Media literacy and Common Core Standards

Common Core may not be the best solution but as a media educator, there are aspects of it that I believe to be noteworthy.

According to The Common Core State Standards Initiative:

“The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”

As an educator, I believe it is important to provide students with ways to connect what they learn in the classroom to the real world so they can create meaning in what they are learning.

Media literacy will provide students with a hands-on learning experience and promotes collaboration, critical thinking, communication, creativity, and cultural competency.

These “five Cs” which are an essential part of the Common Core Standards, integrate 21st century thinking skills. In 2012, the San Jose Mercury News published an article explaining how three school districts in California helped their students develop skills that would be useful in the 21st century.

Media literacy education is a great example of why the constructivist learning theory is effective. I believe the constructivist learning theory is the best way to motivate students and make them want to learn.

According to Gabler and Schroeder (2002), the theory is about providing students with ways to connect what they learn in the classroom to the real world; it focuses on how students can create meaning in what they are learning.

Researchers have found that people learn and explain things based on their past experiences and that what is being taught by a teacher is often very different from what students actually learn (Gabler & Schroeder, 2002).

Media literacy expands on traditional teaching methods to include reading and writing using communications tools and offers a new way to learn using an “inquiry-based, process-oriented pedagogy” (Thoman & Jolls 2004, 21). This means that media literacy is not about teaching a new subject instead it can be seen as a new method of teaching, or more importantly, a new way for students to learn (Thoman & Jolls, 2004).

Hobbs (2010) explains that learning requires opportunities to interact with people beyond the circle of family and friends. Communicating with people who are different helps people look at the world from different perspectives and develop a connection to the people around them.

In previous blogs, I explained how teachers used media literacy to help their students learn about different cultures and how media literacy education can help minimize the harm caused by negative stereotypes.

I wrote In Why Media Literacy Matters – Photojournalism and Diversity:

Photojournalism is one of the many tools of the media that can potentially help encourage creativity among the students and show them that something fun can have a powerful effect on society.

Media literacy can be integrated into all content areas at every grade level.

I wrote in Integrating media literacy into all content areas:

“By bringing media into the classroom, students can be given the opportunity to see the subject from a different perspective. For example, photojournalism is one of the many tools of the media that can potentially help encourage creativity among the students and show them that something fun can have a powerful effect on society”.

Media literacy is important because it will help students develop the critical thinking skills that are necessary for understanding the complex messages presented by the media.

Media literacy can help students become better communicators.

Media literacy encourages creativity by promoting storytelling. Creativity is important in education and business.

Finally, media literacy can also help students become active citizens in a democratic society.

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References

Gabler, I.C. and Schroeder, M. (2002). Constructivist Methods for the Secondary Classroom. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hobbs, R. (2010). “Digital Media and Literacy: A Plan of Action”. Aspen Institute Communications.

Thoman, E. and Jolls, T. (2004). Media Literacy-A National Priority for a Changing World. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(1), 18-29.

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Importance of creativity in education

“Creativity is the New Literacy”. That is what Chase Jarvis, a world-renowned photographer told the crowd at GeekWire Summit 2013.

Jarvis stressed that as a culture we need to value creativity. He also said that creativity could solve all of humanity’s fundamental problems.

It is crucial for us to have an education system that fosters creativity.

Creativity is not limited to just actors, artists, musicians, etc. It even plays an important role in business.

Like Jarvis said, “Whether you are building a business or an iPhone app, creativity is the thing that drives what we do.”

Creativity is the mental and social process used to generate ideas and concepts. In other words, creativity is about innovation.

Companies such as Google and Pixar are known for creativity and innovation and for their unique workplaces (Nhan, 2012).

Creativity sometimes is not recognized or even possible without support from others (Csikszentimihalyi, 1996).

This is another reason why educators need to encourage creativity.

Sir Ken Robinson has spoken twice at TED about how schools kill creativity. He explained that there are three major reasons:

First, they promote standardization and a narrow view of intelligence when human talents are diverse and personal. Second, they promote compliance when cultural progress and achievement depend on the cultivation of imagination and creativity. Third, they are linear and rigid when the course of each human life, including yours, is organic and largely unpredictable.

