Lesson Plans

Media Education and Student Journalism

The following information provides teachers with an overview of media education and its connection to student journalism. As media education has become a key component of the Language Arts curriculum in all provinces, the following material will demonstrate to media education teachers the connection between the two curriculums, learning outcomes, skills learnt and links to lesson plans and activities involving journalism and media education.

Thousands of media images bombard us every day. They are found on billboards, magazines, newspapers, video games, tv, radio, the internet.....and even in our schools.

These images influence our values, opinions and attitudes, and our social conventions and norms. This is especially true for young people. Media, and especially the Internet, are more than just a means of learning about the world around them. Media is their world, their "reality".

Because mass media plays an extensive and influential role in the lives of students, it is important that these media images are brought into the classroom curriculum so students can learn how to become critical thinkers, listeners, readers, and viewers as well as effective users of the media available to them. Through media education, students are given tools they need to respond thoughtfully and critically to what they see and hear every day.

As a student journalism network, SNN provides teachers with information and resources you can use to show your students how the media works. It encourages students to think critically about what they read, see and hear in newspapers, television, radio and online media.

Media Literacy
is the ability to decode, analyze, evaluate, and produce communication in a variety of forms. It addresses the skills students need to be taught in school, the competencies they must have as they consume information in every day lives.

Media education is the development of basic literacy skills. It helps students to deconstruct media texts such as television programs, music, video games and advertising, It helps them learn how to create their own messages in a variety of media and encourages them to ask important questions.

Journalism Studies is the development of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students need to understand the media and respond as informed and active citizens. Building on a common base of journalism skills, students are also given hands-on training in the technical skills required to report their stories in any media form - newspapers, magazines, radio and television and web sites. Journalism students are encouraged to continue to develop strong writing skills and build on a broad knowledge of current affairs and events.

(Source: Jesuit Communication Project website http://interact.uoregon.edu/MediaLit/JCP- John Pungente, S.J.)

1. All media are constructions. This is arguably the most important concept. The media do not simply reflect external reality. Rather, they present carefully crafted constructions that reflect many decisions and are the result of many determining factors. Media Literacy works towards deconstructing these constructions ( taking them apart to show how they are made).

2. The media construct versions of reality. The media are responsible for the majority of the observations and experiences from which we build up our personal understandings of the world and how it works. Much of our view of reality is based on media messages that have been preconstructed and have attitudes, interpretations, and conclusions already built in. Thus the media, to a great extent, give us our sense of reality.

3. Audiences negotiate meaning in media. If the media provides us with much of the material upon which we build our picture of reality, each of us finds or "negotiates" meaning according to individual factors: personal needs and anxieties, the pleasures or troubles of the day, racial and sexual attitudes, family and cultural background, moral standpoint, and so forth.

4. Media messages have commercial implications. Media literacy aims to encourage awareness of how the media are influenced by commercial considerations, and how they impinge on content, technique, and distribution." Most media production is a business, and so must make a profit. Questions of ownership and control are central: a relatively small number of individuals control what we watch, read and hear in the media.

5. Media messages contain ideological and value messages. All media products are advertising in some sense proclaiming values and ways of life. The mainstream media convey, explicitly or implicitly, ideological messages about such issues as the nature of the good life, the virtue of consumerism, the role of women, the acceptance of authority, and unquestioning patriotism.

6. Media messages contain social and political implications. The media have great influence in politics and in forming social change. Television can greatly influence the election of a national leader on the basis of image. The media involve us in concerns such as civil rights issues, famines in Africa, and the AIDS epidemic. They give us an intimate sense of national issues and global concerns so that we have become McLuhan's Global Village.

7. Form and content are closely related in media messages. As Marshall McLuhan noted, each medium has its own grammar and codifies reality in its own particular way. Different media will report the same event, but create different impressions and messages.

8. Each medium has a unique aesthetic form. Just as we notice the pleasing rhythms of certain pieces of poetry or prose, so ought we be able to enjoy the pleasing forms and effects of the different media.

COMPARISON of Media Education and Journalism Curriculum Learning Objectives (for more detailed information on Provincial Curriculum Outcomes, check out Media Awareness Network website http://www.media-awareness.ca)

While curriculum may vary from province to province, the following Foundational Learning Objective chart can be seen in most journalism and media education courses.

