If you remember the word "typewriter" and know where you were the day John Kennedy was shot (and even if you can't) read on. Our students still learn the three Rs but, alas and lackaday, the times they have changed. Here are a few ideas about how to connect with your teenage students in this new media age.


Can the use of new technology improve the literary skills of grade 8 students? This year-long study documents the ways students interacted with technology and how this interaction fostered the growth of media-based literacies. The school in question bought 30 palm-sized computers and placed them as class sets in two Social Studies classrooms. Teachers saw a normally rowdy group of adolescents become instantly engaged when given PDA's (Personal Digital Assistants). 30 sets of eys and hands focused, scrolled, and read about colonial life. Students even began testing each other questions and comments about the reading.

"The teacher proclaimed that in all his years he had never seen such a group so interested in Colonial America." (Clarke, Besnoy). "The more control you have, the more you want to read." noted a grade 8 student. (Clarke, Besnoy). Students were able to bold, highlight, set the type size, and decide how big a chunk of text they were looking at. This control over the media allowed students "to manipulate the text in ways that suited their (individula) learning styles and preferences. (Clarke, Besnoy)

Exit slips consistently read "easier, faster, fun." (Clarke, Besnoy).

But do they learn better this way? Students want control, choice, and relevency. But most of all, they want to learn. Can they learn in a potentially free-for-all studetn centred atmosphere? In looking at this question the authors concluded that teachers need to create new strategies and teachniques to deal with the new freedom that comes with new technology.

Okay, we'll put new media into the classroom. And learn how to teach it. But students are now wary that teachers wil slyly suck the fun out of pop culture media like they've always done with print media.

This article www explores the role of media in getting students to be active readers rather than passive consumers of literature. The problem is that studetns "don't want (their) ... world taken over by ... the boring, reductive, and dogmatic world of school literacy." (Alsop & Wastal) To solve this problem of ownership the writers of this article suggest increased education. Teachers want students to learn and exercise critical judgement over the media they bombard themselves with. Their solution is to allow students unfettered access to media, and to substitute increased education for censorship.

So, we'll give students the tools to draw what is beneficial from media, and then set them free to choose what interests them. Why are we being so nice?

Because it has been shown that "the most important kinds of meaning are built from our personal interactions with images." (Fox, Like Monkeys in a Tree) We should be treating the word and the image as one thing. Fox maitains that " the image - in print, film, music, in whatever form and content - is the unsung DNA of communication." (Fox, Like Monkeys in a Tree)  The importance of imagry and imaging is central to the ability to perceive "wholeness ..whole meanings in what otherwise is perceived as fragmentation and chaos." (Fox, Like Monkeys in a Tree) 

Even more to the point, we should teach language and media simultaneously.

So we'll develope ways to manage a media-based lierature class. Now, how do we create video and powerpoint assignments? Here is an example.

The Snapshot PowerPoint Paper Assignment
  • Christmas Day 1944. Millersport, N.Y.—deep in the rural heart of the snow belt, north of Buffalo. Upstairs, in the living room of my parents’ half of the old, cozy wood-frame farmhouse, built in 1888, we shared with my mother’s adoptive parents. I am six and a half years old.
  • Don’t be deceived by that pose of utter stillness, nor that yet less characteristic look of pensiveness and sobriety. I am anything but a quiet child….
This is Joyce Carol Oates's’ beginning discussion of her own snapshot. Now it’s time for you to do it. Select a snapshot and write about it. You might want to write your paper first and then arrange it into a “PowerPoint Paper”—yes, PPT is not just for sketchy presentations; you can use it for writing a real paper—albeit one that has visuals in most of its twenty or so frames.
You must still pay attention to effective use of graphics, font, color, unity, etc. You may want to alter the photo you use by using it in varied sizes; by focusing on parts of it; by supplementing it with other relevant photos (returning, of course, to the main photo; readers/viewers should have not doubts about which photo is key). Here are some additional guidelines.
  • The photo must be rich in personal meaning for you.
  • Use a photo at least five years old, if possible. This will enable you to think and write with more “distance” and perspective than a newer photo will.
  • Try to avoid “group shots” of several people; this often forces writers to focus just a little bit on several people, adding up to a fragmented message.
  • Describe the people and setting of the photo.
  • Narrate any story that explains the occasion or background of the photo, or continue the snapshot by explaining what happened moments, days, weeks, or even years (as Spiegelman does) later.
  • Try (though avoid too much forcing of it) to use some object, specific element, or other quality within the photo as a kind of metaphoric frame or theme for your paper’s overall point. Note how Spiegelman uses Mad Magazine: it appears in the actual photo, it was a publication that greatly influenced him, and it is linked to his mother’s and his own life in 1968, by virtue of “madness” or mental health problems.
  • Somewhere, directly explain, or strongly imply, why you chose this snapshot.
  • Provide readers with a sense of distance, a sense that you’re looking back with some objectivity and honesty, as you place your snapshot into perspective by judging or evaluating your topic. That is, take a definite stand on the issues.
  • As noted earlier, you may use more than one photo, as long as readers are clear about which one is the focus of your message. Also feel free to manipulate your photos (via a program such as Photoshop), splicing them, zooming in on certain parts, altering texture, color, size, etc., so that they might better reinforce or illustrate your written points.

