August 11, 2015
The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) has partnered with Participant Media’s Pivot TV network to create, promote, and support a free, new digital citizenship resource for high school educators. Pivot has been a great home for creative digital and media literacy programming—including Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitREcord, which just won a NAMLE Media Literate Media Award at the NAMLE 2015 conference in Philadelphia.
Pivot recently produced “This Is Media,” a 20-minute documentary on some of the thornier issues in life online for young people and adults, including government surveillance, the ethics of crowdsourced reporting, and privacy in the age of social media. NAMLE created an activity and discussion guide to accompany the film, making it a great jumping-off point for educators in a variety of in- and out-of-school settings.
Last year, NAMLE piloted a discussion series with several universities. Now, they’re offering hundreds of free DVDs, streams, and discussion guides to any educator who requests them. The video is short enough that most teachers can spark conversation in a single class period. However, there are also extension activities in the NAMLE discussion guide that can prolong conversations and digital citizenship assignments far beyond the viewing. Learners are encouraged to take their own ideas and questions online to participate in a social network campaign, reflect on how media has changed their own lives, and continue to explore how new tools and technologies affect the way we think and communicate.
As an educator myself, what I’ve most appreciated about the video is that it meets teens and young adults where they live—in the messy and unpredictable interactions they have both online and face-to-face—using engaging and contemporary examples drawn from news and popular culture. Questions about credibility, privacy, and data collection are at the forefront of young people’s minds as they sign up for new social networking services, share photos and conversations online, and build their worldviews from the information they get from their peers.
My students often don’t respond to digital citizenship lessons that use restrictive frameworks or fear-mongering language about what might happen to them—professionally, personally, or in terms of their safety—online, but “This Is Media” engages them in a more honest conversation. When I asked students to tweet some of their reactions using the film’s social media tag, they responded with comments like:
- What do you know about the source of your information? Is it professional? Is it anonymous? Is it trustworthy?
- Terms and conditions? The only thing I’ve never read but always agree with.
- Our “right to privacy” seems like a privilege we don’t even have complete control over. We’re treated like toddlers.
- I had no clue they [Reddit users] were wrong about the Boston bombers. I need to be more careful what I believe.
Through the end of 2015, NAMLE will be sending out as many copies as possible of “This Is Media” and its accompanying discussion guides. You can sign up for a resource, and if you have any questions or want to arrange for a screening at your institution, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
By David Cooper Moore