When I was at ASCD Empower 17, I picked up some great books. One book in particular, Master the Media by Julie Smith, was chosen with a specific purpose. The week after I returned from the conference, I was scheduled to lead a PTSA general meeting to discuss social media and tools used by students in their classes. After reading the entire book during my flights home, I completely revamped the plan for my presentation.
I highlighted and tagged multiple points that were made in the book, researched some more on the overall ideas presented in the text so I had additional materials to refer to, and found a quote that summed the whole presentation up perfectly. "We can’t change the message or the sender, but we can educate the receiver." This quote demonstrates the idea I wanted to highlight perfectly. It is not our job as parents or educators to sensor, but instead to teach students to think critically about what they see in the media regardless of the form of media they are engaged with. (Keep in mind that I work with high schoolers, of course we should not just show everything in the media unfiltered to young children who don't yet understand it.)
We had a lower than hoped for attendance, but it gave me the opportunity to have an in depth discussion with the group who attended. I was able to engage with parents who had a great deal to share and ask about the topic. We talked about ways parents and teachers can talk to students about being critical and responsible when they interact with media. One point that was of specific interest during this conversation was the spread of fake news. In the discussion it was pointed out that many individuals who re-post stories they see on Social Media do not actually read the story which means they defiantly don't check to see if the source of the information is reliable. We talked about how teachers and parents can discuss these kinds of things with students.
This conversation with parents, along with conversations I have had with teachers and students has led to a collaborative project that my school's media specialist and I plan to work on with hopes of implementing next year. We want to put together a program that would help teach students how to be more aware of how media really works and what they can do to be savvy media consumers and responsible media producers and distributors. Currently, we are trying to come up with a plan to integrate these ideas into material already being taught in each grade level.
While there are programs out there to teach students these things, we have found that they don't necessarily lend themselves to becoming part of what is already being done in the classrooms. Instead they are set up as separate pieces that need to be added to the curriculum. Well, the curriculum for most classes is already jammed with skills, and material students need for mandated tests. It seems easier to find a way to integrate what is already done with the skills students need to be able to navigate media and social media. It's a work in progress.
But, if you are looking to better understand the media culture we live in today, you really should start with Julie Smith's book Master the Media. It is an interesting and easy to read text that helps to explain the way the media works and how we can begin conversations with children of any age.