Media Education – Plugging into the Mainframe

Plugging in to the Mainframe.

Teaching Media to children is like teaching ducks to swim. They know the media, they are immersed in it everyday, but they don’t always know what lies underneath the water, how the current flows and where the whirl pools are. They are carried along by the current of the stories, rarely questioning why the words, pictures and sounds flow this way and not that. Helping children understand the depth of construction and manipulation in the words, pictures and sounds happening in any media text is vital in giving kids choices about the types of media they connect with.

Parents are asked to give ‘Parental Guidance’, but many don’t really know what that means or where to start. How do you help your child debrief about their nightmares from the horror movie they accidentally saw at a sleep over, or to realise that the incredibly life like monster that just wiped out half a city, is just an animated bunch of pixels?

It starts with questions about what they like, don’t like and how they feel about particular media texts. It develops through conversation about film making and animation techniques, character construction, story development and the use of stereotypes and generic structure to convey an idea and  tell a story. It ends with reassurance that these media texts are just stories; creations authored by people with cameras and computers and drawings to share ideas and tell stories. The key to helping children understand the media is in having conversations with them about the media they are experiencing and sharing each others thoughts, ideas and feelings.

Teachers work hard to stay up to date with the latest evolutions in technology, but often work with computers that are outdated or simply not working. This is changing with the Governments commitment to computers in schools, but it stills leaves already time poor teachers with a whole set of new skills to learn, before they can pass these on to their students. Sometimes the students are more computer savvy than their digital immigrant.

Having computers in classrooms doesn’t guarantee they are used as anything more than glorified typewriters. There are many teachers embracing media and computer technologies and doing amazing things in their classrooms, and others who see them as a distraction from ‘real teaching’.

A commitment to media and ICT education in the home and in schools builds a common ground between children, parents and teachers. The media world has shifted dramatically in the last 20 or so years since computers, the internet, gaming and mobile phones have entered the home and we all plugged into the mainframe in earnest. Todays kids connect in a whole other way. The stories they tell may not be that different from the ones we told back in the day, but the ways they are  telling them is light years apart.

When children, parents and teachers can navigate the media maze with a similiar degree of understanding, we can share a common dialogue about how we connect and share our stories across all media. We may also gain a sense of the importance of  disconnecting from the mainframe long enough to reconnect with each other in the real (non-cyber) realm.

As this blog develops, I look forward to exploring how children, parents and teachers can navigate the media maze and stay connected as families.

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