Mass Media Connect People And Institutions English Language Essay

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The topic of mass media grows naturally out of the cultural development of the world we live in today. Mass media connect people and institutions. It is a fascinating world of fears and hopes, of theories, profits and trends to follow.

The aim of my paper is to explore ways in which media can help develop students' linguistic competence in English, as well as, their comprehension of media consumerisms and their understanding of social aspects embedded in the forms of media. The present paper is the outcome of more than a two-year-long research on the impact of media on the teaching-learning-evaluating process, which resulted in an optional course The Mass Media Lab, introduced in the curriculum of the 11th grade students in my high school. My paper also reflects suggestions given exactly by students during The Mass Media Lab classes, which offers any teacher a lot of satisfaction.

The paper is divided into five chapters. The first chapter, Media Literacy, is a rather theoretical one. It focuses on a defining old and new media and outlining the development of media as a result of the cultural, technological and economical changes. It depicts the cultural events that played a valuable role in the ongoing history of mass media. Furthermore, this chapter shows us the ways in which media can be used as an educational tool. The cross curricular extension proves that media can be used to teach students about media, about language and about social issues.

The second chapter, Teaching Media to High School Classes, has two subchapters. The first one, Key Concepts, presents elements of media, also called key concepts, that can be taught to students. Audio-visual signs are related to the theory of signs, or the Semiotics, heroes are presented within the frame offered by the Russian critic, Vladimir Prop, narratives and genres give us the possibility of exploring different media forms. The dichotomies "local versus global" and "factual versus fictional" provides an accessible approach to these media aspects for students, while representations and audience show us the mechanics of the media. The second subchapter, Forms of the Media in the Teaching Process, makes the inventory of various forms of media and their usage in class.

The third chapter deals with Teaching the English Language, while teaching media, emphasizing the specialized media terminology.

The forth chapter, Teaching Media in A Broaden Cross-curricular approach, goes further and discuss some social issues related to media effects, namely, stereotypes, racism and bullying, violence, love and sex, multiculturalism and tolerance. The purpose of this chapter is also to provide a framework for understanding the media study in connection with other subjects belonging to the core curriculum in our schools, such as Psychology, Physics, Social Studies, Religion, … etc.

The last chapter contains elements of assessment and self-assessment such as marking schemes, self-assessment forms, questionnaires meant to evaluate students activity, projects, presentations, films, …etc.

The paper also includes some annexes that offer a range of further media activities, students' final products, lesson plans and the syllabus for media as an elective. In fact, all chapters make use of examples to work with, case studies, and description of class activities.

Media is a very useful cross-curricular tool for the English teacher. However, the teacher who embarks on using it in classes has a difficult job as media is a permanently changing field. Thus, the teacher should adapt and update his/her methods. This paper will try to prove that teaching media to high school classes is beneficial to both students and teachers, and the final products created by the students expose realistic views of the world and might raise awareness on media consumption, in both quality and quantity.


Media are part of our lives today. Our pupils watch TV, play online games, blog, upload videos on YouTube, use Facebook… etc. Messages transmitted by the media flow constantly into our and their minds. Media literacy provides us with a range of information and abilities which help us analyze, evaluate, and even create messages in various modes of the media. Students are encouraged to think critically about the media they consume.

Hobbs has found out that media literacy implies(Hobs 45):

A set of skills, abilities and knowledge

The awareness of personal media customs

The appreciation of the effects of the media

The ability to criticize and discern

The ability to create media products

Healthy skepticism

Access to media

1.1. What is Media?

The Oxford Advanced Dictionary defines media as being "the many ways that large number of people receive information and entertainment."(796) The term media is the plural from medium, which comes from Latin, and refers to the means by which content is transmitted from origin to destination. A sender puts the message on the channel or the medium and the medium sends it forward to the receiver(the audience), who will also offer feedback or response. Consequently, the receiver's response to the source can change initial messages. Shirley Biagi applies this general definition of communication to the media, highlighting three aspects:

A message is sent out on some form of mass communication system(Internet, print or broadcast);

The message is delivered rapidly;

The message reaches large groups of different kind of people simultaneously or within a short period of time. (Biagi 9)

And I would also add the feedback given by the audience, which can influence the trends in mass media today, in the desperate effort of meeting the target audience's needs.

