By: Derek Macario and Rebecca Longworth
Derek Macario and Rebecca Longworth collaborated on this lesson sequence. Derek and Rebecca are both peers from UC Berkeley’s BE3 Secondary English cohort 3. This collaboration was completed for their Computer Science fellowship coursework in Summer 2021. Derek participated in the Bay Area Writing Project workshop with YR Media in July 2021, facilitated by Dr. Cherise McBride, and drew from the workshop materials into this collaboration. Derek and Rebecca are both based in Oakland and teach ELA at high schools in the Bay Area.
This lesson sequence presents opportunities for students to systematically analyze texts and platforms for issues of authorship and representation. As students engage the content and context of digital materials, they are offered two pathways for exploration. 1) Analysis of the content, and 2) Analysis of the platforms themselves. The activities can be done in tandem or separately, and are highly flexible for different youth-created texts and digital platforms that teachers decide to use.
- Authorship: Understanding that all content has an author with their own social position, values, purposes / motives
- Authorship: You have the skills and ability – and are building your capacity – to create your own content
- Annotation: You have the skills and ability to create your own commentary and are building your capacity to enter into larger conversations with your commentary.
- Ideas of authorship and annotation / commentary also apply to systems of media, or the means of distribution (social media platforms, search engines, algorithms, etc).
Themes of representation, authorship, and naming realities. Possible text pairings (excerpts):
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- Race After Technology by Ruha Benjamin (ch. 5: “Retooling Solidarity, Reimagining Justice”)
ACTIVITY 1: ANALYZING YOUTH-CREATED DIGITAL MEDIA
Students will critically analyze content of media on a chosen platform using the Values / Identities / Actions (VIA) thinking routine and Visual Thinking Strategies ( VTS: What do you see that makes you say that? / What more can you find?).
Part 1: Guided Use of Visual Thinking Strategies to Analyze Digital Media
Teacher poses questions to guide students’ reading of multimodal texts. After selecting a youth text (see examples), teacher leads students through VTS questions: What’s going on in this picture? What makes you say that? What else can we find?
Example texts to use:
- NPR on Simone Biles
- YR Media on Simone Biles
- YR Media on Simone Biles by Pratham Dalal
- YR Media: SPACE EXPLORATION?…OR EXPLOITATION? (2 min youtube video)
Part 2: Individual Analysis of Digital Media (Graphic Organizer)
Students use Graphic Organizer for VIA on a chosen sample of youth media.
- Values / Identities/Actions
- Evidence (refer back to VTS questions)What do you see that makes you say that?
Part 3: Individual Analysis of Digital Media (Digital Annotations)
Using the VIA framing, students do social annotation of youth media with the open-access edtech tool hypothesis. Invite students to reflect on the values represented in the media artifacts, the identities of the author and audience, and the actions that the work encourages. Students will create a free hypothesis account (teachers can refer to the how-to directions here). Hypothesis allows them to comment directly on the webpage, see one another’s annotations, and refer back to their annotations later as needed.
ACTIVITY 2: CRITICALLY ANALYZING SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Students use system mapping to describe the functionality and Values, Identities and Actions (VIA) of a selected social media platform. To do so, students engage Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) and create artifacts that showcase the functions, formats, and embedded tenets of the technology, including interface layouts and drawings.
Part 1: Create system maps together.
Walk students through the process of system mapping using Instagram as an example:
- Brainstorm initial questions about the platform
- List the (main) parts of the platform
- Draw lines, etc to show how parts of the platform interact with one another
- List people who interact with the platform
- Draw lines, etc to show how they interact with the various parts
- Now you can ask more questions: What more do you want to know? What Values, Identities, and Actions are present in the platform? What ideas do you have to improve the platform?
Part 2: Create system maps independently (or in small groups).
In small groups, students work through the same process they did as a whole class, this time with a platform of their choosing.
Platforms to Analyze:
Part 3: Critically analyze the platforms.
Students use their system maps alongside printouts, screenshots, or drawing of the platform interface to analyze the values, identities, and assumptions in the platforms they have chosen. They reflect on the functions and format of the platform, recording their ideas in annotations on their printed artifacts or drawings.
ACTIVITY 3: DESIGNING ONLINE PLATFORMS
- Students will design an alternative functionality or format for their selected media platform
- Students will describe the purpose for their proposed changes in terms of Values, Identities & Actions
Part 1: Review a platform change.
Model: Use the example of Instagram changing their (+) button position.
- Easier to get to the button?
- When the button moved, something took its place: added buttons to the bottom are “reels” and “shopping”
- What Values, Identities, and Actions does the change suggest?
- How does this change the functionality of Instagram?
Part 2: In small groups or individually, propose a design change and describe its purpose.
Students prepare an artifact (i.e. presentation slide deck, document) to share their redesign ideas with a peer audience. Include:
- What change(s) are you proposing?
- What is the purpose of the change?
- What are the Values, Identities, and Actions that your change will promote?
ACTIVITY 4: PEER CRITIQUE – SHARING OUT, PROVIDING AND RECEIVING FEEDBACK
Students will present their design ideas and proposed inventions to classmates. As a group, students give and receive feedback including potential benefits and possibly unintended consequences of their new technological platforms.
Part 1: Groups present designs
Depending on class size, separate students into clusters and 2-3 groups take turns presenting to each other.
Part 2: Individual & Group Reflections
Students reflect on the current status of their project:
- What rationale for the design? What is its purpose?
- What VIAs are you hoping to promote?
- What parts of the design do you still have questions about?
- What type of feedback would be helpful if your group were to take this design a step further?
Part 3: Reflections & feedback on designs (Inner circle/outer circle activity)
The inner Circle-Outer Circle strategy frames half the class as discussion participants and the other half as focused listeners. Presenters can begin with sharing: What type of feedback would be helpful to further their designs.
For focused feedback, the audience might also reflect on:
- What is the rationale for the design? What is its purpose?
- What VIAs is the project does the project appear to promote?
- What parts of the design do you still have questions about?
- VIA (Values-Identities-Actions). Developed by Project ZERO at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, VIA is a framework for studying art from a civic-minded perspective. It invites commentary on carefully selected artifacts to engage audiences in conversation with one another.
- Visual Thinking Strategies Website
- Key Questions List from NAMLE.net – resource for additional media literacy questions / could be used for scaffolding or differentiation for students to respond to VIA/VTS questions in Lessons 1 and 2.
- Information on Hypothesis as an Educational Tool
- Inner Circle/ Outer Circle Discussion Format
Additional YR Media texts/curriculum tools on Mental Health:
- HOW TO USE LETTERS TO BOOST MENTAL HEALTH
- YOUTH-LED ORGANIZATION TACKLES MENTAL ILLNESS THROUGH LETTERS
Common Core ELA Writing Standards (across 6-12 grade levels):
Common Core ELA Reading Standards (across 6-12 grade levels):
INVITATION FOR ACTION & CONNECTION
Teachers, are you excited about the work your students created? As always, if your students love what they created please invite them to join YR Media’s community and pitch their pieces to our editors. And teachers, sign up here to receive email updates when new curriculum tools are published and become a member of our growing teacher network!