Media Literacy As A Means To Social Competence
by Ben Goliwas

Home | Literature Review | Curriculm Framework | Implications for Education | For Further Reading

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION

Popular media programming has a bad reputation with educators of young children. This curriculum framework was developed, in part, as a response to these fears. There is reason for hesitation when it comes to including media in the classroom, but refraining from teaching about media serves to reinforce the negative aspects of the media experience for children. This is not to say that all media in the classroom is a good or bad thing. Some uses for media in the classroom are more productive than others. For example, gathering children in front of the DVD player and having them view a program for an hour prior to nap-time with no follow-up activities or discussion is not a productive use for media in the classroom. A more productive use of media might be a ten minute viewing of a scene with activities and discussion that facilitate student understanding of the overt messages being sent by the producer, with follow up activities that help children learn about the conventions and methods utilized to emphasize the impact and context of the program.

The ability of this curriculum to meet its goals is enhanced by evoking a learner-centered pedagogy that emphasizes student ideas and interpretations. The role of the teacher is to facilitate a structure for learners to explore, allowing students the freedom to develop their own ideas. Developing a positive posture towards media programming is only possible if learners are given opportunities to exercise independent thinking in an environment where media is not bad, but instead, something to explore and master. The role of media programming in childrenŐs lives continues to increase. The goal of this work is to help the teachers and educators create a structure to help children develop independent meanings from media. It is the authorŐs hope that these lesson examples might be utilized to help offer young children the opportunity to begin their own mastery of media.

The primary objective of these lessons is to increase childrenŐs ability to have healthy social interactions with peers and adults. To fully develop and test this curriculum, questions regarding the most effective ways to teach media literacy to young children must be explored further.  Observing increased socially competent behavior is an indication that the curriculum goals are being met. In the early educational setting this would include observing skills such as being assertive in a positive ways, demonstrating empathy, establishing and maintaining eye contact as a means of communication, appreciation for diversity, independent thinking, maintaining friendships, delaying gratification, being friendly with other children and adults, taking responsibility for actions and words, sharing attention and things, sensitivity to personal space, self-confidence, self-control over body and emotions, and resolving conflict in non-violent ways. This is by no means an exhaustive list of socially competent behavior; however, it is meant to help operationalize social skills for teachers and parents.

The lesson examples are intended to be a starting point or a framework for teachers and parents. This strongly implies the need for the development of a study to determine the efficacy of this work to meet its goals. There are two paths that the experimental design might take. One might be a quantitative method utilizing a pretest-posttest design to determine whether an intervention resulted in an increase in social competence. The participants might consist of pre-school students enrolled in a specific geographical area in the United States. Classrooms would be randomly selected and separated into experimental and control groups. A pre and posttest measure for social competence would be utilized as well as a measure to assess studentsŐ level of media literacy proficiency. Both groups would be given a pretest. The experimental group would be offered the media literacy curriculum for a pre-determined amount of time, while the control group would not receive the media literacy lessons.  At the completion of the curriculum, the groups would be given the posttest. The data would be analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA). Potential threats to reliability and validity would be eliminated as much as possible.

            Another direction this study might take would be to conduct a qualitative case study. Because of the lack of literature directly related to media literacy for young children, this approach might prove to be more useful. A qualitative approach to this study would involve conducting a case study with a group of pre-school students.  This work could focus on two or more classes, collecting detailed information (utilizing a variety of data collection procedures) about reactions by teachers and students during a sustained period of time. Purposeful sampling would be employed to select participants, activities, and materials. Data would be obtained from interviews with teachers, parents, and students. Additional information would be collected from observations of classes and the behavior of children outside of the media literacy lessons. Transcriptions, field notes, and printed documents will be analyzed for common themes and indicators of what propels media literacy learning. Patterns that emerge will then be classified accordingly, and data will be coded using the patterns that emerge.

Media literacy alters the traditional relationship of teachers and students. In a media literacy context teacher and student are co-learners partnered to encourage greater understanding for all involved. The goal of this work is to help teachers and parents of young children create scaffolding for children to develop their own critical meanings with media. The ability of this work to meet its goals is enhanced by evoking a learner-centered pedagogy that emphasizes student ideas and interpretations. The role of the teacher is to facilitate a structure for learners to explore, allowing students the freedom to develop their own ideas. Helping children unravel their media experiences is only possible if learners are given opportunities to exercise independent thinking in an environment where media is not bad, but instead, something to explore and master. By offering teachers and parents of young children developmentally appropriate tools, this work will open the door for children to begin an active encounter with media while directly addressing the fears adults have regarding children and their media usage.