The American School/The Role of Media in Education

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American public schools are largely a product of the quest for progress (Cassidy, 2004). Schools are constantly looking for ways to enrich their curriculum for students and provide educational tools for them that will help them with life further in time. Americans were not the first to invent schooling but were the first to believe that if the people are educated to a certain degree then they can rule themselves. The first sentence of this paper could also read that American technology is largely a product of the quest for progress, is this not true also? That is why education and technology or the media go hand in hand in the 21st century.

The role of media and technology in education is quite obvious in today’s educational settings. Schools are loaded with computers and even here at Northern Michigan University students receive a laptop to help them with academic studies. This is part of NMU’s Laptop Initiative plan that believes providing every student with a laptop will help improve their academic performance. However media comes in many different forms, such as; internet, TV, radio, and books, all of these media have affected the way students learn. Around the world students are being globally connected with one another via internet (Rolls, 2007). These mass media tools have made the world a smaller place in a way, also called (globalization). The way media affects education are great and varied when you think about it. Back when Columbus sailed the ocean blue the world had the misconception that the earth was flat, and why did they have this theory? Because that is what was printed on every map that was distributed back then making media at fault. Media is such a massive part of our lives and it is everywhere we turn. How could it not affect our lives in terms of education? Before we can dive into all the benefits of media to education it is important that the educators of students and students themselves become what is called “media literate”. This is the ability to decipher the hidden messages in mass media. Teacher education needs media literacy as an essential tool and topic in the new millennium (Schwarz, 2001). Let’s face it, media has changed the world. Media such as internet, is constantly growing and changing, thus educators must stay with the times and keep up by using these tools for their students. With the help of new media power teachers would be more able to offer students information from around the world at an even faster and easier rate.

Why should teachers be media literate?[edit | edit source]

Media literacy merits a place in teacher education because it encourages critical thinking in a media-dominated age (Schwarz, 2001). This also engages students more and makes connections between life and school. It is not enough for students just to become media literate. Teachers must model media literacy for their students also. This goes way back to when you were just a baby. A baby learns at first by replicating what it sees others do. If a teacher demonstrates media literacy then so will the students. This can be seen if anybody has ever been taught the difference between legitimate and illegitimate websites. What information to trust online can be based almost by the dot com ending of the website address. Information with a dot gov ending is more reliable that a dot com. It is easy to place media literacy in established school curriculum such as social science, language, and communications; media affects all of these areas of study (Cassidy, 2004). Media literacy in social studies allows future teachers to "uncover hidden assumptions, to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, to recognize biases, to separate fact from opinion, and ultimately, to determine the strength of the mass medium's message (Schwarz, 2001). Already media has effected education in the sense that it has created a new subject area to study, a special way just to decipher the media messages that both student and teacher alike should learn. Of all the new fields created by media evolution, Public Relations, or PR is the best example. It is based solely on ones ability to create media for a mass audience with certain undertones of persuasiveness to it, like getting people to go to a concert. PR people control media and bend it to their will so they can manipulate people. As this paper progresses it will look at other ways the educational system has been shaped and molded by today’s ever growing mass media market. Understanding media literacy however is the first step before moving forward with explain the other parts of media in education.

Media's Influence on Children[edit | edit source]

Media's influence on children has steadily increased as new and more sophisticated types of media have been developed and made available to the American public. Beneficial effects include early readiness for learning, educational enrichment, opportunities to view or participate in discussions of social issues, exposure to the arts through music and performance, and entertainment. Harmful effects may result from sensationalization of violent behavior, exposure to subtle or explicit sexual content, promotion of unrealistic body images, presentation of poor health habits as desirable practices, and exposure to persuasive advertising targeting children (Influence on Children media, retrieved on Sept 23rd 07). As you can tell, media acts as that double-edged sword that can hurt as much as help whoever wields it. That is why it is so important to stress the education of media literacy starting at a young age. If that happens I believe that video games would be blamed less for violent actions because the child should know the difference between real world and fantasy. I have taken many media courses and even a media literacy course here at NMU but with the way media is changing the world today children need to learn before the college level about media literacy. A child who is media illiterate is more vulnerable to being influenced by messages in all kinds of media (Williams, retrieved on Sept 23rd 07).

