Spreading the media literacy message – around the world

by Frank Baker

Recently, I received an invitation to come to India.  The request originated from the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, a prestigious elementary school where the tuition could be compared to that of a college.  I was asked to present to third, fourth and fifth graders, as well as talk to both parents and teachers in separate presentations.

Nothing pleases me more than to travel thousands of miles to enlighten the unenlightened about media literacy.  (This was not my first trip abroad: three years ago, I traveled to Singapore to speak to school librarians and to advise the Ministry of Education there on the development of a new media literacy curriculum.)

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I was pleased to see that even kindergarten students were being introduced to visual literacy. My host, the librarian, showed me where the students had been working on understanding signs.

On the day of my workshop with the faculty of the school, I presented them with a copy of my book “Coming Distractions-Questioning Movies,” because I wanted to contribute a student text on the media for their book collection.

Here I am presenting the book to the librarian and Jonathan Smithees, the school principal

Here I am presenting the book to the librarian and Jonathan Smithees, the school principal

My presentations to the students revolved around the topics: what is media; what is the purpose of media; and how does media work. A follow-up session dealt exclusively with the movies.  The students were highly engaged since I had them storyboarding a scene from a chapter in a book they’d just read.  At the end of the session for fourth graders, I was surprised when a large group came up to me. Instead of departing with their class, they peppered me with questions about special effects in film.  I suggested later to their teachers that perhaps that topic could be explored further through some research on their part.

Fourth graders peppered me with questions about movies after my workshop

Fourth graders peppered me with questions about movies after my workshop

My four days work at the school was very rewarding.  Upon departing Mumbai, I headed north. I had been invited by two universities to speak. In particular they asked that I address the role of politics in the media, since India was in the midst of national elections. At a small university, I delivered a lecture to mass communications students and then answered questions.   And at a larger university, I gave the keynote address at an international media literacy conference. (picture below).
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As the originator of the Media Literacy Clearinghouse web site, I pride myself on helping educators better understand not only what media literacy is, but also how it can be implemented in instruction.   With the new Common Core teaching standards being adopted by 46 states, helping students “close read” media texts is an increasingly important and relevant skill.

I invite you to email me questions: fbaker1346@aol.com or follow me on Twitter @fbaker where I tweet regularly about media and media issues.

2016-11-29T17:00:08+00:00May 12th, 2014|advocacy, Stories, teaching|Comments Off on Spreading the media literacy message – around the world