Many school districts across the country have been adopting the Common Core education standards, which is President Obama’s replacement for No Child Left Behind. The Common Core provides new national standards for core subjects such as reading, writing, and math.

Ashley Lauren Samsa believes that in many ways, the Common Core is a great thing for both teachers and students. She explains that with the focus no long being on content, educators can teach whatever they want in their classroom as long as students are taught to read, write, and think critically. However, she is concerned that with Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction texts, technology, and career skills, teachers might forget about creativity.

The advocates of the Common Core standards say that we need Common Core otherwise students will not be prepared for college or a career

According to Diane Ravitch, there is no evidence that these standards will prepare students for careers because there is nothing in them that has any relationship to careers.

Ravitch stresses that schools across the nation are suffering from budget cuts. This means less time and resources for subjects like arts, physical education, and other subjects, which are crucial for a real education.

These programs are essential to promoting creativity.

As I stressed earlier, creativity is about innovation and plays an important role in business.

In a previous blog, I talked about how interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games can be used as a teaching tool to promote storytelling and foster creativity and learning. I mentioned how a school in Demark used roleplaying as a teaching method for all academic subjects.

I wrote in Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games as a teaching tool:

Roleplaying and storytelling can be used to motivate students and encourage them to want to learn. These games are effective because students engage in learning more when they are actively participating and it is important to work with their interests.

The constructivist learning theory is the best way to encourage creativity in the classroom. According to Gabler and Schroeder (2002), the theory is about providing students with ways to connect what they learn in the classroom to the real world; it focuses on how students can create meaning in what they are learning.

Every student has a different style of learning but an effective strategy to motivate all students is to focus on how students can create meaning in what they are learning. By incorporating the constructivist learning theory into the curriculum, educators can help students learn beyond the classroom experience and encourage creativity.

In Journalism is not dead, importance of storytelling, I discuss the importance of media literacy and how a journalism education teaches people how to become better storytellers. I stressed that we need to emphasize the importance of journalism and photography as forms of storytelling.

Teachers need to make sure that their classrooms emphasize creativity and critical thinking skills.

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References

Csikszentimihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Gabler, I.C. and Schroeder, M. (2002). Constructivist Methods for the Secondary Classroom. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Manders, D. (2013, September 16). “Creativity is the New Literacy” – Chase Jarvis Stirs up the Crowd at GeekWire Summit 2013. Flip the Media. Retrieved from http://flipthemedia.com/2013/09/creativity-is-the-new-literacy-chase-jarvis-stirs-up-the-crowd-at-geekwire-summit-2013/

Nhan, D. (2012, March 6). How a creative work environment encourages more risk – and more rewards. SmartBlogs. Retrieved from http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2012/03/06/how-a-creative-work-environment-encourages-more-risk-and-more-rewards/

Ravitch, D. (2013, August 24). The Biggest Fallacy of Common Core Standards: No Evidence [Blog] Retrieved from http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/24/the-biggest-fallacy-of-the-common-core-standards-no-evidence/

Robinson, K. (2012, December 7). Do Schools Kill Creativity. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sir-ken-robinson/do-schools-kill-creativity_b_2252942.html

Samsa, A.L. (2013, September 3). I Welcome Common Core education standards, but let’s not forget creativity. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/03/common-core-national-education-standards

Beyond the Snapshot – Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan: Beyond the Snapshot

Overview

Photographs must do more than just capture a memory. They must capture a moment in time and tell a story.

Critical Engagement Questions

  • What makes a photograph catch your attention?
  • How do we recognize a good photograph?
  • What can we do to take more interesting photographs?
  • Why are photographs an important element in media?
  • Why do we respond to certain images?

Objectives

  • Photograph the “moment”, or peak action that tells the story.
  • Watch for the human side of the story
  • Face and hands reveal emotion
  • Get the facts (ask for names, correct spelling, other caption information)

Activities and Procedures

Activity 1

  • Students will watch a Powerpoint slideshow that introduces photographic composition techniques such as cropping and the rule of thirds.
  • Students will be asked to view magazines and newspapers and to select photographs that appeal to them. The students will analyze the photos to determine why they were appealing and explain how and which composition rules are used.

