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Case Study

Case Study

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Published by: jay on Feb 07, 2010
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Case Study: Establishing Media Literacy in a Catholic School Setting
 For three years, from 1999 to 2001, a media literacy pilot program was successfully instituted at Our Ladyof Malibu School and Parish (OLM) in Malibu, CA. Components included: grade-specific lesson plans inConsumerism, Representation and Violence Prevention; a 7th grade video project, newspaper articleproduction and an animation workshop for 5th to 8th-grade students. This case study describes howmedia literacy supports values-oriented education and outlines key steps toward creating a solid roster of instruction and activities. OLM is presented as a model for all schools for how to integrate mediaeducation in ways that are empowering for children, manageable for teachers, and supportive of essentialcritical-thinking processes. The Center for Media Literacy (CLM) consulted on the project and will uselessons learned in the development of new programs and curriculum. A primary goal is to formallyintegrate media education into state standards and Diocesan educational curriculum.
"The world we live in is clearly permeated with media. We teach our kids how to read and write. Yet we're not really cognizant of the language of media and its powerful effect. My goal is to helppeople become better aware so they can make more informed choices."
 – Father Bill Kerze on the importance of media literacyat Our Lady of Malibu Parish and SchoolMalibu, California. Where better to introduce media literacy than in a community situated near Hollywood,"the entertainment capital of the world,"– and one which, itself, is comprised of many actors, productionexecutives, concerned parents and progressive educators.The program at Our Lady of Malibu (OLM) School and Parishmet the special needs of this media-sophisticatedneighborhood and is a model for all schools for how tointegrate media education in ways that are empowering for children, manageable for teachers and faculty and supportiveof key critical-thinking processes generalizable acrosscurricular areas.Over a three year period, from 1999 to 2001, media literacywas instituted in the forms of: grade-specific lesson plans inConsumerism, Representation and Violence Prevention; a 7thgrade video project, newspaper article production and mostrecently, a hands-on animation workshop for 5th to 8th-grade students.
How Media Literacy Supports Values-Oriented Education
The Center for Media Literacy's (CML's) "vision" of media literacy is "the ability to communicatecompetently in all media forms, print and electronic, as well as to access, understand, analyze andevaluate the powerful images, words and sounds that make up our contemporary mass media culture."This definition supports values-oriented schooling in describing a foundation for empowering youngpeople to make life decisions based on personal beliefs instead of messages found in television,advertising, movies, music and the internet. It's really about using media literacy to develop and sharpenkey analytic skills to make informed evaluations."Children need to be taught how to be critical viewers of all media. They are inundated with mediamessages on an everyday basis and need to be able to make value judgments on what they see and areexposed to," explained Our Lady of Malibu principal, Terry Miller.
 Year One: Start-Up Steps
 A first step of the OLM media literacy program was "getting the word out" to area educators. So, in early1998, media literacy sessions were hosted by CML at the National Catholic Education Associationconference (NCEA) in Los Angeles. "We were the most jam packed of any workshops and everyone wasreally impressed with the turnout," recalled Elizabeth Thoman, CML Founder, Chair and Chief ProgramOfficer.
Tessa Jolls, CML President and CEO, volunteered to head the parish media literacy program and Fr.Kerze formed a Steering Committee consisting of Jolls, Terry Miller, Pam Litz, Laureen Sills and RalphSariego – all members of the OLM School Advisory Board. This committee took CML's Crash Course inMedia Literacy, a 4-hour workshop taught by Thoman which covered the core concepts of media literacyand a basic outline of its pedagogy. The class eventually became mandatory for participating as aprogram volunteer.Target audiences for the program were identified as: school faculty, parentsand K-8 students; the Religious Education program; Confirmation classes;and adult parishioners. CML prepared a proposal for how to reach thesevarious groups, with an additional aim of serving as a pilot program for theLos Angeles Archdiocese Department of Education.Before beginning formal lessons, it was deemed necessary to hold aninformation session for parents working both in and outside of media-relatedcareers. Discussion centered on the CML handout, "What the Media IndustryNeeds to Know," which outlines how media literacy is not about censorshipor bashing – but instead, is an inquiry process that allows people to maketheir own choices about media messages, and supports individualexpression through the use of media tools.During this time, OLM teachers worked closely with Elizabeth Thoman ondesigning lesson plans for various aged groups. "I had meetings withteachers from each grade level and they really wanted to do something inadvertising first," said Thoman. "It's often where schools want to start sinceit's an area in which kids are particularly vulnerable."Part of this curriculum involved the videotape, Buy Me That,which illustrates how television commercials are specially crafted to entice consumers. "In the video, you see children happily and successfully jumping up and down on a bouncing ball product," explained Miller. "But then outtakes are shown withactors consistently falling off and having trouble maneuvering them. It's a real eye opener for students torealize … that the media sometimes twists things around to make them look good."Fr. Kerze conducted an outstanding workshop on sexual identity and media images with the ConfirmationClass. "The goal of our Confirmation process is to exercise leadership. And some of the biggest issuesthat young people deal with today are related to sexual identity and relationships," said Fr. Kerze. "We tryto help them realize that they are, in fact, receiving media messages - then get them to make choicesabout which ones they want to accept and which they wish to reject."
