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A Crash Course in Marketing

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In this MediaLit Moment, your students will have the chance to explore the differences between social and commercial marketing campaigns for the same product, and also to investigate the motivations driving the organizers of each campaign.    


Have students compare and contrast a public safety message about bicycle helmets and an advertisement for a popular helmet brand.

AHA!  The people who made these videos want me to buy a bicycle helmet for very different reasons!       

Key Question #5:  Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5:  Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Grade Level:  6-8

Materials:  Computer with high speed internet access, data projector, projection screen

Public service announcement from the Brain Injury Association, accessed at: http://www.biami.org/bully.mpeg

Giro bicycle helmet advertisement accessed at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTT9tr68V8E

Activity: View the two videos with students.  Start with the public service announcement.  Since this video is only 30 seconds long, you may want to show it two to three times.  What is the message of this video?  Ask students how they feel about the risks of riding a bicycle without a helmet after seeing the announcement.  How high do they believe these risks are now that they’ve seen this PSA?  Next, show the Giro advertisement to students.  Since this video is only 30 seconds long, you may want to show this video two to three times as well.  Ask students questions about the message of this video.  Does the commercial tell viewers that they will be safer if they wear this helmet?   Why--according to the commercial--should they buy a Giro helmet?  How do they feel about buying a Giro helmet after seeing this commercial?   

Ask students questions about technique: Key Question #2:  What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?  Core Concept #2: Messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

How did each video attempt to get and keep their attention?  How did each video attempt to persuade them to buy a helmet?  Next, ask students why each message was sent.  Why do they think the Brain Injury Association decided to produce this PSA?  Why did Giro decide to produce this commercial?  In discussing the public service announcement, you may want to explain that non-profit organizations need to convince people that their organization addresses a serious social problem so that they have a better chance of attracting people and funding to their cause.   

Ask students to write down a list of purposes for each video, and ask them to compare and contrast the answers they wrote down for each.  Do Giro and BIA have any motivations in common?  

Extended Activity:   This activity is adapted from one of the sample 8th grade activities from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills “Science Map,” reviewed elsewhere in this issue.   Ask the students to apply what they’ve learned about the marketing of bicycle helmets to the task of product evaluation.  Now that students have seen videos which encourage them to perceive the benefits of bicycle helmets in different ways, ask them to objectively evaluate the product.                                                                    

Begin with this question:  Why should you buy a helmet?    

Here are some questions for research:  What are the risks of injury for children and adults who ride a bicycle without a helmet?  How effective are bicycle helmets in reducing these risks? If your state requires cyclists to wear helmets, have these laws reduced the number of head injuries among cyclists?  Are some helmets more effective than others in reducing the risk of injury?  If yes, what makes these helmets more effective?  Design?  Materials?  What brand or model of helmet do they recommend?  Why?      

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2009, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com




Last Updated ( Friday, 04 December 2009 07:30 )

Virtual Science Symposium

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How might the history of science been affected if the great physicists of the early 20th century had been able to take part in transatlantic teleconferences at the touch of a button?  Would their positions have changed about using scientific knowledge to build an atomic weapon? In this MediaLit Moment, your students will have the chance to develop their scientific literacy skills by discussing controversial social issues in which scientific knowledge plays a substantial role.  And they’ll be able to create a digital media  product and use it as a vehicle for collaboration in and out of the classroom.    

Have students take the positions of famous scientists as they discuss controversial social-scientific issues in a moderated cell phone conference

The use of cell phones, in conjunction with a teleconferencing web site, expands the potential circulation of these science symposia almost exponentially.  That expanded circulation can boost student motivation, stimulate further class discussion, and provide a tangible product (an MP3 file of the conference) which can be easily assessed by teachers and students alike.         

AHA!:  Scientists who are famous sometimes use the media to give their opinions on politics as well as science!    

Key Question #4 for Producers:  Have I clearly and consistently framed values, lifestyles and points of view in my content? 

Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view

Grade Level:  9-12

Materials:  For teacher, computer with high speed internet connection to access FreeConferencePro website; for students, individual cell phones with current coverage subscriptions.

This virtual conference activity is not a complete lesson, but rather an activity based on national science and technology standards.  Please feel free to adapt it to fit a variety of purposes and contexts.  The activity itself has been adapted from Toys to Tools, with permission from the publisher.

