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Media Literacy

How integrating media literacy and teaching in the classroom can help students “read the world”

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How we can help students “read the world” by integrating media literacy and education into the classroom

Dear Colleagues,

I am a pedagogue with over two decades of experience in teaching English (ELT) and a keen interest in media literacy. When I was recently discussing the film Jai Bhim with some educators, I suggested that it be discussed in the classroom as part of media education. This met with mixed reactions.

Jai Bhim is based on a real-life incident in the 1990s when three members of a planned tribe (Irular community) were arrested and tortured in police custody. One of the inmates died in police custody and his wife was fighting for justice with the assistance of a Supreme Court attorney. The inspiration for the protagonist is judge Chandru, who as a lawyer led a legal battle against those in power and helped the marginalized to justice.

In short, the film is about caste discrimination, dehumanization, social inequality, police brutality, torture in custody, human rights abuses, litigation, constitutional duties and rights and more. The film raises several ethical questions.

Read the world

Some may ask how this socio-political film is connected to education and why should students know about it or discuss it in class? What is the aim or purpose of education? It is designed to help students become aware of what is happening in their community and society in general, create a conducive environment for critical thinking, and encourage them to participate constructively in society. Reviewing this film and discussing its various aspects can help students “read the world”. I borrow this sentence from the book Literacy by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire: Reading the Word and the World.

Here are some sample questions to discuss after watching the movie: What aspects did you like or dislike the most? How did the film affect you? What is your critical reaction to the history / portrayal of caste discrimination? Do you think the director lived up to the real story? What is your comment on the judiciary in the country? Why are people of certain castes oppressed by dominant castes? Are there prejudices in the film? The factual discussion allows students to develop their critical thinking skills.

As educators, and not just as teachers, we have a social and moral responsibility to help students not only “read the word” but also “read the world”. We can help students by incorporating media literacy / education into the classroom.

Media education is the process of helping students become critical and demanding recipients of content and enabling them to identify bias. There is an overarching pattern behind every single media message. It is the responsibility of the media educator to encourage students to recognize the pattern and enable them to understand how the patterns reinforce certain ideas, values, and social norms. Media education enables students to understand how the media works and helps them become aware of the impact the media (mass media and social media) have on their lives.

Today, in the age of social media, we are bombarded with viral memes, tweets, messages, views, and videos. There is a deluge of information as well as misinformation / disinformation that we receive daily from the mainstream and social media. It affects us in many ways and affects our thinking. It forces us to have a certain worldview. If students are not taught to analyze the content with a critical eye, they will be misinformed and misled.

Dear Educators, We have a moral responsibility to help our students learn to “read the world”. Helping them “read the Word” is easy, but empowering them to “read the world” is a challenge. As educators, we should face challenges.

The author is an ELT resource person and education columnist. rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

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