As part of our Year 8 Human Technologies curriculum, we are asking students to consider not only the nature of truth, but also different types of truth (e.g. scientific, poetic, individual, etc). As one activity on poetic truth, we played students four songs, and asked them to sketch out a response to each song based on what they felt. Some students opted to write, and some to draw. One particularly interesting response came from Bethan, who really provides insight into how she responded to the songs. I wonder if the composers and musicians would recognise Bethan’s interpretation of their own poetic truth.
The songs are listed below, after which you can see Bethan’s work (click for a larger image).
This lesson used to be part of a unit which was dropped from the Year 7-9 ICT Course due to time constraints. However, the content is so powerful that I decided to include it, not as a unit, but as a single lesson. The aim is to get students to think more about how the media works, and how much of what the media portrays can and should be trusted. The content of this lesson could quite easily apply to any number of subjects including ICT, Media,PSHE/Pasotral, History and Theary of Knowledge.
I believe it the video included in this lesson is extremely valuable, not only for girls, but also for boys, as we seek to shape their values and open their minds to the world around them.
Let’s start this lesson by seeing if any students understand the meaning of the word representation in media.
One way to think of representation is ” the way that reality is portrayed or shown in magazines, TV, books, film and music”.
Do you think we can we trust the way that others represent reality? Should we?
Representation of Gender
Let’s take a look at this video, and discuss any ideas which is throws up.
What does the above video tell us about the representation of women in the media?
Can you think of positive and negative gender representation of women?
Now I would like you to work in pairs to find examples of representation on the web.
Links to items are to be placed into a shared Google Doc.
After 15 minutes I will get you back together to view and discuss the various materials found.
This lesson aims to introduce students to the concept of misleading images, and to try and engender in students a certain skepticism when interacting with media. This lesson could potentially be used in a range of subjects including ICT, Media, History, Theory of Knowledge, PSHE/Pastoral etc.
In the past this has proven to be one of those lessons that really gets students sitting up, listening and discussing, as most of them have no idea they are being constantly manipulated by the mass media.
In general we trust photos in a way that we would never trust words: we know that photos can be faked, but we don’t usually question what we see in the media and on the Internet. Let’s use some fun examples to see what we can and cannot trust:
The resources below look at how photos can be misleading, either through accident, doctoring, creative photography or omission. Digital photography and computer technology make this process much easier and more powerful, but it is important to keep in mind that these exact issues have been relevant since the dawn of the photographic era.
Of particular interest is the process by which images are “photoshopped” (i.e. digitally manipulated), and just how much transformation is possible. The videos below give an insight into this process (they are accelerated, it really takes much longer to do this, and lots of skill too).
We can look at the impact of misleading photos from different perspectives, including:
Political – what might a country gain by manipulating photos of its enemy at war?
Individual – how does unrealistically attractive portraits in magazines make me feel?
Society – how have misleading photos changed our expectations and measures of beauty?
In the end, how do we know what to trust if we cannot trust what we see?
Snopes is a fantastic website that has gathered together a massive number of urban legends, hoaxes and scams and provides information on their validity and origins. Think of it as Mythbusters for the web.
Whenever a concerned acquaintance forwards me an email telling me that aspartame will kill me, or that Bill Gates will give me money or that I should stop using my microwave, the first thing I do is check for a known hoax on Snopes. I then email the link back to the sender, and ask them to consider checking the validity of emails before forwarding them on.
In terms of schooling, Snopes provides students with an informative and fun tool for learning skills of information literacy and critical thinking. Try gathering together a set of emails and get students to guess which might be hoaxes: then get them to use Snopes to see how they did. Discuss with them the reasons why such legends become ingrained and accepted as true, and how they can protect themselves from them. For older students, get them to consider the validity of Snopes itself: can they find other sources to verify or counter the claims made on the site? Finally, students might be asked to consider the philosophical questions of “Can we be sure of anything?” and “What is truth?”.
I think my favourite Snopes moment of all time was when I learned that, contrary to popular belief, Bobby McFerrin (the composer of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”) had in fact not committed suicide. From that day, I have become much less believing in things I read and hear, especially on the web.
In an age where we rely so heavily on technology, more and more people are starting to doubt and deny the science that underlies it. In this fascinating talk, Michael Specter discusses the danger of such denial. Examples include the supposed link between autism and vaccinations, the growth of alternative medicine and, controversially, genetically modified foods.
This video is a great tool for engaging students to think critically about important issues, such as the nature of truth and information (e.g. why do some ideas become so well established despite a complete lack of empirical evidence?). From this, students can be asked to consider the misleading role the media often plays in this process, and how the scientific community can respond.
To fully understand the power of denial in the face of evidence, we need not look further than the current debate over climate change as a destructive and man-made phenomenon. This is a hypothesis backed by the vast majority of scientists worldwide, yet corporations, governments and the media are denying the need for immediate action.