Standards:  National Educational Technology Standards for Students--Performance  Indicators for Grades 9-12:  7, 8, 9, 10.   National Science Education Standards:  Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, Content Standard F:  Grades 9-12

Activity/ Lesson Description:  Students in two different schools will participate in joint virtual cell phone conferences concerning topical issues in science.  Topical issues include stem cell research, nutrition, global warming, genetically engineered foods, and cloning, to name a few.  Students will be placed in groups of five, in which two students from one school will be paired with two students from another school; the remaining student (from either school) will be the moderator or host of the conference.  Each student in the group will research and “become” a well-known scientist in a specific field.  The students will take on the scientist’s perspective on the issue and participate in a virtual conference for homework.  The virtual conferences will automatically be saved as an MP3 file with the assistance of FreeConferencePro. 


In Class

1.  Two teachers from different schools in the same or a similar science subject area pair up and decide on the topical issues they want their students to discuss.

2.  Each teacher assigns two students to each agreed-upon controversial topic.

3.  In their groups, the students select current or past scientists who have contributed to a specific controversial scientific topic. 

4.  Students research their particular scientist and the scientist’s perspective on the topic.

5.  The teachers select one additional student to become the moderator or host for the group.  This student records the conference and asks questions to keep the conference flowing.  This student also develops a list of questions for the virtual symposium. 

6.  One of the teachers sets up a FreeConferencePro account.  Here is how:

            A.  Go to FreeConferencePro at http://www.freeconferencepro.com

            B.  Click on  SIGN UP NOW.

            C.  Fill in the appropriate information and click on submit.

            D.  A new screen will appear with the conference access number, the passcode,

                 and the host ID.  Copy down all three of these numbers.  Students will use  

                 the conference phone number and passcode to access the conference from

                 their cell phones.  The host student can use the host ID to start and stop and

                 control the conference.

7.  The teachers give their students the conference phone number and the passcode.  They also give the host students the host ID.

Outside Class      

8. Students in each group select a mutual time to conference for homework.

9.  The host student dials in to the conference phone number, types in the passcode, and presses the asterisk (*) symbol.

10.    The host will then be asked to type in the host ID.  Once the host ID has been entered, the host should select the pound sign (#) and number 9.  This will start the conference recording.

11.  The rest of the students can now dial in to the conference phone number.

12.  Students should type in the passcode followed by the pound sign (#). 

13.  Once all the students in the group are on the conference line, they can begin the conference.

14.  When the conference is done, the students can just hang up. 

Back in Class

15.  For the teachers to listen to and evaluate the conferences (or share them with the rest of the class), they have to log in to the FreeConferencePro portal.  Here is how:

            A.  Log in to FreeConferencePro at http://www.freeconferencepro.com

            B.    Sign in to the portal account.  The portal account shows when conferences were recorded and how long they lasted.

            C.    Click on Recordings. 

            D.    In the Recordings window, teachers can download an MP3 file of the conferences.  There is also an option to listen to recordings over the phone. 


  • If you do not have another school or classroom to pair up with, your students can participate with students in other class periods of the same subject that you teach.
  • Teachers can ask an expert scientist from the local community (or anywhere) to participate in the virtual conferences.
  • The virtual conferences can be posted on the class blog or Web page so that other students can listen to them and parents can listen and comment.
  • Teachers can also participate in the conference sessions.
  • Instead of doing the conference sessions all at once, a conference could be conducted about once a month (or at the beginning each new unit, as an introduction for that topic).  Each group of students would be in charge of the conference for only one month (or unit) during the school year. 
The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2009, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 November 2009 10:05 )

What's in a Map?

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As the authors make clear in Seeing Through Maps (see review in Maps Newsletter, Oct. 2009), people who read maps are audiences, and maps usually have something to “say” to their readers.  For example, a tourist map that shows the locations of downtown businesses says “Shop downtown!”  But how often do people get to read a map that says something they want to hear about themselves or their community?  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will have the chance to create a map that expresses their feelings about the community in which they live, as well as their thoughts about the things in their community that they might like to see change. 

Have your students create a “current use” map of their community

AHA!:  In this map, I’m not just telling people where places are, I’m also telling them about my community! 

