MCDS student holds Tech+Social Media Event for 8-16 year-olds: April 29, 2017

Mercer Henderson, an MCDS 8th grader who founded 4GirlsTech (empowering young girls to solve problems through entrepreneurship), will be hosting a tech + social media event at the JCC in San Francisco, 8am-noon on Saturday, April 29. This event is open to boys and girls alike, aged 8-16. We applaud Mercer on her efforts to empower girls in the 21st century! If you’re not familiar with her apps, check out Audiots (integrates sound with emoji) and FriendIts (facilitates clothes borrowing/lending among friend groups).

Teaching Media Literacy and Effective Search in the Age of Fake News

Information literacy has never been more important. To that end, here are some principles, tools, and learning approaches by which we guide our students:

  • Setting up research projects: We want our faculty to set up research projects so students are well equipped to strengthen their research skills through a bit of reach/struggle and they don’t flail so much they’re not able to find the relevant information they need. This can be particularly tricky since students are at all different levels, their research topics can vary widely, and the nature of a project also can be different from class to class and teacher to teacher. We also teach students that the answers they’re seeking may not come word-for-word the way they imagine they might–for example, a resource might not say “the Monterey Pine needs 6 inches of water or more per year to survive,” but it may say “Monterey Pines thrive in coastal, temperate climates,” which would require some inference about how much water they need.
  • Consider the source: We teach our students to consider the source of information–wikipedia, .gov, .edu, .com, etc., and how to read for hidden bias. A great example to use for this exercise is On first glance, it seems like a legitimate site for teaching students about the life and times of MLK. But a closer read reveals grotesque content pushing the white supremacist agenda. Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 2.52.22 PM
  • Effective search: We teach students how to come up with key words (most students are inclined to type an entire question, even after practice with keywords–this takes a while to develop), and we also teach them the following advanced google search tools:Search Tips for Google
  • Kid-friendly search engines: The kid-friendly search engines can be helpful, especially for younger students. They’re not an absolute fix, though, as it also depends on what’s available on the web on a particular subject. (In other words, some topics don’t have kid-friendly materials out there, period.) Sweet Search is another good one, and sometimes entering “for kids” in a standard google search can render useful results.
  • Accommodating various reading levels: Newsela and Rewordify have functionality to help tailor/translate nonfiction info to a student’s particular reading level.
  • Just-for-fun: A Google A Day is a fun way to exercise the research muscle on a daily basis. We have practiced this in class as well. In fact Google has published curriculum on teaching effective search.
  • Word clouds of relevant terms: Another idea is to have students do preliminary searches before they dive in fully on their research topic. For example, have a student read the wikipedia article on the subject and copy-paste relevant sections into a word cloud tool to see what terms occur most often in the article for that topic. If there are any major terms in the word-cloud the student doesn’t know, he should research those first to get a baseline understanding of the vocabulary of what he’s researching.Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 11.12.15 AM
  • BrainPop! Have students login to Brain Pop (username / password for our MCDS account available upon request) and have them watch the video(s) on their research topic(s) to develop a baseline understanding.
  • Books! Or, just take the old-fashioned approach: start with books from the MCDS library, and then move to the web to research questions the kid-friendly books didn’t answer.

With such a wealth of information at our students’ fingertips, the charge becomes less about finding the right answer, and more about asking the right questions, consulting reliable sources, thinking critically, considering multiple perspectives, and synthesizing information in a meaningful way. To see a template we recently used with 5th graders to help guide them through this process, click HERE.

Common Sense Media Marin Teen Panel: 11/7/16

We had a great turnout for this morning’s 8th grade panel. Consistent with what we see in our work with students, the panelists represented a wide variety of perspectives and relationships with technology. Below are notes from what the panelists said. We recommend that, as you read through them, you think about which perspectives align most closely with your child/ren and family culture around technology.




