Media Smarts: Kids Learn How to Navigate the Multimedia World


>>Narrator: The average American
young person spends more than six and a half hours in front of
some sort of screen each day. Surfing the web, watching
TV, and playing games.>>Teacher: Okay, when
you have a novel–>>Narrator: Yet, most schools treat
the written word as the only means of communication worthy of
study, and as a consequence, students remain poorly equipped
to think critically about, and express themselves through, the
media they are immersed in every day.>>George: We stress so
hard learning English, and learning English grammar,
and then we shove music and art over into some sort of
artistic, which means, sort of therapeutic or fun thing. It’s not approached as a very
valid form of communication.>>Narrator: In a recent interview,
filmmaker George Lucas spoke about the need to rethink the way
we teach communication skills.>>George: So we go through
school, and then, later on we start to learn the grammar of English, you
know, punctuation, capital letters, you know, run on sentences, what a
verb is, but nobody teaches anybody about what screen direction is,
what perspective is, what color is, what a diagonal line means. Those are rules, those
are grammatical rules.>>Narrator: The teaching of
those rules and other facets of media literacy, is
gradually gaining traction in schools across the country. Every state now incorporates
aspects of media education in its core curricular framework.>>Teacher: Media literacy,
living with media, and there was something
else there that I missed.>>Teacher: Visual and verbal message.>>Teacher: Visual and verbal message.>>Narrator: At the Greater Brunswick
Charter School, in New Jersey, media analysis is part of a
class project on gender roles.>>Teacher: What’s the difference between the male and
female images here? We’ve been looking at movies
for the last couple of weeks. Yeah, go ahead.>>Student: I guess you can say
lighter colors are more feminine, the way they’re advertising it there,
and the darker colors are for men.>>Teacher: But why?>>Robert: This idea of a
longer sustained project that kids get invested
in for a period of time, a project that has a lot of different
elements to it, jibes really well with a lot of the goals of
media literacy, because we want for students to realize that there
are all kinds of nodes being pushed, all kinds of different aspects
to what they’re learning about and what they’re addressing
when they make media, or they think about media.>>Teacher: Sit up tall, and I want
you to focus your eyes, your ears and your hearts on what you’re
about to see, hear and feel.>>Narrator: At the Jacob Burns Film
Center, in Pleasantville, New York, third graders are introduced
to the basic grammar and techniques of filmmaking.>>Steve: We were always educated to
read actively, yet we’re conditioned to view visual images passively. And that’s something
that we hope to change.>>Narrator: Burns Center programs
serve some 8,000 area students.>>Steve: We understood that
it is critically important to help kids understand that these
are stories being told to them. And to understand the techniques
in which stories are told, to understand the language of film.>>Narrator: Fourth graders learn
how to produce animated shorts.>>Character: Cat overboard!>>Narrator: And high school
students create video biographies of seniors in the community.>>Steve: To gain the tools,
to gain the techniques, the understanding, the grammar. To then be able to take
that and apply that, not only to a film they
see, from Denmark or Iran, or these animated films that
they start with, but to apply it to the seven o’clock news, to apply
it to the advertising that they see, to apply it to the internet sites
that they go on, and the webcasts.>>Janet: A lot of what people are
exposed to in terms of information that is critically important to how
they’re going to live their lives, has to do with news media coverage. And I don’t think they often
understand the comparative versions of what they’re being shown, the
choices that are made with each shot, the propaganda value,
the subliminal value, and if we do nothing else here,
we’re going to teach kids how to see more deeply into that, and how
to be able to speak for themselves in the same kind of language.>>Teacher: I have a
list of questions here, not all of them apply to every photo.>>Narrator: At the Ascend
School in Oakland, California, seventh graders studying
the war in Iraq, learned to dissect local
newspaper coverage.>>Teacher: In this photo,
who do you identify with?>>Student: The Iraqi civilian.>>Teacher: The Iraqi civilian. What other kinds of things
do you think you might think?>>Student: Well, I realize this. It’s like, if you look at
this picture, you feel sorry for the soldiers, and that kind of
makes you want to support the war, but then if you look at this picture,
you feel sorry for the Iraqi, and that makes you think
that the war isn’t necessary.>>Narrator: At the North East School
of the Arts in San Antonio, Texas, students hone their writing
skills by telling stories in their second language, film.>>Student: Well I was
thinking about making a film about two brothers attending
their father’s funeral. And–>>George: Everybody
is affected by this, and it should be taught in school. You would find it in terms of
understanding screen direction, and what a close up is, and a wide
shot, and why you use them, and how– what order you use them in. It’s just as fascinating
to them, and actually, it makes English much
more fascinating.>>George: As a matter of fact,
you know what would be cool. Take a look at Macbeth, and just
read the text, and specifically look for Lady Macbeth, and
then look at the tone.>>What they should learn in the
class, is how to think, how to write, how to think logically, and how
to be a well rounded individual. It showed up in this case,
in the context of filmmaking, but that’s the hook,
that’s the bait to kind of get them moving in that direction.>>Teacher: What’s a transition?>>Student: Transitions are like,
you can fade in and fade out, and–>>Narrator: As courses and
projects featuring elements of media literacy find their way
into more and more classrooms, writing English might become just
one of several forms of expression, along with graphics,
cinema and music, to be taught in a basic
course called communication.>>George: The basic grammar of communicating should be taught
basically in the communication class. It shouldn’t be taught in
some esoteric arty thing, it should be taught as a very
practical tool that you use to sell and influence people and to get your
point across, and to communicate to other people, especially in
this age, where kids are more and more using multimedia.>>Teacher: Jeffrey?>>Jeffrey: Are we going
to have enough room for the whole web page
just on that one line?>>Teacher: We will.>>Narrator: For more information on, What Works in Public
Education, go to edutopia.org.

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