Key Question #4 for Producers:  Have I clearly and consistently framed values, lifestyles and points of view in my content? 

Core Concept #4:  Media have embedded values and points of view

Grade:  4+

Materials:  colored markers (we suggest red and blue), and a base map to distribute to students.  The choice of area for the base map depends on your location and the demographics of your student population.  If your school is in a rural location, you may need a map which focuses on a county-wide area.  If your school is located in an urban area, then your map should focus on one or more neighborhoods.  If your students commute from long distances, you may want to make the school the focal point of your map. 

Because the map that your students make will include the public places they go on a daily basis, you should use a base map which gives students a frame of reference by indicating the location of public places and municipal services such as hospitals, fire stations, libraries, schools, etc.  Students will be making sentence-length notes on these maps, so a map which only includes arterial streets may be the best for this activity.  Your local planning agency will probably be the best source for these maps, but you may be able to use Google Maps for this activity.  The base map from Open Street Maps (http://www.openstreetmap.org) may also be useful. 

Size may be the biggest challenge in assembling your materials.  Students should have plenty of room to write on these maps, and this activity is best conducted in groups of 4 or more so that students will be able to easily compare notes.  If possible, print your maps 20” x 20” or larger and post them on the walls of your classroom. 


First, ask the class how people use maps, especially city maps.  What kind of information do people usually get from these maps?    

Introduce the base maps that students will be using for this activity.  These are the kinds of maps that you’ve just been talking about.  Let them know that they’re going to create a “user” map that will help make the original map better.  To help students orient themselves, and to help them understand the kind of information they will add to the maps, ask them to circle one or more of the public places already printed on the map with pencil or plain ink and check for understanding.    

Next, ask your students to mark the locations of public places they use everyday -- streets, bus stops, malls, businesses, parks, playgrounds, supermarkets.  Ask them to mark these in pencil or plain ink.  Ask them to draw them in if they don’t already appear on the map.  Students do not need to make an exhaustive list.        

Next, ask your students to locate and mark one or two of their favorite public places with a blue marker, and to write a sentence at each marking which explains why this is one of their favorite places.  Is there something they like to buy there?  Is it a place with a lot of room to play?  Finally, ask your students to locate and mark one or two public areas that they have some problem with.  Is it a place where they avoid riding their bikes?  Is it part of their school playground that should have another yard duty? Is it a barrier to access to part of their favorite park?  A library with internet stations that are always full? Ask them to mark the locations with a red marker, and to write one sentence which describes the problem. 

When students have finished, ask your students questions to help them understand the kind of map they’ve created.  Is the information in their “favorites” and “problems” markings different in some way from the service information on the base map?  How is it different?

Students are ready for the AHA! (or turning point) of this lesson once they begin to understand that they’ve added information that is evaluative as well as factual.  At that point you can let students know how important their opinions really are.  Their maps of public places don’t just document their personal preferences. Their maps are an invaluable source of information to other community members (For example, a librarian would definitely want to know about students’ frustration with the relative lack of internet access.  Many store owners would want to know whether students felt welcome at their store).  

As you lead this discussion, keep a list of the people who might want to see their maps, and use this as a potential list of real-world contacts for future lessons.

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2009, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com
Last Updated ( Thursday, 01 October 2009 14:00 )

The "Franken-Foods" Debate

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Since the late 1990’s, heated debate has swirled around the introduction of genetically engineered strains of staple food crops such as rice, corn and soybeans.  Proponents argue that these strains are resistant to cold and drought, can reduce pesticide use, and that some strains, like “golden” rice, can stave off malnutrition among human populations largely dependent on a single crop.  Critics argue that the safety of these foods for human consumption has not been completely established, and that unintended interbreeding with adjacent indigenous crops could threaten the biodiversity of our food supply.  While genetically engineered foods are now an industry standard, controversy has continued apace.  In 1997 and 2003, the European Union passed legislation requiring labeling of genetically modified (or GM) foods, and calls for labeling to continue in the United States.

Many anti-GM foods activists dubbed them “Frankenfoods,” and some newspapers, such as Britain’s Daily Mail, conducted entire campaigns against them.  The editorial cartoon included here is from the pages of the Daily Mail.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will discover the power of visual humor to deliver a political message.      

