Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Media Literacy Is Common Sense: Bridging Common Core Standards with the Media Experiences of Digital Learners

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Media Literacy Is Common Sense: Bridging Common Core Standards with the Media Experiences of Digital Learners

Article excerpt

Findings from a case study highlight the benefits of an integrated model of literacy, thereby illustrating the relevance and accessibility of media literacy education.

Walk down any middle grades hallway after school and you are likely to observe a variety of student interactions. On the surface, these interactions may appear as routine events, but the details have gone digital with the advent and accessibility of mobile media technologies. More often than not, a mobile phone or other screenbased technology is a focal point in the lives of young adolescents. Middle school students are accessing local, national, and global information via social, political, and entertainment outlets. These media influence and impact the developmental characteristics of adolescents, including the physical, cognitive, moral, psychological, and social-emotional dimensions of development (National Middle School Association [NMSA], 2010, p. 43). More than any other time in history, the coming of age experiences and identity development of young adolescents are largely mediated by a slew of multimodal texts. For educational professionals, the implication of students' increased engagement with media is that to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to live, contribute, and thrive in the digital world of the 21st century, we need to amend how we think about texts and diversify the kinds of texts we choose to integrate into our curricula.

Although most mobile devices are small, fitting in the palm of one's hand or pocket, the cumulative time young adolescents spend seeking, streaming, and sharing digital content is striking, totaling nearly 12 hours of media exposure per day (Rideout, Roberts, 8c Foehr, 2010). In an effort to promote critical engagement with media content, many teachers, family members, administrators, and policymakers are advocating for media literacy education.

Media literacy is a set of augmented literacy skills that respond to the culture of multimodal information, ideas, and communication media that young adolescents experience. In short, media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create texts in all forms (Hobbs, 2010). In conjunction with printed, alphabetic texts, media literacy recognizes and values the complex assortment of non-print and non-alphabetic texts (Gainer, 2013) that comprise our daily reading-such as pictures, television, movies, songs, video games, and websites-and provides teaching strategies for promoting active, critical reading of these media as texts. Thoman and Jolis (2004) explain:

If our children are to be able to navigate their lives through this multi-media culture, they need to be fluent in 'reading' and 'writing' the language of images and sounds just as we have always taught them to 'read' and 'write' the language of printed communications, (p. 19)

To create and implement responsive and relevant learning experiences that address the developmental level and cultural identities of middle school students, it is essential that our definition of text reflects changing communication forms, and expands to include both print and non-print sources.

The purpose of this article is to investigate the concept of texts and how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) affords teachers opportunities to implement media literacy education, in turn providing developmentally and culturally responsive middle level practice and promoting 21st century skills. This has implications for middle level teachers seeking to meet and move beyond Common Core Standards in ways that extend and expand notions of text while also supporting middle level practice and 21st century skills.

The article begins by contextualizing media use by adolescent learners in the 21st century, briefly reporting the time teens spend with media and technology and how the media affects them. This discussion is followed by a brief examination of the Common Core's concept of texts, seeking to define the concept in alignment with research and scholarship on 21st century skills. …

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