We should also have in view another sense of the Latin word, that is middle. Paul Hodkinson emphasizes this sense by relating it to the tremendous need of media being objective. (Hodkinson 4)

Needless to say, the term mass refers to people and society, the consumers of media, as well as the body of institutions and relationships media interact with. The term mass media industries refers to the media businesses(radio, advertisements, TV, books,… etc.) since media is qualified to also generate large profits. Eventually, media becomes a bond between the mirrored world and the audience.

Traditionally, the forms of the media were television, newspapers and magazines, books, recordings and radio. However, new media have competed for our attention in the latest years: advertising, interactive internet(Web 2.0), portable internet(smart phones), social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, blogs, podcasts, wikis, online games and all kind of applications.

The predominant roles of the media are to entertain us and to reflect to us information, images, values, social relations… etc. However, the media representations of today are not mirrors, but "a selective, manufactured representations of the world."(Hodkinson 5) It is this characteristic of the media that gives them the potential to influence us. They gave birth to attitudes and behaviors.

Another aim of the media is to ensure communication. There are three types of well-known communication: intrapersonal, interpersonal and mass communication. The first type describes human inner communication, for instance somebody's inner struggle about travelling to a specific destination. The second type is the communication among a group of people, when people communicate with each other. Finally, mass communication is the communication from a person or a group of persons to large audiences, through special devices. It is this third type of communication that initially referred to mass media.

Nowadays, intrapersonal communication(for example in blogs) and interpersonal communication(social networks) are also empowered by the media. The multiple forms of media cooperate in order to achieve the type of communication and the entertainment experiences the target audience want and need at a certain moment.

Although we are tempted to acknowledge only the positive aspects of the internet in the teaching-learning-evaluating process, we must be fair and admit its drawbacks, too. I will balance now some of the positive and negative aspects of media today:

Positive effects

Negative effects

Media provide information

Information might be not accurate and reliable.

Media can educate the public

Media present false stereotypes.

Media entertain people

Entertainment prevails over the information component.

Media help people communicate and socialize

Media can also act as an agent of spying people.

Media supports the economical and political system.

Media sometimes take sides of the economical and political systems.

Media can act as an agent of change in the development of the society

Media can affect traditional culture.

1.2 The evolution of the media and the cultural development of the society

Early attempts at written communication were made by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia who carved the first pictographs in stone in about 3500 B.C. Pictographs are symbols of objects, used to convey an idea. Later on, people imprinted the pictographs in clay tablets and stored them. Although in about 2500 B.C., the Egyptians invented the papyrus, a type of paper made of a plant, people still communicated making use of pictographs. Eventually, the pictographs developed into phonetic writing, meaning that people started using symbols to represent sounds. This is considered to be the first information communications revolution. "Information could reach now(at that moment) a new kind of audience, remote from the source."(Smith 23)

In 200 B.C., the Greeks discovered parchment, a better medium for writing, made of goat and ship skins and in 100 B.C. the Chinese invented the paper. Thus , the share of information became possible to different parts of the world, information being written by scholars or by their paid scribes.

The second information communications revolution started in Germany in 1455, when Johannes Gutenberg printed the first book, a Bible using a movable press with metal letters. The scientific and technological progress led to the development of the printing press and knowledge finally became, as Shirley Biagi claims "portable and storable."(Biagi 19) As a result of the printing press, the first newspaper appeared: Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien,

Fig.1.1 Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien

printed from 1605 onwards by Johann Carolus in Strasbourg. The first English-language newspaper, Corrant out of Italy, Germany, etc., was published in Amsterdam in 1620.

If newspapers and magazines appeared beginning with the Middle Ages, a first weak radio transmission over the airwaves took place in 1900, followed in 1901 by Italian Guglielmo Marconi's first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. More recently, the first television broadcasting is registered in 1920s in Hungary, Great Britain and France, although cinema was discovered in the latter part of the 19th century.

The appearance of the computers played a vital role because they could store and process information and offered the possibility of communicating more easily. In 1991 the World Wide Web began, which was considered to be the The third information communications revolution. However if in the 1990s you still needed an electrical device for your computer , nowadays Wi-Fi(Wireless Fidelity) technology gives you access to any media needed. Today's digital environment is complex and comprises telephones, television, magazines, internet, advertising etc. Moreover, the appearance of the Web 2.0(interactive internet) is again a step forward.

