Youth Media Strengthens Common Core Practice
The Common Core State Standards Initiative has gained momentum since its introduction in 2010, and is now adopted in almost every state. There has been a rapid response among schools, after-school programs, and teacher educators to process, adapt, and integrate these new standards in practice, and as teachers’ associations, districts, and other professional groups find ways to connect their own best practices to new standards. Currently, there is no unified set of standards that easily match skills and competencies valued in youth media, media literacy, education, and other media education environments to Common Core standards.
In my conversations with youth media practitioners as a representative of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), such a document, shared among youth media practitioners, would be helpful to the field and a reminder that media production and new literacies are at the center of some of the most innovative aspects of Common Core.
William Kist, Frank W. Baker, Richard Beach, and other media and new literacies scholars have already produced work making the media and Common Core connection. Kist notes that extensive focus on nonprint texts distinguish Common Core from many other curriculum standards—Common Core encourages students to become “text detectives” by examining how visual, audio, and interactive media are constructed, whether children are clapping along to shot changes in videos (an exercise that my own K-6 media literacy group, Powerful Voices for Kids, calls “Spot the Shot”) 1 or detecting themes in popular culture texts. 2 Beach and Baker note the emphasis on “comprehending and communicating information” but call on policymakers to more specifically address the need for students to understand digital tools, media production, and professional development opportunities for teachers to collaborate with media and technology teacher educators. 3
Youth media organizations and media literacy scholars have begun to do the intricate work of justifying their own practices with specific state standards, often poring line by line through the Common Core State Standards Initiative documents. This is important work, and many youth media and media literacy organizations are in the process of creating useful templates for other youth media organizations. The LAMP in New York City announces that its programs align with 61 Common Core standards. At the biennial NAMLE conference in 2013, Faith Rogow and Vanessa Domine revealed work finding intersections between Common Core goals and media literacy competencies in dozens of Common Core standards. They provide an excellent collection of resources making Common Core and media literacy education connections for teachers and practitioners at their companion website. 4
The field would benefit widely from a more accessible template that makes general connections between Common Core and youth media practices at a more foundational level, so that youth media practitioners feel comfortable aligning with some Common Core standards without needing to memorize the document at a point-by-point level. The professional development committee of NAMLE has been working to create just such a document, which would broadly outline why youth media and media literacy are connected to Common Core at a foundational level, and (subsequently), which groups of standards align with which types of best practices. That document, currently in production, would benefit from and welcomes input from a variety of youth media stakeholders who have a vested interest in collaborating with K-12 teachers and institutions.
There are several ideas and frameworks in the Common Core document that align with strong youth media and media literacy work in the field. In naming and supporting these key approaches, youth media practitioners can ensure that the standards are conforming to their best practices instead of patching together standards to “fit in” to their work. Good youth media practices strengthen Common Core because its biggest claim to 21st century skills and learning is its recognition that students cannot be narrowly focused on 19th century notions of literacy and communication. Youth media organizations provide the critical voice and media literacy skills that are apparent in the way that Common Core envisions understanding and communicating in a digital era. The following list points to key areas of alignment between youth media and the Common Core:
(1) Thoughtful media production is synonymous with thoughtful communication. Students regularly reflect that youth media programs have changed their lives and provided them new ways to think about media all around them. By creating in a variety of modes and mediums, students amplify voice in ways that may be more difficult when denied access to the connected world. Practices that strengthen students’ ability to create media to reflect their knowledge, opinions, beliefs, and feelings are central to a number of standards in Common Core that integrate media and technology across subjects, rather than simply categorizing them as a separate discipline.
(2) Literacy—and all practices of understanding, communicating, and making media texts—happens off the page, too. By recognizing what are called “nonprint” texts throughout their documentation, Common Core opens the door to a particular strength of youth media and media literacy programs to foster critical thinking, media analysis skills, and inquiry about the wider world. Students who understand how all media are constructed exemplify Common Core’s emphasis on students being “familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums” and able to synthesize and use a variety of fiction and informational texts in multiple mediums and formats. 5
(3) Good students should be good citizens. Common Core explicitly focuses on students’ abilities to “actively seek to understand other perspectives and cultures.” 6 Youth media has a unique claim to building students’ ability to take new perspectives and to connect with other cultures via both media representation and cross-cultural collaboration. 7
These are only a few starting points. As Common Core continues to shape up in K-12 education, it will be important for youth media practitioners to better understand the vital role they can play in after-school enrichment, in-school mentoring, and teacher professional development. This is especially so as more K-12 institutions continue to deepen their engagement with the kinds of multimedia production and media literacy skills that are not just “attached to,” but in fact deeply ingrained in, the new standards.
Meanwhile, Common Core State Standards will likely continue to change and grow. The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC) recently hosted media educator Dain Olsen in a professional development Online Connector Session to discuss emerging standards in media arts. 8 The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards is an independent group of teachers, practitioners, and scholars who are developing standards in visual arts, theater, dance, and media arts to “guide the delivery of arts education in the classroom with new ways of thinking, learning, and creating” and inform policy as new standards are further developed and implemented. 9 This is yet another opportunity for youth media practitioners to help shape and improve the scope of new standards, to ensure that the practices developed over decades of experience in offering youth media enrichment can help educators in all contexts contribute to our understanding of the promise of youth media to give voice to the next generation of students.
VerBrugghen, K. (March 26, 2013). “The Hub Discipline: A Look into the Making of National Core Media Arts Standards with Dain Olsen.” http://namac.org/idea-exchange/national-core-media-arts-standards-dain-olsen-youth-media-video (accessed July 1, 2013).
- Renee Hobbs and David Cooper Moore, Discovering Media Literacy: Teaching Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary School (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin SAGE, 2013) ↩
- William Kist, “New Literacies and the Common Core,” Educational Leadership 70 (6) (2013): 38-49. ↩
- Richard Beach and Frank W. Baker, “Why Core Standards Must Embrace Media Literacy,” Education Week, June 21, 2011 http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/06/22/36baker.h30.html (accessed June 23, 2013). ↩
- A Media Literacy Tour through the Common Core, http://commonmle.blogspot.com/. ↩
- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, The Common Core State Standards (Washington DC: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010), 7 http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf (accessed June 23, 2013). ↩
- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Common Core State Standards, 4. ↩
- Chelsey Haugue, “Teaching Youth Media Through International Exchange,” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3 (3) (2011). ↩
- Kasandra VerBrugghen, “The Hub Discipline: A Look Into the Making of National Core Media Arts Standards with Dain Olsen,” March 26, 2013, http://www.namac.org/idea-exchange/national-core-media-arts-standards-dain-olsen-youth-media-video (accessed July 1, 2013). ↩
- National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, “National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning, http://nccas.wikispaces.com/file/view/Framework%207-10-13%20FINAL.pdf/441178942/Framework%207-10-13%20FINAL.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013). ↩