If you are a frequent visitor to this Be Media Mindful website, this practical book by a veteran media educator, Frank Baker, will be of interest to you. Using accessible language and a reader-friendly format in a softcover binding that lays flat, “Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom” can be your entry way into a media literate lifestyle. What’s that, you may ask? It’s a way of being present to the world around you and engaging in society and culture in thoughtful, meaningful ways.
The book, published in late 2016, is available from the publisher, International Society for Technology in Education of Portland, OR, or through Amazon.
Having worked as a television news writer and producer, Baker left television news in the mid-90s to work in the public school system in Orange County, Florida. There, one of his tasks was to purchase educational media for classrooms but he noticed that teachers rarely engaged in any critical analysis with students about what they were watching. With his behind-the-scene experience of working in television, he was in a unique position to ‘look behind the curtain’ and so created and presented his first media literacy workshop to teachers.
More than twenty years later Baker acknowledges that “media literacy” might get lost in the many other emerging literacies today but he makes a case early on for critical inquiry - asking questions. And asking good questions. This is the essence of media literacy. It doesn't mean just using media in class, though this is part of it. It doesn’t mean producing media, but this is a big part of media literacy, too. One big question he wants us to ask is: who owns the media in your city or town? Corporate control has become the norm and corporations act as gatekeepers to information and public access to information.
Baker’s book is very current, explaining fake news, ways to recognize misinformation and offering ways to avoid posting it on social media.
The book’s chapters include big ideas in media literacy (asking questions stereotypes, bias, big media and economics), how to teach media literacy, why study it and the key benefits of media literacy, a thorough study of images and how to analyze them, advertising, and moving images from toy commercials to documentary films.
The media literacy references are very helpful with links to further reading, study guides and lesson plans. The glossary will facilitate a grasp of the terminology, and the bibliography is focused on the best literature on media literacy education. The best, for me, is the index. I won’t buy a non-fiction book any more unless it has an index. Unless you have had a book published you may not know that the index is an act of generosity on the part of the author. In most cases, the author pays to have his or her work indexed.
One of the most interesting upgrades to the second edition of this book are ways that teachers from the field understand and practice media literacy in “Voices from the Field” at the end of each chapter. Jeff Share of UCLA, for example, explains that critical media literacy is transformational and important to social justice when he says it “aims to expose and challenge dominant ideological discourses, unjust social structures and hierarchical power relations.”
I always remember what Sister Elizabeth Thoman and Tessa Jolls of the Center for Media Literacy in Los Angeles said about media literacy. “It is an educational imperative for the 21st century” and a PBS video on marketing to youth that said, “We should study the media because it spends millions of dollars to study us.” Finally, in the two books I wrote with Sister Gretchen Hailer on media literacy in faith formation, “We live in a world permeated by all kinds of media programs and technologies …that are often in conflict with those of believing communities. It is important that children be educated about the dynamics of these media and the culture they create” so that they can develop skills and be empowered to make positive choices about the media they consume and create.*
“Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom” is a dynamic contribution to the field media literacy education resources. The principles and frameworks apply even as new media technologies and platforms merge and emerge. If you are looking for a new kind of book to read over the summer, this is it. Keep in mind media literacy doesn’t make you doubt what you see and hear, it asks you to question it by pulling back the curtain and getting involved in our mediated and mediating world.
* Our Media World: Teaching Kids K-8 about Faith and media, Pauline Books & Media, Boston, 2010; Media Mindfulness: Educating Teens about Faith and Media, St. Mary’s Press, 2007.