The history of the internet has developed rapidly. The internet, was first used by the army in the late 1950s for communication purposes, has rapidly invaded the public sector. It has had an amazing evolution from the incipient form of running the well-known application W3 (www), the mere information provider founded in 1991, to the global system of interconnected networks running the more advanced software applications built on the web, known as Web 2.0, launched in 2002. This application allows people not only to read information posted, but also to download, upload, share it and communicate with each other.

Some more events related to media follow in a chronological order in the following table. It is also the way I presented my students with the history of media, since a schematic content can help them keep in mind the most important media events.




Papermaking develops in China and spread in the Asian world


Movable type used in China


Movable metal type used in Asia and developed in Germany


The Gutenberg Bible


First newspapers appear in Germany, France, and Belgium.


London's Daily Courant - the first daily newspaper


The first telegraph is demonstrated


First telephone message is sent by Alexander Graham Bell


Motion pictures appear


The first regular radio broadcasting in Pittsburg


Television is demonstrated


The first digital computer appears, made of telephone components.


Fist TV commercial


Network TV is introduced in USA


Videotape recording is invented


Videocassette recorders appear


Audio compact disks are introduced(CD)


First digital video disks appear(DVD)


World Wide Web(www) is introduced


Digital TV broadcasting begins


MP3s are introduced


Satellite digital broadcasting develops

Microsoft Xbox appears


The Blackberry smartphone is introduced


Web 2.0 is developed (the interactive media)

Skype Internet telephone is introduced


The appearance of Facebook

Podcasts become popular


YouTube appears


The first Sony e-book readers introduced.

2006-up to present

Technology develops news social networks, smartphones, … devices etc.

Noticing the evolution of media, we naturally come to the conclusion that media today is placed at the centre of our world. We use messaging, e-mail, smart phones, the internet, we share music, watch advertisements and therefore, we need to help our students become media alliterate. It is our opportunity to use media as a tool for education. We have to agree to Gill Branson's claim that "Media is not so much "things" as "places" which most of us inhabit, which weave in and out of our lives." (Branston 9)

1.3 Media as a tool for education - a cross-curricular approach

Before setting up the teaching-learning process as such, mass media teachers need to do an analysis of the students' needs. The starting point is the gathering of data regarding the importance of media in the students' lives. According to a study published recently in "The New York Times" by Tamar Lewin, teenagers between eight and eighteen years old spend an average of seven and a half hours a day using smart phones, the internet, the television or such other electronic devices. But because many of the young people are multitasking (emailing while listening to music, for instance), they pack on average nearly eleven hours of media content into that seven and a half hours.

Using questionnaires about media applied to students can also help the teacher develop his future educational strategy. According to the intended content of our course, and the level of the students, the questionnaire can consist of different kind of questions. The results are a source of inspiration for the teacher.

Media diaries are also useful. Here is an example of such a media diary:

Name of the student:…………………

Day: 12 May 2011, Monday




Length of time

Were you alone or in the company of others?

What else were you doing at the time?

Exposure to other media?





Smart phone



15 min

5 min


In the full bus


Going to school


Advertisements in the bus; listening to the music on an online radio.

The results of my 28 students' media diaries are registered as follows:

Figură 1.2 How much time students use media per day

Figură 1.3 How many students use multitasking

The analysis of the two charts prove that the majority of my students spend between two and six hours using media during a school day, while most of them also use multitasking. The data gathered has proved once again the importance of the media in the lives of our students today, as also stated in The UNESCO Declaration of Media, that says:

"We live in a world where media are omnipresent. An increasing number of people spend a great deal of time watching television, reading newspapers and magazines, playing records and listening to the radio… The school and the family share the responsibility of preparing the young person living in aworld of powerful images, words and sounds" (UNESCO Declaration on Media, 1982)

Understanding our responsibilities of educating "the young persons to live in a world of powerful images, words and sounds" (UNESCO Declaration on Media 3) and, thus, recognizing the benefits of media literacy in class, teacher can proceed to the teaching-learning-evaluating process.

The advantages of using mass media as an educational tool are various:

They enable teachers to meet various interests of their students

Media provide teachers and students with creative ideas

Activities are learner-centered which engage students actively

Materials are authentic as teachers can use wide range of references

They also provide students with a lot of language practice which develops reading, writing, speaking and listening skills

Students acquire digital competences, too.