 Activity 2

  • After being introduced through lecture on photography basics, the class will take a walking tour of campus and be required to take photographs of “hands, feet, and faces”. These images must illustrate various concepts such as rule of thirds, standard daylight exposure, back lighting, depth of field, panning etc. They must also reveal emotion.

Activity 3

  • For homework, students will continue working on their “hands, feet and faces” photo assignment. After the photos are developed or printed, each student will submit at least five images. In addition, they will mount their best photograph to a piece of black construction paper and will present it to the class.

Resources and Materials:

  • paper (black construction paper)
  • pencils/pens
  • camera

Tackling Racism

Everybody is a little racist.

Avenue Q, an American satirical musical, made a good point about how “everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes”. The show is best defined as an adult version of Sesame Street. It addresses issues associated with entering adulthood.

One of the messages presented in the musical is that even though everyone might be a little racist, it does not mean they go around committing hate crimes.

Racism does not always mean we wish to harm someone who is different. It can be as subtle as a fleeting thought or assumption.

Racism is a complex issue and everyone is biased in one way or another.

It is our human nature to identify more with people who are like ourselves. People have a preference for the familiar.

However, we must not use “human nature” to dismiss it as not being problematic. Having preconceptions based on how people appear may not cause any immediate harm, but when this is compounded over time and by everyone in society, it can lead to much greater harm.

Admitting racism is not easy but it is an important step in tackling the issue.

The problem will never go away as long as we neglect to acknowledge it in both society and within ourselves.

This issue is especially important as evident with recent events.

Tim Wise, an American anti-racism activist and author, posted a reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. In a video posted on July 19, he asks his audience to consider an important question: “Does having black friends mean you’re free from racial bias?”

The answer is no. As stressed in the first sentence, everybody is a little racist.

It is also crucial that people understand the role the media plays.

According to Rem Rieder of USA Today, the media played a role in the Zimmerman case that cannot be ignored. Rieder suggested in this case, the media went after the best story rather than the truth.

The media perpetuates stereotypes. Therefore is of upmost importance for people to learn to understand the complex messages presented by the media.

In a previous blog, Why Media Literacy Matters – Stereotypes, I discuss how photographs, film and video are used to perpetuate stereotypes. I explained how these images are used to present people of other races as “other” and establish them as inferior.

Such media messages perpetuate the idea of “us versus them”.

People need to be aware of how media messages influence them. They need to learn how to analyze those messages so they are not misled by false information.

People need to understand the importance of being media literate.

There needs to be a push for media literacy education.

It will help minimize the harm.

Roles and responsibilities of the media

There are two important points that need to be reiterated.

First, as I stressed many times before, journalists must not mislead.

Next, we need to remember why we need photojournalists.

The role of the media is to inform the public, to share accurate information and more importantly, the truth.

The four fake Asiana Air pilot names should never have been broadcast.

A summer intern working at the National Transportation Safety Board was blamed for this fiasco.

Intern or not, this problem shows that there needs to be better communication between government agencies and the media.

I previously wrote in Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis:

Media involvement in the emergency management process can help minimize misunderstanding. The goal is after all, to provide the public with accurate information as quickly as possible. Media agencies are great at doing that.

This means that journalists and government agencies need to work together and establish positive mutual working relationships. However, it is important to note that journalists are not the only source of media.

Another news organization recently got rid of its entire photography staff.

According to Jim Romenesko, Michael Gebhart, the chief executive of Southern Community Newspapers (in Georgia) wrote in an email, “How many photographers need dark room skills to develop film and make prints?”

Like many other professional photographers, I have not used a darkroom in a very long time. With the advancement of technology and digital cameras, no one really needs a darkroom anymore.

Gebhart obviously does not understand the importance of professional photographers.