Okay, I am convinced. I will introduce media into the classroom and even allow my students to use media for their assignments. But how will I assess?

Level 6:
The student integrates personal feelings, experiences, hopes, fears, reflections or beliefs with the text. The personal response is rooted in the text, a clear understanding of the whole text and its subtext(s), and makes connections to other texts.

Level 5
The student connects personal feelings, experiences, hopes, fears, reflections or beliefs with the text. The personal response refers to the text, conveys a sense of understanding of the text and partial understanding of its subtext.
Level 4
The student explores personal feelings, experiences, hopes, fears, reflections or beliefs making only a superficial connection to the text.
Level 3
The student retells or paraphrases the text or identifies devices in isolation, making only a superficial reference to personal feelings or experiences.
Level 2
The student response shows little or no interaction with, or commitment to, the text. The personal response may be weak, unconnected to the text, or absent.
Level 1
The student response is irrelevant, incomprehensible or blank.

This is getting easier. I'm going to create a lesson plan for a Literature/Media class.

A) Show this video:

B) Hand out this lyric sheet:

"Beautiful" by Eminem

Lately I've been hard to reach I've been too long on my own Everybody has a private world
Where they can be alone
Are you calling me, are you trying to get through
Are you reaching out for me, I'm reaching out for you

I'm just so fuckin' depressed I just can seem to get out this slump
If I could just get over this hump
But I need something to pull me out this dump I took my bruises, took my lumps
Fell down and I got right back up But I need that spark to get psyched back up
In order for me to pick the mic back up
I don't know how or why or when I ended up in this position I'm in
I'm starting to feel distant again
So I decided just to pick this pen
Up and try to make an attempt to vent
But I just can't admit Or come to grips, with the fact that I may be done with rap
I need a new outlet I know some shits so hard to swallow
And I just can't sit back and wallow
In my own sorrow
But I know one fact I'll be one tough act to follow
One tough act to follow I'll be one tough act to follow
Here today, gone tomorrow
But you have to walk a thousand miles

In my shoes, just to see
What it's like, to be me I'll be you, let's trade shoes
Just to see what it'd be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each other's mind
Just to see what we find
Look at shit through each other's eyes
But don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful oh
They can all get fucked.
Just stay true to you so
Don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful
Oh they can all get fucked. Just stay true to you

I think I'm starting to lose my sense of humor
Everything is so tense and gloom
I almost feel like I gotta check the temperature in the room
Just as soon as I walk in
It's like all eyes on me
So I try to avoid any eye contact
'cause if I do that then it opens a door for conversation
Like I want that... I'm not looking for extra attention
I just want to be just like you
Blend in with the rest of the room
Maybe just point me to the closest restroom I don't need no fucking man servant
Trying to follow me around, and wipe my ass
Laugh at every single joke I crack
And half of them ain't even funny like
Ah Marshall, you're so funny man, you should be a comedian, god damn
Unfortunately I am, but I just hide behind the tears of a clown
So why don't you all sit down
Listen to the tale I'm about to tell
Hell, we don't gotta trade our shoes
And you ain't gotta walk no thousand miles


