started on Blogger and begin crafting their first posts, in which they will write about their opinions relating to self-image and the media.  Within these posts, I'll also introduce students to the digital composing skill of hyperlinking, enabling them to include links in their writing back to the information we found this week.