- Foundational & Specific Learning Objectives
Media Education
Foundational & Specific Learning Objectives
- recognize and appreciate the role of journalism in contemporary society and in their personal lives assess the role magazines play in their lives

-recognize and explore the ways in which print and broadcast media create and present a message

- recognize and create the various forms, conventions, and styles of journalistic writing

- recognize the attributes of quality journalism and the legal, ethical, and moral issues which confront the free press

- develop the speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing, and representing skills needed to create various print publications and broadcast productions

- Recognize and appreciate the role of mass media in communication, in contemporary society, and in their personal lives

- Recognize the codes, forms, and conventions of the various mass media

- Recognize the ways in which the various mass media shape their messages, and construct a sense of what the world is or how it works

- Analyze and evaluate the various mass media, including their sources, intents, and underlying values

- Recognize the role and power of advertising in the mass media

- Extend and apply their speaking, listening, writing, reading, viewing, and representing abilities

- Extend and apply their representing and viewing abilities by designing and creating a media text

A natural fit with journalism, media education students can develop print and multimedia stories covering topics such as ~

  1. understanding how media works and the amount of media we are exposed to;
  2. explore the values and tastes that related to students’ own culture - entertainment (tv, radio, movies, music, video games), fashion (clothing, hairstyles, makeup)
  3. analyze implied messages of verbal and non-verbal content in the media
  4. write opinion stories about different media issues: teen image, violence, health issues and government regulations.

Skills learnt from both media education and journalism:
- reading and analyze all forms of information
- effective communication    - problem solving
- critical thinking - investigation
- collaboration - responsible citizenship
- understanding the world as a set of related systems
- using technology

Assessment is an important aspect of all curriculum. Similarities in journalism and media education assessment include:
- using journals, personal response, observation
- critical response
- rubrics
- self-monitoring
- portfolios

Both media education and journalism can also be integrated into other curriculum such as social studies, health, global studies, math, science.

English and Language Arts
As a language arts teacher you might have your students analyze articles in different newspapers, news broadcasts and internet news sites. This can help them understand which ones are written well, objectivity and unbiased. They can summarize an article using various formats already used in language arts, such as:

- Persuasive essay similar to Opinion writing
- Thesis statement- Writing a lede/lead
- Feature/Profile writing

Social Studies/Family Studies/Health
Issues ranging from family violence, parenting, human rights violations, poverty, social issues in their community and social issues in their schools are discussed daily in schools. Through writing and journalism, students have an opportunity to express their views on issues that matter to them.

French immersion/ First Language
French immersion & french teachers can draw on the educational resources available through SNN and its French counterpart, Rédaction de Rescol. You can encourage your students to develop their language skills by translating from English to French OR French to English. Select stories from the current issue of SNN/RDR and assign them to students for translation.

Technology students learn how to research using effective researching techniques and how to critique websites. They also develop good computer skills, use software program to write their stories and multimedia equipment and software in the development of audio/video stories.

If history doesn't seem relevant to your students' lives, ask them to think of it this way: history is simply the current events of yesterday. And today's news will be in the history books of the future. Writing about current events and history can help your students understand how it is influenced by media. Or deconstruct their history texts and challenge the view of history presented.

Your students can tell others about what is happening around the world by getting them to trek around the globe through the internet and exploring interesting places and report on issues facing other countries. They can find alternative reporting sources that tell a story from another point of view from the dominant one in their own community/society. Explore indie news sources.

Writing on science issues offers your students a unique perspective on the study of biology, chemistry, palaeontology, physics, oceanography or technology. As well they can report on developments in science: computers, medicine, space. It can also help your students understand why ecological, conservation news is hard to locate in mainstream press.

Visual Arts
Many of the decisions made in the media are based on aesthetic considerations. The role of art in a mass-media-dominated society is of major concern for aspiring artists. Art teachers need to assess more than just the principles of pleasing form when looking at media; they need to consider all of the aspects.

Students are immersed in rock music and rock videos. While some music teachers use rock as a resource, many consider it inappropriate for their music courses. However, there are many valuable connections that can be made through the comparison of traditional and popular music. The popular-music enables music teachers to help their students investigate the aesthetics, the value messages, and the commercial implications of this pervasive form.

Physical and Health Education
Representation of gender, sexuality, violence, and televised sports in the media are all avenues that can be explored in the classroom.



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