The critical thinking media literate classroom

Imagine you are one of 6 administrators on tour of a neighbouring school to investigate a particular ‘problem of practice’? Now imagine that the school you are visiting has identified ‘critical thinking’ as the problem. Do you know what to look for on your ‘instructional round’ of K-8 teachers and students on their journey towards critical thinking?

Teachers of media literacy have been embracing the explicit teaching of bias, perspective, equity and inclusivity for years, however, critical thinking seems to be the bigger buzz word in education right now. Many districts across Ontario are deepening their collective understanding with the help of Dr. Garfield Gini-Newman from OISE/UT, and resources from The Critical Thinking Consortium TC2 in British Columbia are all the rage! In fact there is even a Twitter chat called #ctchat that was struck up Wednesday nights from 7-8pm EST to broaden awareness and share strategies for implementing critical thinking across the curriculum! Sorry, couldn’t help the shameless self-promotion for our #ctchat. Please join myself and @digitalnative if you are interested.

And so while critical thinking sounds new, I was inspired to remind educators from all over that Ontario is in a very fortunate spot because we have had media literacy added to our Language, 1-8 curriculum since 2006, and teachers need not look very far for amazing ideas on how to get their students on the road to critical thinking about things they absolute love to watch, listen to, play, and read: MEDIA! That’s right, the media literacy curriculum found in our provincial curriculum document is chock full of ways to help students become critical analyzers and responsible creators of media texts of all types. And teachers need not stop there either. In 2007, the was also released. The best part about it is that it contains field tested media deconstruction and production lesson plans, helpful tips, and background information to equip teachers with the media frameworks to make this all happen in the classroom. AND, if interactive learning and video viewing at your own pace is your preferred learning style, check out the Media Literacy, 4-6 eWorkshop module co-produced by the Ontario Ministry of Education and TVOntario.

Thanks to Fullan, Hill, and @Crevola ‘s Teaching and Learning Critical Pathway [TLCP] model, most Ontario schools have the opportunity to access additional professional development funding to release teachers to plan out 6 week long planning, assessing, and instructing sessions to address areas of need in their schools. In the case of critical thinking, why not use some of the TLCP time to peruse these helpful resources with colleagues and focus in on how thoughtfully planned cross-curricular media literacy lessons might help address student improvement needs and school data.
The revised Language, 1-8 document has been around for more than 5 years, and yet we could still afford time to think deeply about how media literacy fits into balanced literacy to promote open-ended questioning and critical thinking. Similarly, I am sure there are a few administrators out there who could benefit from learning more about how media literacy and critical thinking complement one another so well! As my colleague wrote during one of our #ctchat, just like teachers, school VP’s and P’s require access to the tools and learning if they are to effectively support critical thinking and inquiry at their sites. The @etfoaq Media AQ candidates I am learning and leading with also have lots to say about this right now! The answers may very well lie within the document, but as is often the case in education, we are too quick to abandon the implementation of quality innovations when we hear of newly published research and/or approaches. If we stay the course and work our way through the implementation dip (Fullan, 2001), we may very well find that proficient media literacy teaching and learning is a key to critical thinking and student success.


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