Navigating the Media Maze
About 6 months ago I was interviewed by Journalist Fiona STUTZ for a magazine article from ‘Bedrock’ an early childhood teachers magazine. Here it is…
“We’re in a phase where every day children are bombarded by images and information from a variety of media sources. Bedrock Journalist Fiona STUTZ hears from Queensland media consultant Jeff Licence about how educators can better understand media concepts and use media technologies for learning, communicating and connecting with children.
“We’ve got these incredible tools now that allow us to go beyond being a passive recipient of the story. We can actually become a lot more involved in the process. For kids, this is an exciting time, and for teachers too,” Jeff says.
Digital media can affect children in many positive ways. “It gives them an incredible opportunity to view, listen, read, share and create stories,” he says.
Many children already access these tools. Often they own a video camera, have a computer and internet connection.
Part of the challenge is working out how children can use these tools in a positive way.
How does it work?
To help children navigate through the media maze, educators must assist children to develop an understanding of how media works, Jeff says.
“When we read little kids books we say who it’s written by and it’s in front of them and the picture is drawn.
“It’s a creation they can understand because they do that pen to paper stuff all the time, whereas things that come out of a screen are so incredibly rich and textured and digitally created – it’s important for kids to understand how that creation process happens.”
‘KidPixs’ is a program that teaches the basic of graphic design, drawing and art concepts, which is similar to working with an adult design program such as Adobe Photoshop. Jeff says it is an example of how children can learn more about the creative process.
Getting skilled up
While children often feel more confident with technology than teachers “it doesn’t mean they understand the implications of using it better, but they just don’t have any fear behind it so they’ll just click away on anything”, Jeff says.
“We’re in a phase where we’ve got digital immigrants teaching digital natives.”
As computers and new technologies are forced onto schools and early childhood education settings, teachers may wonder how they can best use such programs and tools to better engage their children.
“I think there’s a temptation to just say, ‘okay, we’ll just them play that game because we’ve got to use computers’.
“We need to let the teaching and learning needs of the kids guide how we use the technology rather than the other way around.”
Professional development is important for teachers to become more confident with technology.tal natives”
“It’s important for teachers not to be fearful of using the technology and to jump in and have a go – it’s actually kind of hard to break a computer. Just start exploring different programs.”
At the beginning of the year media coverage of Queensland floods was on every TV. As a result many children were bombarded with images of the disaster which they may have found difficult to comprehend.
“For little kids, when they’re watching the same footage over and over, they don’t see that as a replay. They just see that as another disaster that is happening.”
Teachers can help debrief children and encourage them to talk about the images they are seeing.
“They need to be reassured that these are extreme events. They’re not going to happen all the time. Your family is going to be safe… just give them some of that really practical advice.”
Such reassurances can also be applied to scary movies or animation, Jeff says.
“The teacher explains that’s a creation of a filmmaker – they’ve used the camera, they’ve used the music – to make that scene scary and this is how they’ve done it; going into that basic media 101 creation stuff.”
While it is important for children to be able to use and understand media, Jeff says it is equally important for children to know when to switch off.
“Knowing they have a choice to switch off is a really big one.
“This comes down to how parents are policing it so that they can make responsible choices with their digital life, like how long they spend, what sort of games they play and what sort of shows they watch.”
Be part of the debate
Jeff believes one of the positives of using technology is the opportunity for young people “to be part of big picture debates and issues, engage with activism and social change”.
“There are networks all around the world that we can suddenly access and link in to, which has never really happened before.
“The earlier they get into this stuff the more armed they’ll be to become responsible online creators and users.”
Jeff Licence runs workshops to help teachers, parents and children understand the media. You can read more about media and children on his blog http://www.jefflicence. wordpress.com and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using technology for learning
“One of the workshops I do is teaching teachers about simple movie making techniques.
“Just get a bunch of photographs, either that the teacher has taken or trust the kids with the camera.
“You get an amazing perspective from the kids when they’ve taken the photo because they’re so much smaller and their view of the world is so different.
“Bring that stuff into iMovie or Movie Maker…or slideshow programs, as a way of collating what you are doing in your class.
“Kids love it because they love looking at themselves and seeing themselves in action, and they’re useful tools for teachers to observe the ways kids interact.
“Get kids to make stories around what they are doing and put together a little film.
“As well as showing how film is made, kids are seeing how the technology is
used to add titles and transitions and how camera angles make people look different.”