Media Literacy and Cultural Understanding of People in the Middle East

Elementary students explore the representation of the people and cultures of the Middle East in media

Using a university-school partnership model, we provide a variety of forms of teacher education programs, in-school mentoring, and programs that bring together mediamakers, graduate students, teachers and children to understand how to use the power of media and technology to promote global understanding. Watch the YouTube video overview below and then read the two scholarly articles we wrote about our work:

Online Digital Media in Elementary School. Published in the Journal of Middle East Media. Digital and mass media play a significant role in the development of children's understanding of people around the world. Specific instructional practices using media can help combat negative stereotypes and increase knowledge, tolerance and acceptance of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East. Media literacy education includes activities that involve both critical analysis and media production. In one U.S. school, elementary school children interacted with young adults in Kuwait by creating simple videos and using an online communication tool. Evidence shows that both students and teachers decreased their reliance on cultural stereotypes. However, teachers also demonstrated substantial resistance to exploring contemporary news representations of the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Field-Based Teacher Education in Elementary Media Literacy as a Means to Promote Global Understanding. Published in Action for Teacher Education. Pre-service teachers develop valuable knowledge and skills when they get opportunities to collaborate with classroom teachers in a field experience program designed to implement and assess a variety of instructional practices in media literacy education. This paper describes a university-school partnership that supports the professional development of pre-service teachers and elementary teachers. To promote global understanding while developing critical thinking skills about mass media and popular culture, this program used a range of specific instructional practices to help combat negative media stereotypes and increase knowledge, tolerance and acceptance of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East. Grade 3 and 4 children learned to identify inaccurate visual stereotypes of the Middle East and strengthened message analysis skills through asking critical questions about the representation of Arab people in popular culture, including advertising and animation. They gained knowledge about the many nations and cultures of the Middle East through the use of library resources and online databases.

We are exploring how to integrate media analysis and media production activities into the K-5 curriculum in ways that promote student engagement, literacy, creativity, collaboration skills,and critical thinking. This project has been sponsored by a grant from the Alliance of Civilizations.