Another post from the Centre for the Study of New Literacies Conference which took place in Sheffield 8-9 July. Becky Parry (Institute of Education, University of London) talked about an intervention in which young children were involved in media production, as part of the project Developing Media Literacy: towards a model of learning progression. This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. "The specific aim of the project is to develop a model of learning progression in media education. This model will seek to specify what children of different ages might be expected to understand about media; and how their learning could develop over time, and in the course of a sequence of learning activities". This is done through involvement of teachers and pupils in investigating what media literacy means and finding effective ways of developing media literacy. The project website is at http://www.ioe.ac.uk/study/departments/lkl/21807.html
The researchers had found that media literacy teaching often focused on looking at the different ways texts are constructed, so pupils could understand media language, with sociological aspects were not so much addressed. Traditional classroom news activities tended to be about analysing and rewriting news articles, or quizzes, fact finding exercises etc. These did not seem to be developing all the critical aspects of media literacy.
The intervention that Parry was talking about involved 9-10 year old pupils. The children gathered and presented news stories (asking who/what/when/where questions, like reporters), for a news product that was going to be seen by their peers and by their parents. Therefore it was a "real" exercise: this appeared to increase their commitment to it (Parry compared it to another activity which was just a simulation, which pupils hadn't worked so hard at).
The pupils did not just gather and present news stories, they also set and enforced regulation and bought and sold advertising. Two children were the “accountants” and two were "regulators". The 2 regulators developed rules e.g. for inaccurate reporting, swearing, bad advertising, and there were fines (Parry showed some pictures of the set of regulations and fines they developed). This again brought reality into the exercise, and it also meant the pupils had discussions about these ethical and economic issues. Partway through the exercise, the teacher introduced a picture of a “UFO”, which gave a buzz as they tried to decide whether it was “news”.
One of the issues that Parry emphasised was is that this research methodology provided an insight into the process of the pupils' learning and decision making. From a learning and teaching point of view it was giving them more real understanding and curiosity about how news is constructed.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Hydrangea, Rutland Hotel, Sheffield, July 2011