“You’re a Winner”: An Exploratory Study of the Influence of Exposure on Teachers’ Awareness of Media Literacy

“You’re a Winner”: An Exploratory Study of the Influence of Exposure on Teachers’ Awareness of Media Literacy

J. Egbert (Washington State University - Pullman, USA) and Leslie Huff (Saint Martin’s University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1855-8.ch017
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Pre-service teachers who use the Internet both for course preparation and student resources need to be aware of and also help their future students understand the influences under which the Internet operates. In this paper, the authors explore pre-service teachers’ awareness of Internet hegemonies and investigate whether and how this awareness changes after a classroom lesson, activity, and practice focused on media literacy. Qualitative methods were chosen to deeply explore the teacher education students’ ideas about, perceptions of, and process for considering the issues raised. Seventy teacher education students participated, and the data indicate that even brief exposure to media literacy principles might make a difference in the ways that teachers perceive and use computer-based media. Implications and suggestions for teacher education are noted and proposals for further research included.
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Internet Hegemony

Hegemony can be defined as the influence of one group or idea over another, often enforced by implicit persuasion. Hegemony is not necessarily always bad, but it can be harmful when people do not see that they have choices either because they are not aware of its influences or they do not know how to change the situation. Much has been said about the Internet as greatly influenced by capitalist, Western, commercial hegemony; for example, Smith Nash (2002) claims that results and implications of Internet hegemony include that “the English language becomes the arbiter of reality,” non-English sites are “ghettoized,” and diversity is flattened rather than extended to a diverse global community. Although the Internet can be said to have “voluntary” or consensual membership (Hendricks, 2004), when its use is mandated by curricula or peer pressure or even just interest, users need help in identifying underlying issues and ideas that may impact their use. Some of these issues, cited as dangers by MediaLiteracy.com (http://www.medialiteracy.com/), include

  • Fewer voices, as media ownership is consolidated in the hands of fewer than 10 wealthy individuals and global corporations

  • News bias and public relations spin

  • Violence packaged as entertainment

  • Children and teens targeted by corporate advertisers

  • Digital photo and film manipulation

  • Media effects on community and personal relationships

Quinlisk (2003) adds that “the globalization of media means that a more limited variety of cultural stories are being told to an increasingly worldwide audience” (p. 35). Clearly, value-laden content is unavoidable, but making those values salient to students is crucial.

Few solutions to the problem of Internet hegemonies and their influences on students have yet been proposed, although increasing attention is being directed toward the issue by researchers and educators (Hobbs, 2008). Coiro (2003), for example, agrees that all Internet users need to be able to take a critical stance toward digital media “fact” and “truth.” One solution that she provides is for students to work together to build lists of web sites that they have approved, thereby avoiding Internet filtering and providing safe resources for themselves and peers. For students to be able to evaluate web sites credibly implies that they are media literate, which is most often not the case.

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