Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teaching Analytical Frameworks

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teaching Analytical Frameworks

Article excerpt


This article explains the rationale for integrating critical media literacy across the curriculum. To illustrate this discussion, the author utilizes analytical frameworks.


Educators and parents admit reluctantly that the lives of today's adolescents are filled with massive volumes of text. Learning to read and write the printed word is still essential, but is no longer sufficient in a world where television, radio, movies, videos, DVDs, magazines, and the World Wide Web have collectively become powerful and pervasive sites for information, public education, and literacy. Whether we like it or not, adolescents are actively involved in the new literacies of emerging technologies and are savvy with the new languages of media. How can teachers and students acquire a critical understanding of these new literacies?

Research shows that increasing numbers of adolescents have access to the Internet at home--47.9% of all 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Youngsters also attend school in classrooms that are among the 98% of K-12 classrooms that have access to the Interact (Cattagini & Farris, 2001). For many adolescents, the Internet is the tool of choice when researching information. Research for completing school assignments accounts for 30.7% of children's Internet use, and e-mail is the next most common use at 22.2% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). What role can teachers play in helping students understand the new ways of constructing knowledge and disseminating information? Where can they find the pedagogical tools to interrogate these electronic texts?

In response to these questions, I address a topic that is on the minds of many classroom teachers but a subject that often lacks practical ways of application. I respond by discussing the need for teaching critical media literacy as a process of curriculum inquiry that permeates the entire school curriculum to address the new languages of media and the Internet. The rationale for this inquiry-based learning approach is that with the recent developments in technology, the definition of reading has changed to include Web sites, e-books, e-mail, discussion boards, chat rooms, instant messaging, and listservs. Equally, the notion of "text" has expanded beyond a verbal or written artifact. These open accesses to networks, such as the Internet, permit anyone to publish anything. With open access, information is much more widely available from people who have strong political, economic, religious, or ideological stances that profoundly influence the nature of the information they present to others. As a result, impressionable minds can easily be swayed for better or worse.

The new literacies ushered in classrooms and homes by the Internet and the pedagogical implications thereof almost make it imperative to develop new strategies to assist students to strengthen their critical thinking skills, more so now than ever before, to deal with the reality of virtual texts. It becomes imperative to establish within the curriculum pedagogical sites that provide students with analytical skills to evaluate stereotypes, biases, distortions, and media spectacles manipulated to dupe them for the sake of entertainment or instant gratification. The questions remain: How do you teach students to become critical consumers of the information they encounter? How can teachers teach critical thinking within the constraints of an already overcrowded curriculum that is loaded with high-stakes testing? Advocates of critical media literacy suggest that critical viewing, critical reading, and critical thinking ought to be integrated across the curriculum. There is consensus that media literacy simply cannot be parlayed into yet another subject teachers need to teach in American public schools. Supporting this view, David Cousidine and Gail Haley (1992), insist that such "integration attempts to unify a fragmented curriculum by stressing the common themes and competencies among subjects" thereby integrating "the world of the classroom with the world of the child and society as a 'whole'" (p. …

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