  • Turn phone onto airplane mode while I sleep; check it in the car on my way to school. Phone stays put away while at school. School day starts with Chromebook at school–check email to make sure I didn’t forget HW assignments.
  • Home rules around devices: since I’ve matured and proven my responsibility with technology, I get to FaceTime my friends just for fun. I didn’t get to do that before–it started with texting. I like getting to see my friends’ faces on FaceTime, though, because it feels more like that physical face-to-face connection.
  • Best and worst of technology: best is the “school part”–it’s helpful to have HW assignments all in one place. In my younger years, you had to remember every paper to take home and if you lost it, you just didn’t have it. But now with technology you can’t really forget anything; it’s really easy.
  • If you were the parent, what rules would be useful to set that are not currently in place? What about at school, or with friends? And which rules do you think are not helpful.
    • Having support at school is great–I really like that they’re not “out to get me;” they’re trying to help me learn healthy ways to use technology.
    • Rules are different for my mom’s house vs my dad’s–I actually prefer the stricter rules at my mom’s house because it helps me build discipline and responsibility. I find myself wanting to do that also at my dad’s house, where my siblings and I are allowed more screen time for video games and such.
  • When I get a text or Snapchat message, if I’m busy (doing something I enjoy), I let myself forget about it and check it later. If I’m doing HW, I’m more likely to check it sooner as a break or brief distraction.
  • I actually like time to myself, so I turn off my phone a lot so I don’t have to answer calls or texts all the time.
  • I never respond to anyone’s texts, so people don’t expect me to respond right away (or ever).
  • My parents do check my phone and texts regularly, just to make sure things are ok. I know my parents trust me; I also know that others might send me stuff that’s not great and it makes me feel safe to know they’re involved.
  • I think it’s important to have privacy–kids can delete stuff they don’t want their parents to see. It’s better to have a relationship where I’ll talk to my parents if something’s wrong, instead of them trying to find it on my phone.
  • Your parents won’t always be there to check, so it’s helpful to get practice handling tough situations on my own (and get my parents’ help if I need it).
  • It’s good for parents to check, and it’s good for parents to let you know that they’re checking. It wouldn’t be good for them to go behind my back. It’s also good for parents to understand how to use the apps and sites their kids are using.
  • I wouldn’t want my parents to check my tumblr account–that’s where I vent and post stuff that I wouldn’t really want my parents to see. I think it depends on the kid and the app or site, whether or not it’s a good thing for your parent to be involved.
  • Sometimes younger or less mature kids need more parent involvement. Regardless, it should ALWAYS be with the kid knowing–never spying/behind their back.
  • I think that whoever pays the phone bill should have access to the device, but maybe not ALL the content in each app. Privacy should be a right with all people.



  • Removing the phone from the room is helpful when I’m doing HW.
  • I get all my work done on time, and I’m able to respond to people sometimes in the midst of doing my work. I really think it depends on the person–some people can do that; others have a harder time.
  • I have pretty severe ADHD and I don’t take medication for it, but when I’m alone in my room doing HW, I need to reset my brain every 30 minutes or so. So I work continuously for 30 or 60 minutes, then I take a break to watch TV or do chores or talk to my family.
  • Research (Stanford, Hopkins) shows that neither adults nor kids can multitask efficiently. The reality is that you are losing time and energy “switching” tasks frequently. But the idea of working for a continuous, focused period of time, and then taking a break to reset, is valuable.



  • I don’t have any social media. I don’t have a phone. I don’t particularly feel the need for a phone; my family hasn’t chimed in on that, I just feel like I can manage my life without my phone. I see my friends at school and it’s nice to have some time away from them at home.
  • As a trans and gay person, it’s hard to find people like me in person. Many people my age aren’t out or around. With social media, I can connect with people who are like me.
  • I’m also gay–I came out when I was really young. I don’t use social media to try to meet people in a creepy way; I use it to build healthy, functional relationships with people who I build friends with.
  • Instagram allows me to be creative with photography and making my feed “look pretty.” It really excites me–I really love it.
  • The only social media I have is Instagram. It started with photography; I like making my feed look pretty, too. I also use it sometimes to communicate with my friends. It’s an easy way to stay in touch with people.
  • I like to use Snapchat because it’s quick and fun. I usually feel worse about myself when I go on Instagram, because everyone is posting certain images of themselves, and then I end up comparing myself to them and not feeling great about myself. So I avoid that and lean more toward Snapchat.
  • Instagram is more formal; I feel like I can have better, more casual conversations on Snapchat.
  • Photo apps tend to be more female-driven, especially Instagram. For every one photo posted to Instagram by young people, there is an average of 100 taken. That is less the case for Snapchat.
  • My friends feel pressure to respond to all their friends’ photos on Instagram. A lot of them deleted their accounts because it got too overwhelming.
  • Some of my friends do photo shoots to try to get a good photo to post to Instagram. They try to make themselves look their best, or be the most artsy.
  • I like to watch soccer videos on Instagram. I also have my own camera and I like photography, so I do Instagram much more than Snapchat.
  • Some people just try to send stuff on Snapchat to get their numbers higher. There’s no real meaning or substance behind what they’re sending.
  • Since I don’t use social media, I spend a lot of my time building. I build model sets for movies, models of my house, etc–I love building!
  • I love spending my free time outside, not glued to my social media. It helps me feel more relaxed.



