Educators in our schools in 2011 are products of the 20th century. Schools in the last century were dominated by text-based learning. Rather than text-centric, however, today our society is increasingly media-centric. Students are growing up in a world filled with hundreds of television channels, millions of websites, millions of online videos, and digital cameras which can take an infinite number of photographs as long as images are transferred to a computer and cleared off the memory card periodically. The days of expensive cameras which could only be purchased by professionals, film which had to be purchased as well as developed at a commercial cost, and photographs taken only on “special occasions” are a distant memory.
The costs required to create and share media have plummeted. Most cell phones sold (or given away “free” with a contract) include a digital camera capable of taking still images, and many can also capture videos. These photos and videos can be readily shared with others via email, text messaging, and a wide variety of applications available for the exploding smartphone market.
Educators in the twenty-first century need to “talk with media” to remain literate and help students acquire the skills of literate communication. Learners of all ages need to move from simply being “consumers” of media to being producers, or “pro-sumers” aware of the ways media is frequently employed to persuade, inform, and (at times) mislead audiences.
The definition of 21st century literacies adopted by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in 1998 is filled with references to visual literacy and media literacy. The NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment REQUIRES students to create multimedia texts. Twenty-first century readers and writers are required, by the standards, to:
- Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
- Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
- Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
- Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
- Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
- Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
The National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students also require “talking with media,” although those specific words are a paraphrase. The first of six standards, Creativity and Innovation, requires that “students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.” Students cannot meet the NETS-S by simply browsing the web, watching videos, and conducting research. Students must actively create, or “talk,” with media.
The skills required to “talk with media” are not simply the domain of technology and English teachers, however. To be literate in our society, individuals should understand not only the power of visual images, but also be able to create and share digital stories which communicate ideas, relay emotions, and archive history. Kahn Academy founder Salman Khan continues to dramatically demonstrate the power of distributed video in the form of screencasts to teach mathematics skills and concepts, from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus.
It is my ardent wish that by utilizing the tools and trying some of the ideas highlighted on the “Talk with Media” website, in the forthcoming book, or “Talk with Media” workshops, you will grow in your abilities to not only talk with media yourself but also invite students to talk with media. We’re over a decade into the twenty-first century now. As educators, it’s time we started acting like it. “Talk with Media” resources can help you and your students learn and demonstrate the skills of multimedia communication required for literacy in our modern age.