Gamify Media Literacy

Imagine this…

  • A set of biodegradable building bricks for sustainable building designs.
  • An ecology doll with its own binoculars, kayak, nature journal, and packet of native plant seeds.
  • A board game in which you advance ahead not by acquiring the most money or property, but instead by performing actions that help the environment.

Are these the latest educational toys in your local store? No, at least, not yet.
These are just some of the imaginative toys and games envisioned by sixth graders during a media literacy project. As a culminating activity in a Literacy Skills class, students used design techniques to create their own marketing ad for a proposed educational game or toy.

Students began the project by looking closely at Media Messages to evaluate how media uses a special language (special techniques) to persuade an audience.
Iconic ads such as
Wolverine “Got Milk” and
McDonald’s “You So Want One”
provided discussions of camera angles,
text placement,  slogans, color choices,
as well as use of celebrities.

Subliminal messages (underlying messages) were examined in the video commercials for Door Dash “The Neighborhood” and Sodastream. Door Dash’s message suggested that they keep neighborhood businesses thriving while Sodastream’s message projected that their customers would save the Earth’s environment.

Students also examined Barbie and Lego marketing campaigns; in a webquest they compared and contrasted how each company was targeting a particular audience. Barbie ads sought to empower young girls to explore careers with the “You Can Be Anything” campaign, and their “Fashionistas” line of dolls widened their appeal to diverse individuals as well as different body types. Lego marketing ads promoted imagination and creativity and suggested that building with Legos encouraged problem solving and resiliency, preparing youth for careers in engineering and science. After viewing these examples of marketing ads and evaluating how these ads target audiences, students were challenged to create their own marketing ad to be pitched to a professional client.

The G.R.A.S.P.S. Performance Task Assessment tool was used to set up the Marketing Ad design challenge. (G.R.A.S.P.S. was recommended in a Jay McTighe workshop that I had previously attended–McTighe is known for collaboration with Grant Wiggins on “Backward Design.”)

G–Goal: Create a persuasive marketing ad to promote an educational toy or game

R–Role: Marketing Ad Designer

A–Target Audience:
Choice A: Individuals interested in ecology or caring for the environment
Choice B: Individuals interested in Creative Writing

S–Situation:
Choice A:
In a marketing ad presentation (through Zoom) you need to convince an Ecologist that your toy/game will promote a career in ecology or heighten interest in caring for the environment. (I arranged for Ecologist Suzanne Simpson, Director of the Bayou Land Conservancy in Houston to Zoom with students to be our expert Ecologist client.)

Choice B:
In a marketing ad presentation (through Zoom) you need to convince a published poet your toy/game will promote a career in writing or heighten an interest in poetry. (I arranged for poet Allan Wolf to Zoom with students to be our expert Poet client.)

P–Performance and purpose:
Use media language techniques to create a marketing ad to persuade an expert that your educational toy/game will promote career interest or heighten interest in the topic of the toy/game.

S–Standards and Criteria for success:
Marketing ad effectively uses images, color design, layout design, slogan, and additional text, celebrity, or media to make a persuasive ad. The design should feature a front box design with image and slogan and the design should also show a back of the box design that discusses the educational goal of the game or toy.

Oral presentation through Zoom to a professional expert. The presentation should clearly present the merits of your envisioned toy/game and its educational goal.

Creating a prototype of the toy/game is an option (but not required). The marketing ad and the oral presentation should clearly present the vision of the product.

The Market Ad designs showed a wide range of creative ideas.
Here is a comparison of two doll ad designs, one for an ecology client and one for a poet client:

Feedback from Clients
Ecologist Suzanne Simpson gave the following observation as she viewed students’ ecology games and toys:

“I never wanted to play with dolls when I was young. I was interested in nature. I wish I had these ecology-themed games and toys when I was growing up to encourage me in the career of being an ecologist.”

Poet Allan Wolf was impressed by the choice of Amanda Gorman as a featured doll and the theme of “dreaming big” to achieve her goal to be a poet. These students envisioned a line of Dream Dolls that were “imperfectly perfect.” He also enjoyed other students’ ideas for a creative writing poetry kit and a poetry trivia game–students even stumped poet Allan Wolf on one of the poetry trivia questions.

Not all student groups were able to present to the professional clients; however, all groups presented their marketing ads to their fellow classmates. The follow-up questions and suggestions from their peers provided thoughtful discussions on how the prototype ideas could be improved. This project was a fascinating opportunity for students to use their media literacy skills to design a persuasive Marketing Ad. The presentations to a targeted audience honed their communication skills and encouraged students to be receptive to feedback on their designs. Looking closely and evaluating media messages is a valuable 21st century skill, and this Marketing Ad project provided a challenging way to explore these goals.

Image Bibliography:
Amanda Gorman photo from
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Thinking Like Leonardo

In the “Should it be STEM or STEAM” debate, no one is a better poster child of how Science and Art complement each other than Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo’s journals are filled with close observations of nature and the human body, as well as engineering drawings and notes detailing inventions, such as the precursors to the submarine, tank, and machines of the air.