Ask students to identify the point of view represented by a political cartoon.

AHA!:  This cartoon isn’t just funny, it’s asking me to take sides in a political argument!

Key Question #4:  What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in or omitted from this message? 

Core Concept #4:  Media have embedded values and points of view

Grade Level:  10+

Materials:  Political cartoon  --  to access click here for PDF of Science newsletter (page 12).

Note: Questions for Discussion and Further Questions for Discussion are partially adapted from material in Developing Scientific Literacy:  Using News Media in the Classroom, reviewed elsewhere in this issue. 

Questions for Discussion:  What issue is this cartoon about?  Do you think the cartoon is in favor of GM food or against GM food?  Why do you think this?  Is the cartoon fact or opinion?  What opinion or viewpoint is the cartoon communicating? 

Further Questions for Discussion: 

Key Question #5:  Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5:  Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power


Tell students that this cartoon was part of a newspaper campaign against GM foods, then ask students: why would a news source create a campaign for or against an issue?  Do you think it’s possible for an editorial cartoon to show readers different sides of an argument?   

Extended Activity for Science Teachers   (from Exemplar in Scientific Literacy, pps. 130-134) Students are reminded that in both the article and editorial cartoon, the newspaper provided us with information that supported only or predominantly one side of the argument in the GM debate.  However, if we are to make up our own minds we need to seek out and consider all sides of the argument.  How might we find out the arguments both in favor of and against growing GM crops and selling GM food?Working in groups, students explore one or two information sources relating to GM food (interesting examples may be drawn from scientific societies, environmental groups, the BBC, etc.) and compile a list of advantages and disadvantages of growing GM crops for food or other purposes.  As a class, they collate the results of their research.  Finally, in whole-class discussion, students evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the diverse resources they consulted as sources of information.   

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 September 2009 10:16 )

Image Builders

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In the 1930’s, Franklin Roosevelt used the new medium of radio in an attempt to win voter support for his New Deal policies.  And seventy years later, Barack Obama is using a variety of web tools to attract support for his policies.  On the Whitehouse.gov website, you’ll find transcripts of press briefings, blogs, and photos, all of which can be exported to a variety of social media applications.  The site also includes videos of our President at various town halls and events, and frequent video addresses in which Obama makes his case directly to voters. The material on this site is selected by someone in the White House and is posted to create a positive image of our country’s leadership. More and more, politicians are understanding how the use of media can positively impact public image and help gain support among voters.  Take a look at  this image of President Obama at the recent Summit of the Americas:


The social environment conveyed in this photo is casual, yet Obama is clearly a leader who has ideas to discuss with the Congressional delegation in the photo.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will take a stand on issues they care about, and also learn how to create an image of themselves as leaders taking action on those issues.       

Have your students create a “photo opportunity” at school which projects an image of leadership

AHA!:  A picture showing me “in action” can inspire other people to support my cause!            

Key Question #5 for Producers:  Have I communicated my purpose effectively? 

Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Grade Level:  8+

Materials:  any camera, whether personal, disposable, or digital

Ask your students to think about an issue they feel deserves attention.  It could be the school’s lunch policy or the need for a gymnasium or theater program. Or students could identify an individual or group whom they believe deserve praise for their contributions to the campus community.    

Next, ask your students to think of a photo opportunity for themselves which could also help draw popular support for the issue or person they’ve chosen.  They could be presenting an award.  They could be having a serious discussion with the principal.  They could be “caught” in an act of service.  You may wish to use photos from  Whitehouse.gov to discuss the kinds of scenarios which are typically used to project images of leadership. 

Students should also produce some writing for this activity which helps to establish the purpose of the photo-op.  At a minimum, students should write a caption which helps to frame the importance of the scene which has been captured in the photograph.  With more time allotted to this activity, students could write a blog, a position statement, or a plea for support. 

If at all possible, give your students the opportunity to use the photo as a presentation tool as they discuss their issue before the class.  Doing so should help ensure that students choose an issue which is of genuine concern to them. 

The way in which photo opportunities are created and displayed depends on your students’ technical sophistication, the sophistication of the equipment you have available, and the imagination of you and your students.  


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com  




Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 July 2009 08:58 )

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