Understand Media? Not me. Lets get literate.


The media watchword for kids, should be wonder, for grownups, wariness

A recent posting on media literacy drew a comment from Nick Pernisco, a communications instructor at Santa Monica college, who wrote:

“What media literacy can do to help the average person is to interpret other people’s ideas, as well as to formulate and sell your own ideas. If you understand messages, not just media messages, but messages in general, then you’ll be able to better construct your ideas for consumption by others. Check out my own media literacy blog at UnderstandMedia.com.”

I did just that and urge you to do the same if you are a teacher, especially of any communications disciple — journalism, marketing, public relations. I won’t take a lot of time to gush, but I strongly urge you to explore his site, which has links to teaching resources, as well as to other websites involved in teaching people how to evaluate what they see. Gee that sounds awfully nebulous. Let me try to make that concrete with an example from my life that connects to Understand Media.com.

On Sunday some old friends stopped by my house. They are a missionary family with sons the same age as ours and some years back we all became friends when this family of preachers, who do their thing in Brazil, were doing a sabbatical at an evangelical church not far from where I live. Alas, their boys, who were 6 to 14 when we first met in 1999, were not with them, and my wife and I wanted to see how much they had grown. So they whipped out a picture. “You’re not as tall as Samuel,” my wife said to our visitor, Janet, who appeared in the picture as tall as her 22-year-old son. Now switch gears to a Understand Media, where I was browsing this morning and spotted a cartoon meant to teach visual literacy to kids. The cartoon shows a Native American dad drawing a family portrait on birch bark. His son, looking at the picture, protests: “We all look the same size.”

A coincidence, perhaps, but one that surely made me smile because, as I sit here in my blogger’s bathrobe, wondering why I devote 90 minutes a day to this tomfoolery, one of the things I tell myself is that some of my ideas — such as thinking our kids and their kids will be less gullible than we because they will make as well as consme media — well it’s comforting to know that their are like-minded folks out there with greater technical capability and resources doing the same.

One last point. Wikipedia has a phenomal entry on media literacy: in some parts of the world this is called media education. Call it what you will, the Wikipedia entry will point to literacy resouces and thinkers on every continent and for every culture.

I’d better sign off before I start singing, “We shall overcome.” First off I’m still sitting here in my bathrobe and would only look and sound ridiculous. Plus I’ve a long day ahead and can’t afford to squander all my enthusiasm this early.