(Post published by Emily Long, on behalf of LAMP Education Director Alan Berry.)
This month I’ve had the privilege and challenge of facilitating trainings with nearly fifty school-day and after school educators in Chicago and New York on integrating media literacy and critical remix into traditional learning spaces. Over the next year, through the DML Trust Challenge, hundreds of students will be using The LAMP’s MediaBreaker Studios learning platform and MediaBreaker online video editor to deconstruct, critique and challenge media. During the trainings, educators have been not only learning how to use the tools but how to align the objectives of the tools with their own curricular goals and outcomes. We’ve been designing programs that link traditional school subjects to after school learning and to media literacy competencies and critical thinking skills. These programs will engage students in challenging gender representations in advertising, examining news media as propaganda, and creating book reports through critical remix of movie adaptations, to list just a few examples.
The highlight of the trainings, for me, have been the conversations around media and technology. I’ve learned so much from all of the educators I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I wanted to share some of the insights I’ve taken away from these experiences.
- Students want to engage with media and technology in school. This idea was expressed over and over again throughout the trainings – we need to meet students where they are. And students are engaged with media and technology all the time. Young people are spending nearly every waking minute outside of schools using a smart phone, computer, television, or other electronic device. And most young people are producing media, whether they know it or not, through Facebook and Instagram and SnapChat, etc. And they’re using their smart phones to communicate and to post selfies everywhere. There’s a huge opportunity for educators to facilitate purposeful, active and responsible learning through media and digital technology that students are engaging with already.
- Teachers want tools that are easy to use, engaging, and enhance learning. Technology firms are always trying to push tools into classrooms. It’s nearly impossible for an educator to keep up with everything that’s available. During the trainings, many of our conversations revolved around finding the right tools for the learning objectives you design – not designing your learning objectives to fit the tools. That’s an idea from which the MediaBreaker was born and something The LAMP is always concerened with in our own programs. It’s so easy to get caught up in the tools and technologies that you lose sight of the true purpose of your lesson plan or unit. But it’s also important for those tools to be both easy to use and engaging. The LAMP will be collecting teacher and student feedback from not only the trainings but also as the programs are implemented throughout the year, in order to develop and improve MediaBreaker and MediaBreaker Studios so that they are tools that teachers and students want to learn with.
- Teachers are worried about copyright! It’s important for educators and students to be aware of and understand copyright. The problem is that nobody understands copyright. Most people are only aware of copyright as something to be in fear of, which is exactly what media companies want. But copyright was designed to protect progress and innovation, not endless streams of profit. What we should be teaching our students is Fair Use and their rights as citizens to use and respond to copyrighted material. The MediaBreaker is a tool for people to exercise their Fair Use rights through the critical remix of copyrighted media. But how can you know if what you’re creating counts as fair use? First, you have to be critical. Talking back to media is a powerful way to have your voice heard, but the comments in your broken video have to be insightful, not just mean. Second, you have to change - or transform - the original media into something that looks or sounds significantly different. MediaBreaker allows you to insert text, titles and transitions, add music or sound effects, or even add other photos or videos. Third, you should only use the amount of the original media that you need to make your point. The LAMP will be providing many resources on Fair Use, critical commentary and transformative remix through MediaBreaker and MediaBreaker Studios.
- Critical remix is a great way to empower students. Young people are inundated with media messages, all constructed to influence what they think about and how they think about it. All these media messages want young people to define themselves in stereotypical and easily categorized terms, so that they become easy targets and lifelong consumers. But, as the educators in the training attested, young people are much smarter and far more individualistic than media companies think. But how do we challenge the one-way flow of information? By allowing our students to remix and talk back to media, we can give them the agency to become critical and active media participants.
- We should be talking about quality access, not just access. Access is a word educators are very familiar with. We worked with teachers from both sides of the divide – schools saturated with technology and schools without. We’ve also worked in schools with loads of technology just going to waste. What is constantly lost in the conversation around access is the need for quality access. It’s not enough to just inundate our schools with laptops and tablets and hope our teachers and students figure it out. Training is crucial. And the training can’t be just about using the tools – it has to be about media and digital literacies and creating a safe environment for exploration and critical thinking. It’s not enough to learn how to use digital tools. Young people need to learn how the digital tools are using them.