The Association for Media Literacy

The Association for Media Literacy (AML) is an excellent resource that is well-rounded in many ways. The association is “is made up of teachers, librarians, consultants, parents, cultural workers, and media professionals” (AML) so it is no surprise that the resources available on the site can be useful for teaching students as well as teachers’ own professional development regarding media literacy. The site covers the basics of media literacy in its “What is Media Literacy?” section. This particular section is extremely useful for teachers who want to approach media literacy with their students for the first time. This section provides an excellent framework for deconstructing media. It outlines eight specific points which cover all aspects of media literacy; and more importantly, it provides the appropriate language and terms that students need in order to start exploring media literacy. This section can be used wholly on its own as a start to a unit of study or it can be incorporated into chunks of the media literacy unit and dealt with one by one alongside visual aids.

Another interesting aspect of the AML is its launch of the YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/AssociationMediaLit). This particular detail is hidden in the “About us” section, under “milestones”. It would be helpful to have this on a more visible part of the site because it is a handy resource for teachers. The focus of most of these short YouTube videos is for speakers to recap their lectures after the conference at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto. These videos deal with a variety of topics such as “Literacy, Citizenship & Consumerism”, “Games, Gaming, Literacy and Education”, and “Looking at Gender & Media in the Classroom”. However, there are a few instructional videos; for instance, “Podcasting in the Classroom” is an excellent resource because the speaker actually takes time to make specific connections to the Ontario curriculum. This presentation covers specific skills that students can gain by using podcasts. I think more of these videos would be invaluable for any teacher – new or expert in media literacy. This YouTube channel is essentially a space where teachers can see what the big ideas and topics in media literacy are and how they can start addressing those topics.

The AML’s “Articles and Reviews” section can also be utilized for professional development. However, most of the articles there can be used with higher grades in secondary English classes because they could serve as a good stepping stone into a more in-depth and up-to-date study of news and analysis of the impact of media. For instance, the most recent article “Dollars for Demographics: Where Do We Draw the Lines in Schools?” by Carol Arcus discusses the Toronto District School Board’s decision not to do business with Onestop Media Group. Teachers can use this article to expand their own understanding of how media works or they can simply use the topic addressed in the article as a springboard for class discussion about advertising’s place in their schools. AML has another excellent article that deals with ESL students and how ESL teachers can incorporate media education into their classes (“ESL Students: Opportunities for Media Education” by Barry Duncan). Not only does Duncan provide teachers and students with a “cultural toolkit” approach to media literacy but he also provides interesting questions that develop students’ critical literacy as well. It is refreshing to see media education being incorporated into the classroom. Lastly, the Articles and Reviews section is not a cookie-cutter lesson plan but resourceful and enthusiastic teachers will find great pieces to incorporate into their own lessons about media literacy.

I deliberately left the “Resources” section as my last point. As you can see, the site has a treasure chest of interesting resources that can be adapted; however, if teachers want clear-cut strategies, the resources section is largely written by teachers for teachers and it is extremely easy to navigate. There are lesson plans and unit plan outlines that do an excellent job of exploring everything from campaign design to social networking into the classroom. And to make lesson planning easier, most of them make connections to the Ontario English and the Language Arts curriculum. There is an emphasis on secondary school materials but most of these ideas are adaptable to any grade level and context in the English classroom. There are fairly strong and straight-forward media education materials such as “Understanding Audience, Text, Production through advertising, analysis, and production” and there are more creative media study units such as “Fairy Tales with a Modern Twist”. This section also includes a thorough annotated list of comics (Annotated List of Comics: Selected Texts for Classroom Use by Ian Esquivel) as well as many book recommendations for teachers who are unsure about how to work with graphic novels in the classroom.

Therefore AML on a whole is an invaluable resource for either introducing a media study unit or delving deeper into it. While the association has a membership, all the resources mentioned in this review are absolutely free. So even if you do not have a membership, there is a variety of lessons that teachers can pull out and adapt to fit the curriculum expectations. Interestingly, most of the unit and lesson plans cover all the specific expectations in the Media Studies strand as well as other expectations from other strands. Teachers are not tied to the media studies unit of the English curriculum because they can still take a lot of these ideas and incorporate them to meet any expectations of the other strands; be it oral communication, reading and literature studies, or writing. So overall, the AML site is an excellent resource for any teacher who is interested in media studies or who wants to incorporate media education into other strands of the English curriculum. Site: http://www.aml.ca/

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