Nobody asked for life to deal us
With these bullshit hands we're dealt
We have to take these cards ourselves
And flip them, don't expect no help
Now I could have either just
Sat on my ass and pissed and moaned
Or take this situation in which I'm placed in
And get up and get my own
I was never the type of kid
To wait by the door and pack his bags
Who sat on the porch and hoped and prayed
For a dad to show up who never did
I just wanted to fit in
At every single place
Every school I went
I dreamed of being that cool kid
Even if it meant acting stupid
Aunt Edna always told me keep makin' that face it'll get stuck like that
Meanwhile I'm just standin' there
Holdin' my tounge tryna talk like this
'Till I stuck my tounge on that frozen stop sign poll at 8 years old
I learned my lesson then cause I wasn't tryna impress my friends no mo'
But I already told you my whole life story
Not just based on my description
'cause where you see it from where you're sitting
Is probably 110% different
I guess we would have to walk a mile
Ih other's shoes, at least
What size you where? I wear tens
Let's see if you can fit your feet


Lately I've been hard to reach I've been too long on my own
Everybody has a private world Where they can be alone... so
Are you calling me, are you trying to get through oh
Are you reaching out for me, I'm reaching out for you
so oh oh

Yea... To my babies. Stay strong.
Daddy will be home soon
And to the rest of the world, god gave you the shoes
That fit you, so put em on and wear em
And be yourself man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny,
Don't ever let no one tell you, you ain't beautiful

C) Follow this lesson plan:

Students will identify alternate ways of expression for school assignments and for themselves.
Students will use this knowledge to create a multi media diary.
Students will understand how to communicate using different media for school projects and for themsleves.

How are you able to express your feelings?
Is putting words on paper the only way to do assignments?

Students will locate, download, and apply different media for the writing of school or personal projects.

- Students will present a multimedia one week excerpt from the diary of a ficticious grade 9 student
- effectiveness will be judged:
1. on how well balanced the presentation was shared among all members of the group;
2. on how well balanced the oral and visual components were presented;
3. on a critical essay from each student essay about which other presentation they liked best and why, and how his project could have been more effective.


1. At the end of the previous class T puts on blackboard: http://dear diary: I just learned a great way to do assignments
and asks Ss to think about it between classes.

2. Ss watch the eminem video "Beautiful".

3. Begin with http:dear diary: I just learned a great way to do assignments on blackboard. Divide Ss into (prearranged) goups of 4 and give them time to speculate what the lesson/unit is going to be about. Each group records its speculations which are handed in.

4. Having pre-chosen the groups, the T explains the roles of each group's leader (organiser, final decision maker), sectretary (organizes and records), computer specialist ( locates and presents items found on web, and coaches teammates in same), and writer (able to write poetry, song, and theatrical scetches). Time is given for the groups to discuss the duties of each role, which are read by the T, revised by the group and handed in.

5. Dicuss the essential questions and explain the lesson/unit.

6. Ss re-watch the eminem video "Beautiful" with lyric sheet for each group. Discussion: Is this song a kind of diary? What other forms of diary could there be?

7. What forms of homework could there be? T gives an imaginary assignment to each group (but which will count and be marked). The object is not to do the assignment but to write down the different media that could be used to complete the work. Topic: Write a one week diary of an alien visting the planet Earth.

8. Groups brainstorm and choose a famous current or historical figure whose one-week diary they will write. Group makes a plan of who will do what. T discusses each group's plan. Groups revise plans and hand them in.

9. Revised plans and speculations are handed back for group to discuss.

10. One or two periods are given in the school computer room. Each group has one computer. The computer specialist researches and trains his partners in locating and downloading items for the group's presentation. The teacher evaluates each studen's ability to perform these tasks as each group is ready. Every student is evaluated the alloted time. A SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE OF EACH STUDENT'S MARK FOR THIS PROJECT is based on this evaluation.

11. Groups' presentations, which are 10-12 minutes each, including a question period.

12. Ss write a reflection on which presentation (aside from their own) they liked best and why.

13. Class votes and awards the most popular presentation. .