Media Education Advice
November 18, 2004 2:25 PM   Subscribe

How do I make media education for high schoolers interesting? [mi]

For my senior college project, I have to teach an hour long lesson to some 12th graders. I've decided on media consolidation in news and music, as I think it's important to know about. How the hell do I do it in a manner that won't bore them to death? I can always talk at them, but I'd like them to take something useful away from it, rather than them nodding politely and forgetting everything I've said as soon as I leave. Am I being too ambitious, or is there a way to engage them?
posted by calistasm to Education (11 answers total)
You could try to setup something like a murder mystery (a la the game clue or something...) where everyone's got something to hide about the event and where everyone's got their own agenda. Have the kids ask questions to the suspects to see what information they can gleem and in turn show how the suspects are always pushing their story and forgetting to mention other key parts of their past. Then have them talk about where all they get their news and current events information from, and then pull it all together to show how all the "different" places are actually more or less the same place and how those few players all have their own agenda and histories as well.

Moral of the story is that you cannot trust anyone.

posted by pwb503 at 2:36 PM on November 18, 2004

One of our favorite activities was to deconstruct current popular culture. Pick a few movie or music video clips that are good examples of concepts like persuasion, tension building, subjective point-of-view, etc. Show them the scene, ask how it makes them feel, then ask why they *think* it makes them feel that way.

You will probably get a few smart-assed answers (laugh them off, it means they are comfortable with you), but you will probably get plenty of insightful ones as well. Once you strip it down to the intentions of the filmmaker or director, then you can ask how the same concepts are expressed in other media.

The scenes I remember deconstructing for class:
Witness--the boy sees the murder and is then trapped in the public restroom with the killers ...
Aliens--the crew has barricaded themselves inside a room, but the sensors indicate the aliens are still closing in ... they're coming through the ceiling! aaiieee.

anyway, you get the idea.
posted by whatnot at 2:54 PM on November 18, 2004

this is a little bit off from the point you're hoping to make, but I certainly felt the impact when I was taught using this method:

tape a commercial from TV--your favorite awful, terrible commercial. play it for the kids once. don't talk about it. then show it again, with no sound on. then show it once more, only sound, no picture. then talk about various things: how the kids felt watching the commercial. what the characters represented. what characteristics are the creators of the commercial trying to ascribe to their product? How do the characters in the piece act with regard to the product? is the product even mentioned by name? why or why not? lastly, how did the lack of sound/picture affect the presentation, or believeability of the piece?

anyway, while media consolidation is a good topic to inform others on, media education in general, especially reflection on the emotional impacts of ads is really key as well. it's like literacy. kids have to learn to deconstruct shakespeare and thomas hardy--they should also be able to critically analyze a campbell's soup commercial.
posted by plexiwatt at 3:05 PM on November 18, 2004

plexiwatt: this may not have been your desired outcome, but i'm sitting in a focus group as i read this and am thinking of doing what you just recommended in my next group...
posted by elsar at 3:26 PM on November 18, 2004

It might be interesting to play a typical mainstream video from MTV, and then from there to spiral outwards into linking all the corporations and businesses that benefit from such a video. Illustrate how, say, Britney Spears' "Toxic" is not only programming in itself to attract viewers to MTV, but also to get these viewers to buy products from advertisers, cosmetics to look like Britney, Britney's album itself, all of her attendant merchandise, the ads for other shows under the Viacom banner, the shows on MTV that are essentially more ads for more shows on MTV, and so on and on and on.

Assign groups one aspect each to explore as a web they draw, and then to link up all the webs at the end.

Bonus points if you could do something similar with a Dateline NBC sort of show...I've seen so many books, celebrities, and fears advertised on that show. I think one of the lamest things I've seen on TV was in a newmagazine report on scams, wherein they advise viewers to be "on the lookout for products that look like name brand products, but actually aren't! Look carefully at this Panasaonic's not a real Panasonic!!!!!"

I dunno. For some reason that moment struck me as being especially condescending to consumers in a quietly absurd way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:59 PM on November 18, 2004

I am a 12th grader. I am taking a music theory class this semester in which the teacher often takes us on tangents into this sort of thing. He keeps even the most lummoxy of my fellow students engaged by talking to us in a way I suppose I'd best describe as unfiltered.

Basically, the best way to keep the attention of most kids my age is to seem a little bit like you're teaching them about something you're not supposed to be teaching them. My teacher, for example, once made some very amusing, accurate, and explicit parallels between certain musical patterns and orgasms, and my normally-disengaged classmates got much more into it than they would have without the orgasm metaphor, I can tell you.

I don't think things like the murder mystery game would really work for people my age - it would be seen as pretty gimmicky, and while they'd play along they wouldn't take it too seriously. If you talk to them frankly and like a peer they're much more likely to take something away from what you say to them. For example, don't be afraid of using a profanity if it's appropriate - calling something "bullshit" can be much more effective than calling it "corrupt" or "manipulative." Isn't "bullshit" what you might call it if you were discussing such things with your friends? Call it corrupt and manipulative, fine, but also call it bullshit. They'll take you more seriously both because of the magnitude of importance expressed by a teacher taking a risk and cursing in the classroom and because of the level of trust that is created when a teacher treats his students like peers.

Knowledge of this stuff is very important for people my age to have, and acting like a "teacher" isn't necessarily the best way of giving it to them in a meaningful way.
posted by bubukaba at 4:43 PM on November 18, 2004

citytv in canada is all about making media hip. i mean. mcluhan was from canada. check out their website and check out mediatelevision. you can probably order tapes. you cant teach media without using media.
posted by GleepGlop at 5:22 PM on November 18, 2004

I wonder if the hands-on, 70's simulation method could pan out with a contemporary classroom? By this I mean, create a little project in which different groups of kids would act as media conglomerates, sign bands from a simplified genre list, create little marketing campaigns, weekly tv schedules, etc.

It's hokey I know, but when I was but a tender lad, this was the default mode of teaching.

Plus, it'd put the art of selling -- as opposed to informing or entertaining -- front and center. And that's the true role of the media, right?

Oh, and compare everything to orgasms, as suggested above.
posted by undule at 6:53 PM on November 18, 2004

Tie it into things they already know. "Do you ever wonder what happened behind the scenes when started to suck?"

Generation Y and younger likes having all of the connotations and tie-ins laid out there. That way they can be ironic when talking about it without any effort.

posted by SpecialK at 9:54 PM on November 18, 2004

Don't think this is really what you're looking for, but once in grade 12 sociology we did some analysis of product placement in music videos-- and the impact that the terrible song "Pass the Courvoisier" had on Courvoisier sales. T'was interesting. The big thing about teaching us youn'ungs--don't treat us like young'ungs. Respect 'em, don't let 'em push you around, and be warned...they can smell feaaaaaar.
posted by stray at 10:23 PM on November 18, 2004

calistasm - I think you've painted yourself into a corner if you decide to stay with the topic of media consolidation. You think it's important because of reduced choice, political influence, etc., but to 12th graders, I'd guess that all falls into "one person's opinion, talking at us". If you want your hour to be interesting, it needs to be interactive; if it's going to be interactive, I think you're going to have to pick another topic.

I think plexiwatt nailed it - the most interesting thing about media education is to understand what the sponsor is trying to do. Somehow many/most people think that advertising is about presenting information. Showing how ads play on one's emotions and subconscious (and getting the 12th graders to be the ones to figure this out) can be both fun and powerful.

Good luck!
posted by WestCoaster at 12:32 PM on November 19, 2004

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