Our students will be exploring how to think like the Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci in preparation for a writing workshop with Diane Stanley, author of the biographies Leonardo and Michelangelo. Following are a few curricular collaborations that highlight the genius of two Renaissance thinkers and creators, Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Leonardo’s Journals
Librarian Eve Zehavi will guide fourth graders as they discuss quotes from Leonardo’s journals and look closely at his sketches to determine what Leonardo emphasized about the act of thinking and creating.

How do you think like Leonardo?
How do you see like Leonardo?
How do you problem solve like Leonardo?

These are just some of the questions fourth graders will ponder as they reflect on quotes and sketches. Selecting one of Leonardo’s quotes and relating it to journal sketches, students will write a reflective paragraph using the model of “A Quote Sandwich:”

Top Bun of “Quote” Sandwich
(1) introduce the speaker and the quote

The “Meat”
(2) state the quote

Bottom Bun
(3) summarize the quote in your own words and connect to meaning of the quote based on sketches and designs in Leonardo’s journals.

Here is a reflective paragraph example that will be shared with students. Color coding shows parts of the “Quote Sandwich” and an image from Leonardo’s journal is selected to match the quote:

Painting Competition:
Leonardo and Michelangelo’s Battle Scenes

Our sixth graders have been studying the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and have been reading about the ancient artists and engineers who created them. One ancient artist, Scopas, created a famous scene of Amazons battling Greek soldiers, which appears on columns of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.  A history article described Scopas as a “Michelangelo of the Renaissance.”   Discovering this comparison became the impetus to have students compare and contrast this Greek artist’s battle scene with famous battle scenes by Leonardo and Michelangelo.

In one of the most famous painting competitions of the Renaissance, Leonardo and Michelangelo were each challenged to paint a battle scene glorifying the history of Florence. The paintings were to be on opposite walls of the same room of a Florentine republic council chamber. Leonardo was an older, established artist, and Michelangelo was a young, 25-year-old talented sculptor; both artists disliked each other and were very disparaging of each other’s artwork (Isaacson 367).  Author Diane Stanley depicts this painting battle in her two books Leonardo and Michelangelo, and this article from The Guardian will also be shared with our sixth graders.

I collaborated with the history and ELA teachers to develop primary source images and articles so that students can analyze these artworks to discuss comparisons. The history teacher, Cori Beach, will have students connect what they observed earlier in Egyptian art of a Kushite and Nubian battle scenes to the more realistic portrayal of soldiers in battle by the Greek artist Scopas. Donna Baughman, ELA teacher, will guide students to look closely at the artworks and to write in their journals brainstormed action verbs that help describe these battle scenes, such as the following:


Greek figures in the Scopas battle scene “lunging,” “stumbling,”


Expressive face of soldier by Leonardo described as “glaring” and “screaming”


Figures in the Michelangelo battle scene “twisting,” “arms thrusting”

Students will also make a list of transition words and bring these brainstorming journals with them to the writing workshop. Using this structure (adapted from Owl Writing Lab), students will write a comparison/contrast essay during the Writing Workshop with author Diane Stanley:

  • First: discuss how the Scopas battle scene is similar to either Leonardo’s or Michelangelo’s battle scene (and use specific examples and descriptive words).
  • Second: discuss how the Scopas and Renaissance battle scenes are different (and use specific examples and descriptive words).
  • Third: discuss characteristics of Scopas’ style (Hellenistic art) and evolving characteristics in Michelangelo’s or Leonardo’s art style (Renaissance, Humanistic art).

Looking Closely
We are excited to see how our fourth and sixth graders look closely at primary source images and quotes and connect to “Thinking Like Leonardo” and “Thinking Like Michelangelo” in this Writing Workshop. See below for further Leonardo resources to explore:

Treatise on Painting
(Leonardo’s notes on painting assembled and copied by his assistant, Francesco Melzi, and printed in 1651–Leonardo died in 1519)
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46915/46915-h/46915-h.htm

Math and Science Activities for Leonardo
http://www.loc.gov/loc/kidslc//LGpdfs/leo-teacher.pdf

Math Forum: Leonardo da Vinci Math Activity
http://mathforum.org/alejandre/frisbie/math/leonardo.html

Da Vinci: The Genius
(Museum of Science, Boston)
https://www.mos.org/leonardo/

Inventions Activity Quiz
https://www.mos.org/leonardo/activities/inventions-quiz

Mirror Writing (Writing Backwards)
https://www.mos.org/leonardo/activities/mirror-writing

Books:
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (for adult readers)
Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley
Michelangelo by Diane Stanley

Article:
“And the Winner Is…” by Jonathan Jones (discusses the
painting contest between Leonardo and Michangelo)
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2002/oct/22/artsfeatures.highereducation

Bibliography for Images:
Hamburger Low Polygon. Clip Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/186_1628980/1/186_1628980/cite. Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Botanical table by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), drawing 237. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/126_142634/1/126_142634/cite. Accessed 5 Jan 2018.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus: The Amazon Frieze. British Museum.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=540053001&objectId=460564&partId=1
Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Leonardo, Heads of Warriors, Study. Photo. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/109_223586/1/109_223586/cite. Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Michelangelo. Battle of Cascina. 1504. Fordham Art History.
Fordham University. https://michelangelo.ace.fordham.edu/items/show/12
Accessed 7 Dec 2017.