  • Don’t post anything that you might possibly regret. Or just opt-out of social media. You can text with your friends or just see them at school.
  • If you connect with people you don’t know on social media, be careful and make sure you’re connecting about the RIGHT things–providing support, connecting with people who are like you to help you feel less alone.
  • You can have good and bad experiences with people you connect with in online games. Blocking the bad people can be tricky because they just make another account and find you again. Sometimes I just create a different account so they can’t find me.
  • Don’t abuse the privilege of having a phone.
  • If you have a phone, don’t text your friends about someone else. Even if you delete it, someone else may still have it and they could show it to other people. Feelings end up getting hurt.
  • Try to be present with your friends when you can. As 8th an grader, we’ll all be at different schools next year, and I want to enjoy my time I have in person with my classmates this year.



  • Who do you talk to when something goes wrong online?
    • My school.
    • My parents.
    • My therapist. She’s neutral and objective, she’s an expert, she doesn’t judge, and she’s often more reliable than my friends.
  • There are trolls online who are specifically there to get people angry. They follow you around to harass and incite you. It’s important to have someone you trust to turn to if/when that happens.
  • I’m not sure I would go to someone if something happened online with someone I don’t know–I probably wouldn’t care as much. I would go to my parents if something happened with someone I do know.



  • Sexting hasn’t really been a problem at my school so far, as far as I’m aware.
  • Sometimes friends-of-friends will add me on Snapchat and then after a week start saying things like “Wow, you’re hot,” and try to provoke me. But I don’t use technology that way. Some of my friends, and even my brother, do more sexting sometimes, but I think that sex is a really intimate thing that shouldn’t be shared over technology. I think that it’s weird that people think the anonymity of technology somehow makes it “safer” to make bad choices or take risks.



  • I try to be the same online as I am in person. There are a couple people I know who are really nice in person but are nasty in person (or vice versa), and it makes me think of them differently, like they’re fake or phony. If you’re consistent in the different parts of your life, you probably have stronger character.
  • Apps like Facetune allow people to adjust their bodies or faces to make themselves appear more attractive than they look in real life.
  • People spend a lot of time swooping their hair over or changing angles to get the right photo. People even go to a lot of trouble to think about taking a photo with the right backdrop.
  • I’m probably different online than I am in person. I like being able to go to different “places” on the Internet and explore different parts of myself.



  • All my friends have lots of interests that they’re passionate about, so they’re not spending all their time on social media or video games.
  • I think the stereotype is that teens are always on their phones or computers, but I also surround myself with people who have lots of different interests. “Addiction” is a strong word and I’m not sure I know anyone who’s really addicted to technology.
  • I don’t know if my friends are addicted, but some of them are constantly on Snapchat, even when we’re hanging out in person, and it’s hard to have a conversation with them when that’s happening.
  • I have some friends who play video games for 30 hours per week. That’s ALL they do. I’ve lost some friendships because of video games. That’s all they wanted to do, so there wasn’t room for our friendship anymore.
  • The dopamine response connected with many social media apps and video games is really powerful; sometimes kids need help managing that.
  • People are age often make plans to do something that looks really cool, like surfing or walking around downtown SF without parents, JUST to generate content for social media posts. It’s kind of sad. I miss living in the moment. I recently discovered yoga, and I’ve been putting my phone down more.
  • A lot of times, when a person feels awkward or uncomfortable, our first instinct is to go to our phone. I think that’s kind of sad, but it helps me feel better that I even recognize it.



