This week I began reading Discovering Media Literacy: Teaching Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary School by Renee Hobbs and David Cooper Moore. This text was written to be used as a resource for elementary school teachers that are pursuing instruction around media and digital literacy.
The first part of this book focuses on the importance of teaching digital and media literacy within an elementary classroom. Many districts prioritize digital tools to older students, leaving elementary-aged students at the bottom of the totem pole. These students are entering school with a wide range of backgrounds and digital competencies. The book focuses on why it’s important to instruct young students on media literacy and digital literacy as well as making sure that they have access to digital tools in the classroom that they may not be able to utilize at home.
My big takeaway from the first chapter (which focused on defining and providing background information about digital and media literacies) is the importance of continuing to focus on student interests while engaging them with media literacy instruction. Yes, it’s a common teaching strategy to focus on student interest. However, when you’re engaging students with media, it makes much more sense to ensure that you’re engaging them with media that they actually care about. Using their real-world interests in this type of instruction leads to higher engagement and deeper understanding. The chapter really emphasized taking traditional teaching strategies and “old literacies” and intermixing them with “new literacies” to incorporate digital education into the classroom.
The second chapter was very interesting as it made me look inward as an educator. This chapter focused on the importance of self-reflection as a teacher as well as focusing on your own motivation for utilizing technology and digital tools in the classroom. I hadn’t considered my own personal motivation beyond just exposing my students to technology for the sake of helping them to be more prepared for the digital world. However, this chapter provided examples of “teacher motivations” that try to identify the type of teacher you may be.
I related most strongly with two teacher motivations: spirit guide and watchdog. Spirit guides are very aware of students’ emotional well-being and focus on creating a safe and open classroom community that allows exploration of self. Watchdogs try to encourage students to recognize and resist stereotypes by asking the “why” questions surrounding media. They focus on getting students to examine the purpose and representation of media (race, gender, social class, etc.).
It’s difficult to try to label myself with one particular motivation as I generally aim to be a well-rounded teacher that utilizes multiple strategies. However, these two really stuck out to me as motivations that I relate to every day in my own classroom. Just getting me to read about the types of teachers that exist and lessons that these teachers use already prompted me to begin a process of self-reflection and self-analysis. I can now move forward with digital and media literacy with more of an idea of what my personal purpose and motivation is behind the instruction.