Pop quiz: what does it mean to be “literate?”
If you answered, “Knowing how to read and write,” you wouldn’t be wrong—that’s one of the definitions Merriam-Webster gives. But you’d also be omitting some of literacy’s most important aspects.
People are beginning to appreciate the other types of literacy that have become essential to modern life, which is why you can’t flip through your Sunday paper without being lectured about the importance of being “tech literate,” “computer literate” and so on.
Missing a Big One
It’s less common to read about the new form of literacy that might be most important of all: media literacy. If media literacy is considered at all, it’s usually in the context of consumption. Less consideration is given to its production—how to produce, write, and create good media. This has been left out of the equation.
Things are starting to change, and teachers are starting to see the value in bringing the art of filmmaking into their classrooms as a way to engage and promote higher levels of literacy (both traditional and non-traditional) into their classrooms.
Today, teachers are able to create customized lesson plans to meet the needs of individual students, which is the kind of tailored approach you’d normally expect at a prestigious university.
Using multimedia educational materials that are open source allows them to use the specific tools that are most effective for each type of learner, and now filmmaking can be added to that list. The auditory learner might absorb information best via podcasts and videos while the visual learner may gravitate more towards the written word. The kinesthetic learner may be more inclined to write or create media with images.
As educators, parents and interested parties, we need to promote literacy, and help the next generation to be able to communicate and consume knowledge in all forms and be well-versed in the “language of business” of tomorrow.
Watching and Listening More Important Than Ever
According to The Wall Street Journal, the next billion smartphone users will “[avoid] text, using voice activation and communicating with images.” The rapidly sinking price of smartphones and the proliferation of simple, easy-to-use apps will help form a generation of people who are more comfortable watching and listening than reading. It’s debatable whether or not this is a desirable thing, but we should equip our children with the skills to thrive in any environment they may encounter.
When it comes to tech and kids, the horse is already out of the barn. Most kids get their first smartphone around age 10, and around one-third of U.S. students use tablets or other devices provided by their schools. This presents us with an opportunity: Use kids’ enthusiasm for tech to teach them how to think critically, plan effectively and create compelling arguments.
Here’s an example of how to incorporate digital media creation in the classroom:
- Create a project with your students that requires either historical, investigatory or personal research.
- Use the traditional five-paragraph essay format to create a story arc for the film.
- Gather primary content like interviews, narrations, etc.
- Add complementary material like archival footage and royalty-free music.
- Edit the film like you would an essay, with a strong call-to-action in lieu of a “conclusion.”
- Share the film with the community!
Kids love the power of images and they want to share their ideas with the world.
When we teach them media literacy, we’re giving them the power to shape their own futures.
This is their literacy.
This is their brave new world to live in. Let’s make sure they set off with all the tools they’ll need.