Monday, January 17, 2011

Five C's of Multimedia Mastery

by John T. Spencer

"You know Ed Hardy t-shirts are just really bad tattoo art with a Bedazzler," a student comments.

Minutes later, a kid says. "Did you know that they used to have a haircutter that you could attach to your vacuum?  I saw it on YouTube.  It's hilarious."

"You know that you can watch Alf reruns on YouTube?" another kid says.

Later that day, when students hear a Ray LaMontagne song, a kid recognizes his voice.  "Hey, that's the white guy who sang the song 'Crazy.'  I saw it on my friend's myspace." (Apparently myspace is still pretty popular with low-income youth).

My students piece together pop culture in a never-ending collage.  I tell a kid that something isn't her fault and five people are quoting "Stewie, it's not your fault," from Family Guy. I mention North Korea and students show me a Facebook fan page for their dictator.  When I taught the American Revolution, I had a student show me a Social Media Guide to the Revolution, showing how it would look with Paul Revere on Twitter.

My students have a ton of information. Nothing shocking there.  They piece together shards of satire from television, converse about it on Facebook, create their own parodies with cell phones and then post them on YouTube.  They ping pong back and forth between facts.  And yet . . .

My students arrive in my class with almost no critical thinking.  The tools they've used to access information have made them brilliant collage artists and pop culture snobs, however they have rarely ventured beyond entertainment.  True, they can find satire and yes, they can reference a decent joke.  However, most of them fail to use information for anything more than a joke or a conversation point.

So, for the love of all things alliterated, I'm tossing out 5 C's of Multimedia Mastery:

Context: I want students to understand the context of information.  Yes, it's neat that they can quote an obscure line from Alf.  However, do they understand the context of the eighties?  Do they get what it was like to be in the waning years of the Cold War?  I want them to use media to find the context, to understand the space.  As they approach a video or a website, I want them to think about the sense of space and time that have been chipped away by media.

Creativity: I want my students to use media for creative purposes.  By this, I don't simply mean piecing together other people's work, either.  I want them to write original blog posts, create and share concept maps, record their own podcasts and spend some time creating decent video. If media is supposed to be democratic and social, I want my students to get beyond entertainment and start using a medium to compose something original.

Critical Thinking:  I want students to think critically about the information online.  This means they need to learn to ask deeper inquiry questions, analyze the bias of a source, differentiate between fact and opinion and make connections that aren't instantly noticeable.  It also means they need to critique the medium itself.

Civics:  The revolution in Tunisia was essentially a social media revolution. The same is true of the protests in Iran. Sadly, our schools often block the very media that helped launch democracy in other nations? I want my students to use media to express their social voice and to engage in a civic dialog.  I want them to question whether Twitter is right for keeping WikiLeaks' account information private.  It's a powerful thing when students use media to access public files, ask questions to public leaders and speak out for what they believe.

Conversation:  I want students to understand that there is a social element to social media and that the best way for them to have a holistic, contextual understanding of their world is through real-life conversations.  Kids come to media (even social media) with a sense that it's not real.  I want them to recover the human side of it.  How can they engage in media in a way that broadens worldviews and helps them to see that there are multiple perspectives?


  1. I like your C's and another one that I think that you imply is Civility--of late much in demand

  2. Great post, I'm sharing with my colleagues! Thanks...

  3. Bravo John and breynolds too.

  4. Very... Nicee... Blog.. I really appreciate it... Thanks..:-)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.