Monday marked the first day of Media Literacy Week, a first for the United States, organized by the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). Events are taking place nationwide throughout the week covering a range of topics (hip hop, presidential campaigns, video storytelling) for a variety of audiences, including youth, educators, librarians, parents and members of the media industry. The LAMP was proud to participate in Media Literacy Week’s inaugural event in New York City at the Fordham University campus, and also proud of NAMLE for working with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to win a proclamation declaring November 2-6 to be Media Literacy Week in Manhattan.
As NAMLE president Michelle Ciulla Lipkin pointed out in her introduction, being tech-savvy is not the same thing as being media literate, which is just one reason why raising awareness of media literacy is so important in a digital age. And one of the fun things about media literacy is the ability to use popular culture and entertainment as teaching engines, which is exactly what Temple University professor Sherri Hope Culver did when she ran a small-group exercise based on The Jetsons. Each small group of mostly college students included at least two guest media literacy educators, and each group was tasked with designing an episode of The Jetsons in which viewers would explore one of five questions NAMLE recommends for media literacy practice:
- Who created the message?
- What techniques are being used to attract my attention?
- How might different people understand this message differently?
- What values are included or omitted in this message?
- What is the purpose of this message?
My group came up with a story for the first question, in which the Jetsons are getting ready to host a party, but Astro is annoyed that no one has time to play with him. When Rosie begins singing a song declaring “National No Chores Week”, Judy and Elroy are thrilled to have a break from doing work around the house, but George and Jane are confused. When they listen closely to the song, they hear suggestions to take Astro out to play, buy new dog toys and give Astro lots of treats. After a little investigating reveals a keyboard and recorder under Astro’s dog bed, they realize that of course, it was Astro who wrote the song and programmed it into Rosie.
The exercise was meant to show how children’s media can easily incorporate basic media literacy lessons into their programming, and also gets people thinking about we communicate with youth. We also got thinking about story construction, character motivations and the world of the show, all elements which shaped the episodes we designed and which can be found in a multitude of media we interact with on a regular basis. This week features many more opportunities (including virtual and ongoing events) to explore how media literacy can change the way we learn with and make media. Check out the calendar here, and we hope to see you at an event soon!