Putting the cart before the horse: Interrogating media literacy education in school english lessons.

"Background: In response to the changing demands of new times, media literacy has been incorporated into the current English Language Syllabus 2010 in Singapore. Although media literacy is mentioned in the syllabus, what this term means needs more clarification. What is clear from the current English Language Syllabus 2010 in Singapore is the notion of media literacy as skills only. When teachers rely on such a narrow perspective of media literacy without understanding how young people participate in the reading, viewing and production of media texts in their literacy practices, they may fall into the danger of putting the cart before the horse.
Aims: This paper argues that in order to effectively incorporate media literacy education in school literacy lessons, the learners must first be understood with all their ideological practices. Such a perspective argues for a social view of literacy to illuminate the situated nature of engagement with media texts. This means that how learners participate in media text production, what values they place in such text production and how they negotiate their participation in their media practices inside and outside school are necessary considerations for teachers to better understand their learners’ engagement with media texts.
Method: The findings presented here are drawn from an ethnographic study of 10 adolescents’ literacy practices in Singapore. In this paper, I focus only on a group of 5 students working together on a group school project that required them to recast Shakespeare’s Macbeth in contemporary times using a 3D animated learning environment called MediaStage.
Results: When engaging in the production of a media text, young peoples’ production practices problematicize the purpose of incorporating media literacy education into the school English lessons.
Conclusion: This paper argues that a social view of literacy gives teachers more insights on the pedagogical implications of incorporating media literacy education into school English lessons than a narrow view of literacy as skills only."

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