  • App where people can sign up to sit with different table groups while at lunch, so it helps people not feel isolated during lunch.
  • App to tackle gender violence in India
  • App where if a woman is walking home alone, she can hold a button and if she lets go it notifies emergency officials and pings her location.
  • It’s great that some people want to use technology to help other people or make a positive impact on the world.
  • Hashtags like #notmyculture (anti rape culture) help spark positive cultural movements.
  • Petition websites like help rally groups to correct things that are wrong.
  • Go Fund Me can help people, like if you have cancer and need money to help pay your medical bills.

Reflections from our October-18 Parent Tech Forum

We had a great turnout for our Upper School Parent Tech Forum October 18th! Input from parents indicated a few common themes:

  • Parents recognize the positive value in technology: for themselves, their children, and their families. Examples include digital artistry, interpersonal connection, communication, convenience, research, productivity, learning, and writing composition.
  • Every child is different, and so is her/his relationship with technology. Even siblings within a family can vary widely in terms of how they use tech and the consequent social/emotional implications thereof. There is no one-size-fits-all structure for setting tech rules and culture at home.
  • Guidelines that should apply to all children/families include
    • active parenting (talking to your child/ren about tech on an ongoing basis, not just as a response or reaction to a problem);
    • increased privileges and independence with time and demonstrated responsibility; and
    • supporting balance of tech use with time offline/off screens.  
  • Parents feel overwhelmed by the many hazards kids face in their use of technology and, more specifically, the Internet. This includes:
    • not being present in the moment during social occasions–instead being glued to a screen;
    • the costs of tech use/overuse/addiction (eg, reading fewer books);
    • intense/violent nature of some web content, like porn;
    • YouTube videos can be great for helping kids learn new things and/or gain new perspectives, but the comments section often contains disrespectful or vulgar language. (If you’re a Chrome user and you’re interested in blocking all comments on YouTube, try this extension; and
    • choosing the best at-home monitoring/filtering tools feels overwhelming–choosing the right tool, setting it up, and managing it.

More than any other topic we covered, at-home monitoring/filtering seemed to be the most charged subject. As such, we’ll focus singularly on that topic during the March-30th Upper School Tech Forum. That will include a more detailed walkthrough of what the interfaces/setup/data-reporting for each of these tools look like, and more clearly defined processes for choosing which one works best for you.

In the meantime, you can refer to Slides 7&8 from our slide deck and contact us if you have questions. As a baseline, we recommend Circle with Disney as the best tool, with a special nod to Qustodio if you’re seeking more robust/granular controls, particularly with mobile devices that use data networks in addition to at-home wifi networks.

Here’s a more detailed chart outlining the features of the various tools we recommend:


The above covers three systems that we were able to test, but there are many others available on the market. Circle was by far the easiest system to set up out of the ones we tested. It automatically identified devices on the network, which made the initial set up a breeze. Luma also has the capability to identify devices automatically, but it also replaces your existing WiFi system, so there is a bit more setup involved. All three of these systems used iOS(Apple) or Android apps for setup and management.

If you would like an additional level of filtering, we would recommend installing an app-based filtering/monitoring solution like Qustodio. While we have heard great things about Qustodio from some of our parents, we have not yet had a chance to fully review this product, but we hope to have a more comprehensive blog post coming out soon that covers Qustodio and other app-based filtering/monitoring solutions.

For the full set of resources from Tuesday’s forum, click on the “PARENTS” tab above.

Welcome back, students, teachers, and parents!

We are excited to kick off the new school year with students on Wednesday, August 31. A couple important changes from last year:

  • All students in grades 3-8 will have 1:1 Chromebooks, with cart-based access to iPads and Macbooks
  • The Responsible Use Policy has been revised! Click here for the 5th-8th grade RUP. The 4th grade RUP is available here; 3rd grade is here; and 1st & 2nd grade is here. We will provide students with paper copies to sign and return to their homeroom teacher or advisor during the first week of school.

And here are a few important dates to note for the school year ahead:

  • UPPER SCHOOL PARENT FALL TECH FORUM: Tuesday, October 18, 8:30-10:00am on campus
  • COMMON SENSE MEDIA TEEN PANEL FOR PARENTS: Monday, November 7, 8:30-10:00am on campus
  • SCREENING OF THE FILM SCREENAGERS, Thursday, December 1, 7:00-8:30pm on campus
  • UPPER SCHOOL PARENT SPRING TECH FORUM: Tuesday, March 28, 8:30-10:00am on campus

Please be sure to visit often for easy links to resources as well as ongoing updates. We’re very much looking forward to a great 2016-2017!

