Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.

Radio – not too ‘old school’ for digital natives

Is radio too ‘old-school’ for our so-called digital natives?

On the face of it, radio is not cool because it lacks visuals that most young people have grown up with. Also, given that the screen has become our interface of life, teaching for the ear gets a thumbs down.

If we give up.

I’ve recently discovered that, in class, radio –and the recorded voice—has a remarkable potential for engagement. I’m still trying to decide if it’s the hardware (a simple, cheap  corded mic) or the ‘studio setting’ I establish that gets a class all excited about creating content, and interacting.

The past few weeks, based on a lesson on sound and audio, I pushed my first graders to work on a format to make their own class radio show. I know what you’re thinking- First Graders?!  They may never ‘get’ why interacting (live) is big part of learning/thinking, right?

I beg to differ.

I give them 30-second practice-runs, and then pick a ‘host’ (based on the voice recordings last week) and get that student to basically run the show.

They make a mistake, no problem. We start again. They flub on their words. We re-record.

This is a lesson that combines technology and language. Technology at the service of language. My goal in this class is two-fold:

  • Let them discover a technology that helps them  communicate better, think fast. New Common Core standards call for integrating “information from oral, visual, quantitative, and media sources…”
  • Understand how vocabulary is key to describe an event (playing in the snow), appreciate a piece of content (a book review), show interest in a subject (the “I want to be a/an………….. because” prompt)

But by putting a child in the proximity of a medium (the visible hardware and the invisible software), I want him or her to see Language Arts through a new filter; To appreciate why good metaphors and word choices make good scripts, great stories…

KJZZ & Story Corps

I thought a lot about this yesterday, returning from Phoenix, after stopping by the Story Corps booth, at the Phoenix Art Museum. A mobile studio goes across the country letting people tell their stories. They may not have radio voices, and six-dollar words, but their stories are compelling. (While we were there, former Chief Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor was in the booth, recording hers.)

On the drive back, my 10-year old daughter insisted on listening to ‘The World’ –a news segment from Public Radio International, BBC and NPR. She’s a huge fan of the segment, Geo Quiz.

She’s a digital native. Yet it’s radio, not TV, that has sparked her interest in geography and world events.  It’s not as old school as you’d think.