Last, but not least, media makes students aware of other world concepts and realities

Group work increases students' linguistic and personal confidence

However, there are also disadvantages of using media as an educational tool:

Teachers need a lot of preparation in advance

Activities might be time-consuming

The course should be updated since changes can often occur in the media technologies

The mass media class has been defined as "one of transfer of information; of collaborative, individualized learning; and of active participation by all members of the class."(Richardson 149) Richardson describes nine big shifts from old teaching to new teaching or from old literacies to the new ones, in as far as the media classroom are concerned:

Big Shift 1: The Open Content

Schools and teachers used to "own" the content taught in

classrooms. The curriculum was taught from a textbook. Additional resources were limited. The books or newspapers in the libraries require a lot of effort from the part of the average student.

Today the information is easy to access from Google, Wikipedia… etc., as well as more current. All kind of references to blogs, newspapers, films,… etc are possible. The code to teaching and learning is disappearing and it is replaced by open-source-type classrooms, where everybody contributes to the curriculum.

Big Shift 2: Many Teachers and 24/7 Learning

This shift refers to the increasing access of teachers to other teachers. We can get in touch with teachers from different domains and exchange 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ideas which can broaden our understanding of teaching.

Big Shift 3: The Collaborative Construction of Meaningful Knowledge

For generations, the work produced by our students was finished once the teacher marked it. Today there are new opportunities for our students to work in a collaborative manner and for their work to be read by large audiences, giving them the possibility to interact. That work can be published an it will gain "real purpose and real meaning."(151) It is not seen as something finished, but as something that can be refined by those outside the classroom.

Big Shift 4: Teaching Is The Path From Simple Lecture To Conversation

This shift is defined by Richardson as the move from lecture to conversation. The presented ideas are the starting point of the teaching-learning process, not the end of it. Teachers invite students to become "active participants in the design of their own learning."(151)

Big Shift 5: "Know where" learning

The idea presented by this fifth shift is that it is not essential to always know the answers, but to know where to find them. When the information was not easy to access, students had to memorize formulas and facts. Today we can find answers easily, the only problem is to identify those sources that are reliable.

Big Shift 6: Readers Are Readers And Critics

In Richardson's view, this means that our students should not be simply readers of the content offered. They also have to be critical consumers of the information given by the media.

Big Shift 7: Writing Is More Than Text

Certainly it is important to express ourselves in writing using words. However, it becomes hard to deny that the technologies today offer us the possibility to write in different genres, such as, music, photographs, video, all of these being able to express our ideas and feelings.

Big Shift 8: Mastery Is Also the Product, Not Only the Test

The age we live in is not only one of participation, but also one of production. Until recently, mastery has been proved by the passing of a test or sets of tests. Fortunately, our students can display mastery in many other ways than tests. Projects, portfolios, presentations are only some examples.

Big Shift 9: The Ultimate Goal- Contribution, Not Necessarily Completion

Media offers various possibilities of contributions from the part of both teachers and students. Instead of countless assignments to be read, marked and handed back, students can do tasks that can be used later on as examples, to teach the others.

Acknowledging the aforementioned shifts from the old literacies to the new ones, we understand that the role of the teacher becomes vital in the mass media class. In the different stages of the lesson, a teacher should act as an organizer, a prompter, a participant, an assessor or even a controller for the students, in the way these roles were defined by Jeremy Harmer. An organizer tells the students what to do, gives clear instructions and organize feedback at the end of the activities. The teacher as a prompter will encourage students to participate, he will help them in need and monitor the activities. As a participant, the teacher should act as the students' equal and sometimes become part of the activity, especially in role-plays, simulations, blogging… etc. Finally, the teacher as an assessor will assess the work completed by the students. He or she has to organize correct evaluation and give feedback to the students and "tell them what went right" (Harmer 239) besides grading.

These traditional roles of the teachers are completed by some newly-defined ones for the teachers of media and new technologies. Will Richardson redefines five other roles of the teacher of media: connectors, content creators, collaborators coaches and change agents. (Richardson 154)

First and foremost, teachers have to act as connectors of both content and people. They transmit content to the students but also create connections between people, between the concepts of this world. The primary sources taken from the media used in the classroom impart this role to the teacher. Secondly, teachers must act as content creators. They need to know how to use the media resources the new technologies effectively. According to Michelle Thatcher(qt. in Will Richardson 154) "teachers who use interactive media professionally will find they rapidly develop teaching and learning styles."