Reflections on March-9 Tech Forums

If you didn’t make it to our tech forums on March 9, you can still catch up on what you missed! Start by visiting the MCDS-Tech Parent Page–click through the links near the top of the page under “UPPER SCHOOL PARENT FORUM RESOURCES.” Or, for more of a firsthand look at what we covered and how we covered it, check out the video recording of our on-campus session. Click here.

Here’s a synthesis of what we learned from the parents who attended:


  • You want help filtering and monitoring tech use at home.
    Of all the topics we covered, this one carried the greatest sense of urgency and call to action. We covered Circle with Disney, Curbi, and Open DNS 
    as options for at-home filtering and monitoring. KoalaSafe came up as another viable option for some families. Before you set up these tools at home, we recommend you take stock of your family’s internet use and general philosophy around technology. If you need help choosing a tool and/or setting it up, please let Bobby and Christopher know. Questions we received on this topic included:

    – How can we give access to online research and protect from results of random searches?
    – Are there sites I should block? Can I?
    – Are you familiar with “Teensafe” and what do you think of media tracking apps?
    – How do I best control/limit tech access which is more restrictive than my child’s peers and not create World War III?
    – Even if I can monitor my kids’ screen choices, what about all his friends?
    – My kids are YouTube watchers. How much oversight do you suggest? Should I disable it and can that be done?
    – Why eliminate FaceTime from iPads? It makes it difficult to work together on projects. They end up having to use multiple devices.

  • You’re not sure how to help your child find balance and safety in their use of tech, and there is a wide range of philosophies around what makes a healthy balance.
    One’s personal relationship with technology is always in flux, even ours as adults. Just as we continuously work to calibrate our own connectedness and productivity, while also preserving quality time off screens, so should your children be awareness and reflection around this. As parents and educators, we’re partners in guiding them through this until eventually they gain independence. In our approach to this, we often refer back to the car-driving analogy: you’d want to be in the front seat with your child as s/he learns to drive, providing real-time feedback and guidance, monitoring for safety, and supporting the development of responsible habits before they go out there completely on their own. The same is true as your child learns to “drive” her/his tech devices.

    – How do we best focus tech time when it is needed for schoolwork, but can be a distraction?
    – I’ve observed what I’d characterize as addictive behavior with internet and games: strong desire; bad choices; inability to disconnect; changed personality/mindset after use.
    – How do you balance minimizing screen time with a child’s interest in programming / coding?
    – Does screen time for educational or creative purposes, such as making stop-motion videos, count as screen time? Should it be limited?
    – Our family is very pro-tech. If our kids do well in school, play sports, and have good social relations, why do we need to limit screen time?
    – I feel like too many interactions with my kids are telling them to “turn off” their devices. It’s taking over our relationship. Help!
    – I am so tired of seeing teenagers buried in their devices. How to manage this?
    – How should I limit the amount of phone / screen time? By decree? Using tech/apps?
    – How do you monitor homework / screen time on the Chromebook?
    – My 5th grade son loves to do his homework while connected to technology–eg, wearing headphones listening to music or taking occasional breaks to search YouTube…games… He seems like this actually calms him, almost like a “learning tool.” Is this ok? Thoughts?
    – I want to give my kids opportunities to explore. I try to use natural consequences in other areas of parenting. How do we do these with respect to tech? Do we need to change our parenting style for tech?
    – My 5th grader isn’t allowed to use devices during the week, but binges on the weekend. What can I do to help better manage the weekends? (We fight a lot about this during precious family time.)

  • You have concerns about your child’s sense of media literacy and/or use of social media.
    With such wide, ready access to information and media, students need help navigating the jungle of online media. This is further compounded by the fact that our students are producers of media as well as consumers, and participation in social media is often critical to their social lives. Key habits of mind that we actively teach toward media literacy include critical thinking, mindful awareness of bias and hidden message, and careful consideration of sources. Heris what some of our Upper School students had to say after learning about media literacy this past January. And here is an article from the Times this past November to help you get acquainted with the dangers of “vault apps.” As with other ventures in guiding students around technology, conversations on media literacy must be ongoing and continuous. Our work is never truly done!