Photography is a powerful tool and a universal language that can be used to inform the public and share with them the truth about what is going on in the world around them.

I previously stressed that reporting and photography require different levels of training and understanding.

I wrote in Importance of professional photographers, Part II:

So does having a blog make you a journalist? Does having a professional camera make you a photographer?

Anyone is capable of taking a snapshot or writing an article but the answer to both questions is no. They might possess the tools and equipment but that does not mean they have the technical expertise to do the job.

They are different forms of storytelling and we need them both.

Reporters and photographers are different types of storytellers and neither is more important than the other.

But one thing is for certain, as journalists they are responsible for telling the truth.

The media needs to remind themselves that people need to be informed, not misled.

Journalism is not dead, importance of storytelling

A recent study conducted by Bankrate.com shows journalism as one of the worst  return of investment for a bachelors degree. According to Bankrate.com, it will take 31.83 years for journalists to repay their student loans.

Ken Layne suggests that sailing would be a better career than journalism.

Journalism, however, is not dead.

Newspapers might be declining but storytelling continues to play an important role in our daily lives.

Nic Coury explains on Sports Shooter, an online resource for photographers and photojournalists, that he was a journalism major and loved it. According to Coury, who works as both a reporter and photographer for the Monterey County Weekly newspaper, even with the decline of newspapers there will still be crime, politics and sports that needs to be covered.

I was also a journalism major and to this day, I believe that it was a valuable investment.

The skills I learned through my journalism courses taught me how to become a better storyteller, a better communicator.

Earlier this week, I stressed that photography and journalism are different forms of storytelling and that we need them both.

There are also other important forms of storytelling, which will be discussed in future blogs.

Storytelling is an important form of media that teaches people how to think critically and to improve their communication skills.

This brings us back to the importance of media literacy.

Media literacy is about teaching people critical thinking skills and helping them understand the complex messages presented by the media. However more importantly, it is about teaching communication skills.

A journalism education teaches students how to become better storytellers, a skill that is useful in every field.

We need to emphasize the importance of journalism and photography as forms of storytelling.

In previous blogs, I stress how students used photography for storytelling, as a means to express themselves and to learn about others. I also explain how photographs can make a difference.

Stories can make a difference.

Importance of professional photographers, Part II

In my previous blog, I stressed the importance of professional photographers.

First it was Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who said “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”

Then the Chicago Sun-TImes eliminated its entire photo staff.

Really?

According to Sally Kalson, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Eliminating the entire photo department has to be the dumbest, most wrongheaded move any news organization has made in recent memory.

As both a journalist and photographer, I need to stress that both are different forms of communication and require different skill sets.

Neither is more important than the other. Both are equally important.

So does having a blog make you a journalist? Does having a professional camera make you a photographer?

Anyone is capable of taking a snapshot or writing an article but the answer to both questions is no. They might possess the tools and equipment but that does not mean they have the technical expertise to do the job.

Both jobs require different levels of training and understanding.

As Chicago Tribune photojournalist Alex Garcia said, “Reporters are ill equipped to take over”.

Garcia explains:

That’s because the best reporters use a different hemisphere of the brain to do their jobs than the best photographers. Visual and spatial thinking in three dimensions is very different than verbal and analytical thinking. Even if you don’t believe that bit of science, the reality is that visual reporting and written reporting will take you to different parts of a scene and hold you there longer. I have never been in a newsroom where you could do someone else’s job and also do yours well. Even when I shoot video and stills on an assignment, with the same camera, both tend to suffer. They require different ways of thinking, involving motion and sound.

In Why Media Literacy Matters – Photojournalism and Diversity, I explained:

Photojournalism is a universal language that uses photographs for storytelling and allows people of all races and cultures to find the things they have in common.

Through photography, students in Massachusetts and South Korea were encouraged to express themselves through storytelling.

Previously, I also talked about the importance of photojournalism. I shared my story about why I wanted to become a photojournalist. I explained that I wanted to use photographs to educate people about important events around the world.

I stressed how a photograph can make a difference in someone’s life.

Photography and journalism are different forms of storytelling and we need them both.