New Book Helps Educators Mentor Media Savvy Students

A few months ago we reported on a study about how addicted youth are to their digital technology and the media and connection it brings them.  More schools are trying to get in on the tech scene, with some districts starting as early as kindergarten. Today's youth are certainly more savvy when it comes to integrating technology into their daily lives. But many young people lack critical skills in understanding, analyzing, and evaluating the media and messages they're regularly exposed to. That's why a book like Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, edited by Elizabeth Marshall and Ozlem Sensoy of Rethinking Schools, is so essential.

Rethinking Popular Culture and Media is designed to help educators help their students reflect on the influence and messages in media, gain fluency in understanding and interpreting popular culture, and learn skills to ensure that they're making informed choices.

The book is divided into several parts, in turn exploring corporate influence on youth and schools; dissecting the impact of pop culture on how we understand historical events and people; unpacking issues of race, class, gender, etc., in popular culture and media; analyzing how students and teachers are portrayed in media; and examining opportunities for positive action. The articles range from essays about particular issues and actions, to lesson plan ideas, to resources.

While the philosophical essays are interesting and relevant, the most useful sections of the book for most teachers will be those that offer specific curriculum ideas (e.g., sweatshop accounting, gender stereotypes, bias in the news) and those that analyze and dissect specific examples of media (e.g., Columbus in children's literature, fairy tales and cartoons, music videos). The essays on empowering students to take positive action on media issues is also essential reading. When you consider that youth between the ages of 8 and 18 spend nearly 8 hours a day (every day) engaged with all sorts of media (according to a Kaiser Family Institute Study), we as educators, parents, and concerned citizens have a responsibility and an opportunity to ensure that our youth are informed choicemakers, rather than unconscious consumers. Books like Rethinking Popular Culture and Media are an important part of that strategy.

~ Marsha

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