    – In 5th grade my child was so engaged with discussions regarding stereotypes and how they are perpetuated. Now in 6th grade text conversations and photos used are often perpetuating the exact stereotypes disputed last year–a 180 turn, but the train has left the station. How to continue conversations that took place in 5th grade? Teachers have a different and more powerful impact than a parent in this realm in my opinion.
    – I’m worried about the sexualization of girls through social media, as well as “selfie/self-absorbed” culture. How to address this with children, both boys and girls?
    – What are the drivers around what boy vs. girl teenagers post to social media?
    – Feels like a cultural shift–few boundaries with privacy and personal lives–how to handle this?
    – How do you explain to your child your reservations about apps and social media that have a “like” or popular component?
    – How are children using VSCO? All seem to have a link in their Instagram bio. Is it just another “story?”
    – How private is Yik Yak? It seems to be the main vehicle for sexting.
    -The way kids are receiving info now is very different than the way we receive info–newspaper, radio, TV. How can we help our children with this plethora of info, and how to help decipher content and go deeper than headlines?
    – What are some appropriate things a child can say/do when on an uncomfortable group text?
    – Am I hampering my child socially if I do not let him have the devices most of his friends have?

As you synthesize your parenting approach around all these complex issues, you may also want to check out this letter to MCDS parents from Dana Blum, Bay Area Director at Common Sense Media, who attended our forums March 9th.

Our MCDS Tech Department has gained enormous insights from the parent community through those March-9th forums and the communications that followed. We hope to continue such dialogue in order to best serve your current needs. We welcome the exchange of questions, ideas, and resources as a learning community.

Please contact Tech Director Bobby Bardenhagen and/or Ed/Tech Coordinator Christopher Warner with questions or input.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

MCDS Upper School Parent Tech Forum coming up March 9!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

MCDS is a Common Sense Media Supporter School

A note on what this means:

Digital media and technology are evolving at a dizzying pace, both unlocking extraordinary opportunities and posing real risks for young people. Issues that emerge from this 24/7 “connected culture,” such as cyberbullying, privacy lapses, and uncertainty about which information to trust online, are surfacing both in schools and at home.

To address these issues and help students harness technology for learning, MCDS has been teaching our students how to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly with technology. Weve just been recognized as a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified School for these efforts. This recognition is provided by Common Sense Education, part of a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

We encourage you to reinforce digital citizenship skills at home. Here are some tips from Common Sense:

  1. Be kind: Try to instill a sense of empathy in your kids. Remember that theres someone else on the other side of the screen.
  2. Keep private things private: Talk about whats OK for kids to share online and whats not.
  3. Dont believe everything you see: Your kids should understand that just because its online doesnt make it true. Not everybody is who they say they are.
  4. Dont overshare: Help your kids understand what it means to share online, and encourage them to pause before they post. Show them how to use privacy settings.
  5. Stand up for others: Talk to your kids about cyberbullying. If someones getting bullied or picked on, your kids should speak up, report it, or reach out. They should know that they can come to you for help and how to flag misbehavior.


For more questions (and answers!), check out Common Sense Medias Parent Concerns ( resources.
Fostering responsible behavior online is crucial in helping our students thrive in todays digital landscape and harness the power of technology for learning, in and out of the classroom. MCDS is proud to be part of the movement redefining the way our students interact with technology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

6th and 8th graders explore media literacy

Students' ideas on media literacy
Ed/Tech Coordinator Christopher Warner and Upper School Counselor Rush Sabiston Frank recently completed a four-part media literacy series with 6th and 8th grades.The series began with a discussion about what media is and why it matters: where we find it, how it finds us, what forms it takes, and what messages–hidden or overt–it holds. The group explored how to be more mindful and critical about what they see, hear, and read in the constant stream of media around them.
From there, students watched clips from the youth version of The Mask You Live In and Miss Representation to discuss one aspect of media literacy: how gender roles and stereotypes are reinforced through the media. The clips focused on
  • friendships among boys in elementary and middle school;
  • neuroscience vs culture as they relate to gender;
  • how toy companies market separately to boys vs girls;
  • how boys are often told it’s not ok for them to assume what are often viewed as “feminine” attributes–showing feelings like sadness and fear, communicating deeply, or valuing connections and relationships;
  • how girls and women are often judged based on their looks;
  • often-unrealistic media images of girls and women;
  • the lack of strong female protagonists in books and movies, and a tendency for the few female protagonists to be sexualized and/or looking for a man to love her;
  • the lack of strong women role models in government leadership, science and tech fields.

