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Friday, January 8, 2010

Thoughts on "Media"

Holy buckets. The definition of this word has certainly grown.

Our 8th graders are in the midst of the MERP. For those of you that don’t speak Sparrow, that’s the Middle East Research Project.  Having spent a number of weeks researching and writing opinion papers on Middle Eastern issues, the kids are now taking their well-crafted arguments and turning them into mini-documentaries. To accomplish this, we have asked that they gather images with which to “bring their research alive.”  Fortunately for us, we have subscribed this year to the AP image archive. Students are finding some amazing photographs out there to use in their mini-docs, which they will create using iMovie.

All this searching for images, however, has led to some very thoughtful discussions about the nature of “the media” and the biases that come with it. Ms. Sparrow’s students have researched some tough and controversial topics, many of which can lead to some fairly frightening images. I have been most impressed with the maturity and thoughtfulness of the kids as they figure out what’s appropriate for their audience, as opposed to what might be pure sensationalism. We are having many conversations around the following questions: Does this picture have educational value? Does it elicit an emotional response that helps viewers make sense of my topic? Would it be appropriate to use an image purely for its “shock value?” How does a newspaper or website know when it’s okay to publish something or not? Do they care?

People today are inundated by media throughout their day. One of the most important things we can teach our students is how to filter and process such an abundance of information.  Putting them in the driver’s seat of creating media provides an amazing opportunity to understand this at a deeper level.

"Separating useful information from oceans of irrelevant data has become the key to understanding the world that we live in."   from this article by Devin Dwyer

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