 Year Two: Reports and Changes
Due to teacher "overload," in the program's second year, it was deemed more practical to have parentvolunteers create and teach in-classroom media literacy lessons as separate, pullout sessions from theregular schedule. It was also realized that individualizing pre-designed media literacy curriculum wasmuch more time-efficient than creating it from scratch.In the fall, Fr. Kerze, Ralph Sariego, Elizabeth Thoman and Tessa Jolls gave a report to the Los AngelesArchdiocese Superintendent of Schools outlining progress made within the program - and presented aproposal for additional Diocesan involvement. A key recommendation was that until media literacy isincorporated into curricular guidelines and linked to educational standards, it would be difficult to motivateteachers to consistently teach lessons in a purposeful way.
 Year Three: Final Events and Activities
During the program's final year, a significant event took place in the form of media literacy workshops for teachers sponsored by the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Held as a means of introducing the subject intoCatholic elementary schools across the city and led by Elizabeth Thoman, the intensive, daylong coursesreached an average of 20 teachers per session."We conducted these classes with the purpose of providingteachers with skills needed to help children develop higher order thinking skills," said Rina Gno, Archdiocese CurriculumDirector and K-12 System Testing Coordinator. "Children needthese abilities since media plays an important role in their lives.
And information coming to them is so overwhelming that they must be able to make sense of it in line withthe values being taught in school."Another special day for the Confirmation class was created through bringing in youth leader, MichaelDanielson to conduct a discussion about media messages. During this dynamic session, Danielsonhelped students understand the basic principals of media literacy and how they relate to such everydayexperiences as movie and television watching.In a departure from previous years, 5th to 8th-graders received an advanced media literacy activity in theform of hands-on animation workshops. The event was sponsored by OLM's Cultural Affairs and MediaLiteracy committees to hone students' creative thinking skills as well as animation production knowledge."The rationale behind this particular workshop was that doing something in either visual arts, animation,digital arts and/or video would be more relevant for kids," said Jane Smith, Cultural Affairs DepartmentChair. There was also a financial benefit since both divisions' budgets were used to meet costs.Under the tutelage of Los Angeles-based animation-education company, AnimAction, Inc., students wroteand produced their own animated stories which were presented to parents and teachers at a festive,evening "Premier Night." The animation workshop was so overwhelmingly successful, that it is thecornerstone for future media literacy activity at the school."I think the workshop gave students a newfound appreciation for animation and that it could be used for something besides trivial entertainment," said Dr. Barbara Burgan, OLM teacher and Faculty Coordinator for the AnimAction program. And in an exciting turn of events, the segments were actually aired onMalibu's local public access station.
Generalizable Abilities Acquired Through Media Literacy
"...Creating and performing a rock song or scripting, shooting and editing a video takes adolescents out of their consumeristic passivity and unleashes their energy and imagination. If combined with research,discussion, writing and other traditional modes of instruction, producing popular art media could refineand advance adolescents' evaluative abilities. And as they explore this new ground, young people will findtheir own voices in their own local setting" (Schwarz, 2000).In utilizing media-themed, meaning-centered curriculum and reflective thinking processes, students maybecome more "connected" to standardized school subjects while developing a position of empowermentthrough pro-active and disciplined questioning, reasoning and knowledge acquisition.Support for this rationale comes from concepts such as:
Media Literacy as Meaning-Centered Curriculum.
Media literacy is contextualized based on analysis of television, film, websites, video games, commercialsand music that children use and watch in the realworld. So, instead of disconnected fact learning, thisform of education has real, immediate applicability tothe decisions students make in their everyday lives.
Constructivist Pedagogy.
The core of constructivistpedagogy is empowering students to construct their own understandings through playing with ideas,exploring issues and encountering new information(Brooks and Brooks, 1993). Many elements of this popular concept of teaching and learning areingrained in media literacy education, including: presenting real-world possibilities andencouraging students to analyze, synthesize and evaluate problems and solutions; using primarysources and hands-on materials; encouragement of teacher-student and student-studentdialogue; and stimulating student inquiry through asking thoughtful, open-ended questions(Brooks and Brooks, 1993).
Key Elements for Starting a Media Literacy Program
Committed Leadership.
Media Literacy Training and Staff Support.
Lesson Plans and Accessible Media Literacy Resources.

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