Thirdly, teachers also need to become collaborators with each other and their students. They have to tap in the creativity and knowledge of others in order to improve their own methods of teaching and evaluating. Fourth, teachers should think of themselves as coaches who motivate and help students to strive for excellence. Last, teachers should also become change agents. As change agents, teachers need to find ways of using media tools to move from the traditional paradigms of instruction.

Although our students are computer literate, the most difficult part comes with the use of the computer, when the teacher should be also a controller to manage the class so well that the students are able to cope with all the three: computer tasks, language mastering and understand media concepts.

Group work, pair work and projects are widely used but they also need special attention. Each member of the group should clearly understand his/her responsibilities from the very beginning. These activities increase our students' participation and autonomy. However, they require a lot of teacher's monitoring and support.

The multidimensional mass media class becomes very active, activities are student-centered, and this requires preparation from the part of the teacher, good planning and appropriate methods and activities to determine students express their ideas.

Activities and methods can be diverse, but mainly, they can be divided into three categories, which are going to be analyzed in the next chapters of the present paper. The first category is that of the activities and methods used in order to teach students media literacy. Students learn key concepts in media, analyze media products and develop their critical sense as media consumers and possible media makers. The second category comprises activities and methods used to develop students' linguistic competence in English. Media language is not simple but if taught with the help of the right strategies, it can be master reasonably well at this level.

The third category, the cross-curricular intended ones, are those activities designed to help the students understand and evaluate concepts of the world, by using what they have learned in new contexts. These activities belong to the concept of teaching for transfer, defined as "helping pupils apply what they have learned in a variety of new contexts and encouraging them to see connections between ideas and information."(Hobbs 8) They might be connected with various subjects such as ethics, psychology, physics, history, geography, sociology, … etc and they debate on stereotypes, racism, teenagers' behaviour, ideological concepts, all of them presented in relation to media forms and products.

It is this third category which proves that teaching and learning mass media in the high school class as an elective is a cross-curricular opportunity. It surpasses the limits of the English class, being connected with other subjects of the school curriculum. Jonathan Savage defines cross-curricular teaching and learning as being:

"A cross-curricular approach to teaching is characterised by sensitivity towards, and a synthesis of, knowledge, skills and understandings from various subject areas. These inform an enriched pedagogy that promotes an approach to learning which embraces and explores this wider sensitivity through various methods."(Savage 8-9)

As a result of Savage's definition, and not only, the cross-curricular teaching and learning has the following characteristics:

It is based on particular subjects and the connection among them at the level of the curriculum, key concepts, or through an external topic;

It is developed by individual teachers with sensitivity towards other different subjects and culture;

It needs coherence in its maintaining contact with students' prior learning and experience;

It has to contextualize effectively, in order to continue the learners' education outside the formal classroom education;

It requires time and resources, as well as flexibility;

It usually requires cooperation between subject teachers and support from the head teachers.

The aim of the media cross-curricular approach flows from the understanding of the above definitions:

It encourages pupils' learning in conjunction with their wider life experiences;

It draws on similarities in and between individual subjects;

It provides active learning for pupils;

It develops meaningful collaborative work;

It contribute towards a broader range of teaching and learning opportunities located across subjects and in relationship to specific external topics;

It promotes students' cognitive, personal and social development;

It also allows teachers to become innovative in their curriculum planning;

Students' various skills are developed through cross-curricular approaches as they practice communicative, language, social computer, study and problem-solving skills. In addition to these, Meijer mentions the so-called interdisciplinary or cross-curricular skills: conducting observation, selecting and ordering information, summarizing and drawing conclusions, forming opinions, distinguishing opinions from facts, working together on assignments, evaluating the quality of somebody's work. (Meijer 84)

Having clarified these terms and concepts, we can start developing the three types of teaching-learning activities at high school classes in the following three chapters of this research paper: media concepts(chapter 2), the English language (chapter 3), social issues and connections with other subjects, which enable us to see the cross curricular component of teaching media (chapter 4).