Leonardo da Vinci. c. 1514. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 31 Aug 2017.  quest.eb.com/search/140_1809909/1/140_1809909/cite. Accessed 7 Dec 2017.

Design Thinking @ Your Library, a SI2016 Recap

Librarians are, by our very nature, selfless creatures. We think about our users constantly, in just about every area of our work. From collection development to research instruction, web design to furniture and paint colors. But do we really know them and understand the full spectrum of their needs?

Enter Design Thinking @ Your Library, the 2016 AISL Summer Institute.

This June, 36 librarians came together from the four corners of the United States, representing Lower, Middle, and Upper Division libraries, all with a single mission: to learn how to “do” Design Thinking and to return to our schools ready to tackle challenges, great and small.

My background in Design Thinking is varied. Three years ago I participated in an awesome Leadership & Design Design Thinking workshop here at Emma Willard. We designed around the downtown Troy revitalization effort. This spring, I took an ALA course that applied DT to information literacy instruction.  I have read about it and watched videos on it. I was on a committee at school where we used it to study the effectiveness of blended learning in our classrooms. There have been some awesome Independent Idea blog posts in the past that dealt with the DT in the library, but in the vein of all the other awesome posts of late where bloggers admit their limitations,

I still couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how it would work, from start to finish, in the library world. There, I said it.

The Summer Institute changed all of that.

We started with an opening cocktail party where we mingled and got to know one another. We enjoyed delicious food and drink but then…it was time to get down to business. We split up into teams for a quick, fun Marshmallow Design Challenge.

Photo Jun 21, 7 37 57 PM (1)Many a group has attempted this challenge before, from Kindergartners to PhDs , engineers to corporate executives. Who do you think is the most successful? The engineers? Think again! It’s the little ones! Why? Because they are completely open minded. They jump right in and start building. Adults plan, contemplate the “what ifs”, and basically eat up their 18 minutes. Kids aren’t afraid to fail. They build. It falls down. They try again. If you need a great team building activity for a faculty meeting, this is a great one.

Photo Jun 22, 2 04 45 PM

Highlights of the SI included a fantastic keynote by Steven Bell giving us a birds eye view, or WHY Design Thinking works in tackling our “wicked problems”. Two of my amazing colleagues, science teachers and experienced design thinkers, then stepped in to teach us HOW to do it. We practiced as a group designing around my nemesis: a rickety wooden book cart circa 1960-somethin’, that hurts me, literally, falling over when I least expect it, bruising my shins. My assistant and I explained our many problems with the cart, the group interviewed us further to practice the empathy stage of the DT process, then everyone broke into teams to determine what they thought the “real” problem was (ie: was it a physical cart issue or a process issue?). That was an interesting conversation in and of itself! Their prototypes were AMAZING, and included, among other features, a student-led shelving system, fancy carts with huge tires, device charging stations so that we can listen to music while we shelve, flat, adjustable shelves to accommodate oversize books and a laptop for doing inventory, among other things. Designs shared via Twitter were picked up by Demco. How cool is that? I digress…

The final part of the conference was the one that my colleagues and I were most anxious about. How could we divide such a diverse group into balanced teams, around shared challenges in varied divisions, in a way that made sense and provided them with real, applicable, takeaways from the SI?

On the fly, we asked them to take a piece of paper, write their division at the top, their challenge as a headline, and at the bottom, which “track” of the SI their challenge fell under: Research, Physical Space, Maker, or simply “Other”.

You know what? IT TOTALLY WORKED.

Rather than tell you about their intriguing challenges, their thoughtful “What If…” statements, their design horizons, and their prototypes, why don’t you check it out on your own in this SI Libguide I created? While you’re there, feel free to visit the presentations, see the recommended reading, and download the free DT Toolkit provided by IDEO.

How can we ensure that we are creating the spaces, programs, and lessons that our community needs, both now and in the future? We do what we do best: we observe, we question, we listen, we invite other perspectives to the table, we think outside the box, we take risks, we try things! Whether we realize it or not, the skill set emphasized in design thinking is very much what we as librarians do best.

SI Participants, feel free to share your reflections below. If anyone has questions or if you would like to discuss the experience further, please let me know!

SI2017 will be here before you know it! It will be hosted by Caroline Bartels at the Horace Mann School in NYC focusing on One Book One School. More info to come as planning progresses.

I wish you all an excellent start to the ’16-’17 school year!

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