A few days ago, my daughter, who just finished 5th grade, called me over to the computer to show me “something neat.” “Look at this animal, isn’t it amazing? I hope they can save it,” she said. I scratched my head at the pictures and descriptions of the tree octopus on this sharp, very official and scientific looking site, and responded to her, “Ummm, Lucie, who made this site? It looks pretty cool and all, but I’m not so sure about this. I think we should check on this.”
“Oh, yeah, I know,” she answered with a smile. “Mrs. P showed us all about this stuff and how you need to really check on sources you find, like these other three…” She was testing me. Very deadpan, very funny. Good job, elementary school teachers and kids! I should add that I am looking forward to sharing this post with my daughter (and sons too) because she used my mediateacher.net site this year for a research project she did on stop-motion animation, which led to me sharing a number of books, other resources, and my input with her.
So as we review our previous school year’s work and look to the next cycle, it is imperative to look back at media literacy developments that might inform our ongoing work in the classroom and beyond. Right now, the enormous media event known as the World Cup is going on, and what we quickly interpret as “reality” is often the one that is selected by the camera angles and lenses chosen for us. Did we really see that? Who was editing? Did they cut out part of the whole story? What might seem like a clear witnessing of an event could just be part of the story, and a distorted one at that. Or not.
From this past year, there was a media story that should enter right into any educator’s playbook: the viral event generated by the “twerking gone bad” clip with a woman in her room who falls over and catches fire. As it turns out, this YouTube phenomenon was orchestrated by Jimmy Kimmel with a professional stunt woman (Daphne Avalon, using a pseudonym in the video) for his late-night show. The piece from Jimmy Kimmel Live is really quite exceptional and can be used quite well in investigating authenticity and other issues associated with moving images and their role in society today. In particular, the degree to which television shows reported the phenomenon as real, as shown in the clip from the show.