Teaching Media Text with the Key Concpts

The media text is any media product we wish to examine. Every description or representation of the world, fictional or otherwise, is an attempt to describe or define reality, and is in some way a construct of reality, a text.

A text is any media product we wish to examine, whether it is a television program, a book, a poster, a popular song, the latest fashion, etc. We can discuss with students what the type of text is—cartoon, rock video, fairy tale, police drama, etc.—and how it differs from other types of text. We can identify its denotative meaning and discuss such features as narrative structure, how meanings are communicated, values implicit in the text, and connections with other texts.

The central concept of the model is the idea that all communication, all discourse, is a construct of reality. Every description or representation of the world, fictional or otherwise, is an attempt to describe or define reality, and is in some way a construction—a selection and ordering of details to communicate aspects of the creator's view of reality. There are no neutral, value-free descriptions of reality—in print, in word, in visual form. An understanding of this concept is the starting point for a critical relationship to the media.
This concept leads to three broad areas within which we can raise questions that will help students to "deconstruct" the media: text, audience and production. more in

Anyone who receives a media text, whether it is a book read alone or a film viewed in a theatre, is a member of an audience. It is important for children to be able to identify the audience(s) of a text. Texts are frequently designed to produce audiences, which are then sold to advertisers.

Modern communication theory teaches that audiences "negotiate" meaning. That is to say, each individual reader of a text will draw from its range of possible meanings a particular reading that reflects that individual's gender, race or cultural background, skill in reading, age, etc. Thus the "meaning" of a text is not something determined by critics, teachers or even authors, but is determined in a dynamic and changeable relationship between the reader and the text. The role of the teacher is to assist students in developing skills which will allow them to negotiate active readings—readings which recognize the range of possible meanings in a text, the values and biases implicit in those meanings, and which involve conscious choices rather than the unconscious acceptance of "preferred" readings. Children who can choose meaning are empowered.
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Institution and Production refer to everything that goes into the making of a media text—the technology, the ownership and economics, the institutions involved, the legal issues, the use of common codes and practices, the roles in the production process. Students are often fascinated by the details and "tricks" of production. It is important that the teacher keep in focus the relationship between the various aspects of production, and the other two broad areas of text and audience. What is the relationship between story content and commercial priorities? How are values related to ownership and control? How does technology determine what we will see? How does the cost of technology determine who can make media productions? Often, understanding in these areas is best developed through the students’ involvement in their own production work. more in
Institution and Technology

So we have a rationale for media literacy: we can show that it is an integrator, and we have a conceptual framework. How can we put this into the hands of teachers? This is new material for them, involving new concepts, skills and strategies. MedienABC offers an example of how this may be achieved.

penbookTeaching Media

Whenever a media product is discussed, some aspects of the Key Concepts of construction, text, audience and production should be dealt with. Teachers will quickly find that a discussion moves quite naturally among these broad areas, since all are interrelated and affect each other.

Teachers find this model easy to remember, easy to apply. It is simple enough to hold in one's head, yet sophisticated enough to facilitate detailed analysis and to show the interrelationships of complex elements. It is flexible enough to deal with any media text, print or otherwise. In fact, some teachers and support staff are using it as a general model for literacy and critical thinking.

It is also important to note that an effective media program will involve students in both analysis and production of media products.

Source: Adapted with permission from English Quarterly, vol. 25, nos. 2-3. Canadian Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts. Toronto, Ontario, 1992.