After each clip, Christopher and Rush facilitated group discussion around what the students found relevant, interesting, confusing or untrue. In one exercise, they asked students to think of a positive male figure in their lives and try to identify (silently or out-loud with the group) what characteristics made them respect or admire that male figure.

The sessions closed with the students brainstorming what kinds of media they might encounter in their everyday lives, and how they might be more mindful of the messages they receive from that media. Ideas included social media, radio & TV news, magazines, websites, print-ads and television commercials. The upcoming Super Bowl presents an excellent opportunity for students to practice their media literacy and critical thinking skills around what they see and hear.
Also as a closing exercise, the 8th graders also compiled advice for the 6th graders to help them manage the world of media. Some of that advice, as well as written feedback from the students, is included below. We hope parents and teachers will continue these conversations at home, on campus, in the car, and out in the world.
  • Don’t try to live up to unrealistic expectations.
  • Recognize that not everything you see or read is true.
  • Put what you see in the media into perspective, and don’t let it change who you are.
  • Don’t pressure your peers to be a certain way.
  • Look for positive role models.
  • Everyone has a different body shape and size. “Perfect” is not real.
  • Be friends with people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Don’t follow someone on social media if they’re spreading negative messages.
  • Be yourself.
  • Do not listen to the stereotypes; you can do what you want.
  • Sometimes the media can try to brainwash you.
  • Enjoy life off of your screen.
  • Eat healthy, but don’t starve yourself.
  • Be aware of gender roles and images in the media.
  • Get ad-block.
  • Look at media skeptically.
  • Make educated decisions.
  • Watch women’s sports.
  • Admire celebrities because of their capabilities, not their looks.
  • Don’t focus on Hillary Clinton’s choice of business suits.
  • Accept yourself. You’re beautiful the way you are.
  • Choose more media with values you agree with. Do you agree with the lyrics of the music you listen to?
  • Be aware of what you put out on social media.
  • This was very helpful to me, and I could relate to much of it. I’m taking away that there are other people out there who feel like me.
  • I learned to be more aware of stereotypes.
  • I thought this was good but could’ve been longer.
  • My brother never talks about his feelings.
  • It made me really think about others’ feelings.
  • I’m realizing how many stereotypical commercials I’ve seen.
  • I really liked watching the videos.
  • I learned that boys sometimes can’t show their true selves.
  • There are many more gender stereotypes for boys/men than I thought.
  • I learned that boys often try and act tough.
  • I never thought of advertising being bad until now.
  • This makes me think of how I am going to shape my future, how we want it to be.
  • I learned that some boys are taught not to show feelings.
  • I look at media differently now.
  • I learned that young girls look up to women in the media who set unrealistic beauty standards and are not usually portrayed as intelligent and independent.
  • I wonder how the social dynamic changes from middle school to high school.
  • All women/girls should have the same opportunities that boys/men have.
  • I thought it was interesting that the number of girls who want to be President is equal to boys when they are young.
  • I never knew that the media had so much to do with everything.
  • I believe learning about gender expectations and stereotypes at an earlier age would be more effective.
  • I now notice when I watch TV and movies the gender roles and how set they are.
  • Mulan was the only Disney princess who wasn’t focused on a man.
  • If there wasn’t a figure that all women tried to look like, would men see beauty in a different way?
  • Are men or women more “guilty” for negative stereotypes?
  • Women need to be shown in more diverse roles.
  • Watching these films has made me question the amount of time I spend on my phone and watching TV instead of hanging out with my friends/family. I think it has changed my attitude.
  • After watching the movie, I think I understand myself better.
  • I didn’t know by saying “don’t cry” or other little things, you can impact the child without knowing.
  • I didn’t realize small phrases like “be a man” could effect someone so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

Scratch online course for 4th-8th graders

scratch image

Summercore is offering an online Scratch coding course for 4th-8th graders, January 25 – 14, at a cost of $99. Topics will include sprites, variables, loops and animation, game design, tessellations, and fractals. This course starts “from scratch,” but moves quickly through the 4 lessons. There are homework challenges, and students will be able to see and learn from each other. For more info and signup, visit this site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>