To bring together both main focuses of this quarter for me, I wanted to merge blogging with media literacy. As I’ve been studying Kathy Cassidy and other teachers that blog with students, I’ve seen how much I can expand blogging away from just a space to reflect on learning. While focusing on media literacy, I realized that the blogs would be an excellent forum to engage in critical analysis of media.
Over this quarter, I’ve had my students practice with media literacy through many different types of activities. Their favorite by far was using the Gender Remixing tool to analyze gender bias within marketing. I knew that this was the area of media literacy that the students were most passionate about and I wanted to give them the space to analyze media on their own with a focus on gender-targeted advertisements.
As a group, the students and I came up with the blogging assignment:
Gender Bias Blog Post
- Pick a brand/store/media
- Find at least 3 different advertisements for your brand or product
- Upload advertisements into blog with credit to the source
- Strong description of your product or brand:
- Why did you pick it?
- What is the brand or product?
- Explain your opinion: does your brand or product market toward one gender more than another?
- Do they have “boy” or “girl” ads?
- Do they market to everybody?
- Provide evidence from your ads!
The students and I made sure that every piece of the assignment seemed reasonable and attainable. However, we still dealt with a learning curve when putting it together. The biggest challenge for the students was the filter on the school WiFi. The students were unable to embed any videos or certain websites into their posts. This limited their media choices significantly. After this roadblock was encountered, we chose to focus on advertisements as you might see in a magazine, not in video form.
The next obstacle I found was student understanding of the term “advertisement”. The students were finding pictures of their products and just analyzing the pictures. We had to stop and discuss as a group what qualified as an advertisement. This was a very helpful clarification for the students and most of them were able to proceed successfully after.
There were plenty of technical questions as we went, but I was so happy to see the amount of teamwork and support the students showed each other throughout the process.
Below are some examples of my student’s blog posts surrounding gender bias in marketing. As you’ll see, some students were able to analyze the media of their choice very successfully. Others, however, missed the mark on the purpose of the assignment or could have looked a little deeper.
One example of a student that did exceptionally well is the Dove example above. In this post, “Eve” analyzed the Dove ads that she could find noticing that they were continuously targeted toward women. She mentions in her post that they focus so much on raising confidence in women (which she points out is a very good thing) but that they don’t reach out to men. She then includes one example of a website she found that does target men in a Dove campaign, but she was able to notice that this was a minority of Dove ads.
Another piece of the blogging that really impressed me appears within “Dan’s” analysis of WiiU. He focused on marketing for the gaming console itself and concluded that the marketing avoids gender targeting. The piece that impressed me though was one of the comments on his blog. “Eve” went on to ask if he believed that there were gender stereotypes within marketing for the games, not just the console itself. I can tell that the students are really digging in to the idea of blogging and commenting! I’ve started checking daily because the students are commenting from home at nights and on the weekends! This is something that they are enjoying enough that they’re choosing to pursue it in their free time!
One example of a student who could have looked a little deeper can be seen in the above LEGO Movie blog post. In this post, “Allison” does a good job of identifying that the humor within the film is accessible for all children regardless of gender. However, she mentioned that the marketing was for both genders. When I look at her advertisements, I see a lot of signals that show that LEGO was aiming more at a male audience. She mentioned that there was a female main character, but didn’t mention her makeup or stereotypical “female” characteristics.
I don’t expect all of my fifth graders to be experts at this yet! This was our first official blog post as a class and I’ve seen that we still have a lot to learn. We really need to focus now on proofreading, formatting, and commenting on blogs. We’ll continue to use the blogs as a forum for media literacy discussion because I’ve realized how great blogs are for that type of work! I am thinking that with more practice and more opportunities to discuss media literacy, the students will be able to dive below the surface level where they are right now. I’m excited to see where their blogs take them!