Specific domains of influence exist that could affect children, they are; violence and aggressive behavior, sexual content, body image and self-esteem, and finally physical health and school performance. Everyone has heard about violence being a problem in media today. Kids watch TV or movies and want to mimic their favorite stars; however they must learn to be able to separate reality from fantasy. This comes from a good solid education in media literacy. Girls more than boys have personal image problems from the constant pressure of media for them to waif thin and so called “pretty.” This in turn would lead to worse academic performance mainly because the student might be starving themselves and without proper nutrition they cannot learn properly in a school environment. Teachers should not bear the sole responsibility for educating kids about media literacy though; parental monitoring is a key factor, since the research studies show that increasing guidance from parents is at least as important as simply reducing media violence. Children may learn negative behavior patterns and values from many other experiences as well as TV programs, and parental guidance is needed to help children sort out these influences and develop the ability to make sound decisions on their own(Influence on Children Media, retrieved on Sept 23rd 07).

Media in Terms of Globalization[edit | edit source]

Could it be that economic and social changes brought about by globalization are forcing us to revolutionize our approach to education? This is a very tough question and the answer depends on who you talk to and what you read. In fact, with the widespread use of internet around the globe information is available at our fingertips quicker than ever these days. This in my opinion would have to alter all school curricula. Students are more aware of the world outside of their birthplace thanks to the internet. In “College Goes Global” William R. Brody speculates that there will be a rise to what he calls a “megaversity.” He defines this as a research and educational dynamo electronically linking the best faculty and most capable students in a worldwide academic community. The key word in the definition is “linking”; linking is what makes it all possible for students to utilize the internet for the benefit of gaining knowledge from a worldwide standpoint. Imagine a classroom with all current and the best technology in it. Projectors, computers, TVs, and anything else in it, this would be a true media laced learning center. Students would be able to connect to all parts of the world easily to obtain information they need to learn. The media center concept has received widespread support from educational organizations and from professionals who consider a sound media program a prerequisite to higher quality education (Poston, 1978).

Technology in Education[edit | edit source]

Computers and Internet connections are becoming widely available in schools and classrooms. In 1999, 99 percent of teachers in the United States had access to a computer in their schools, and 84 percent had one or more computers in their classrooms. These are staggering numbers and that was only eight years ago. Just imagine what the numbers would look like now. The availability of media is everywhere. One angle that you might not have thought of are the benefits of media to teachers. Teachers can use media to help find problems that fit real world situations for their students. A good example of this for construction students or math students, figuring out correct angles to build a bridge or build underground tunnels is a very real life job. Students could use real bridges numbers and statistical information in their problem solving helping them really learn what it took to build that bridge. But sometimes problems are not as easy as this, unlike problems that occur in the real world, technology can incorporate graphics, video, animation, and other tools to create problems that can be explored repeatedly. Multimedia representations are easier to understand than problems presented as text (Williams, retrieved Sept 23 07).

Internet and videoconferencing technology allow students to participate in projects sponsored by researchers around the world. In the Jason Project, satellite and Internet technology bring classroom students into direct real-time contact with leading scientists, conducting scientific research expeditions around the globe (Williams, retrieved sept 23 07). This sense of global community is one of the largest benefits to education from media development. Everyone sharing one common pool of knowledge where no one man is smarter than the next and all information is equally available to both.

Media’s Non-direct Effects on Education[edit | edit source]

Following a shooting near one Detroit public school and another inside a school, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Detroit Public Schools CEO William Coleman have developed a short-term plan for stronger school security (Moore, 2005). Just this past year at Virgina Tech University a massive school shooting took place also. These shootings were started by disturbed students, but why? And why at school? Is it possible that the students were brainwashed by forms of media and had such poor training in media literacy that they could not socialize with other students and not tell the difference between real life and fantasy. On April 20, 1999, two seniors killed 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. This marked the first school shooting ever and America’s citizens were stunned. Not too long after the incident forms of media were being blamed for the horrible situation. Violent video games and music had the fingers pointed their ways but was it really media’s fault? I believe that it was a case of media fueling media, and Glenn Muschert agrees with me. Muschert, who studies mass media coverage of high profile crimes, with attention to how the media defines social problems, maintains the fear created from Columbine fuels a misperception of how violence affects the country's youth. While most believe violence leads to more violence, that doesn't track with reality. Statistics at the time of Columbine showed that one child in 2,000,000 will be fatally shot at school per year--the same odds as being struck by lightning (Muschert, 2003). This blame of media causing school violence also lead to a nationwide security crackdown of all schools and campuses. Police officers patrol halls of high schools with loaded guns, metal detectors are in place at the buildings front doors to deter anyone wanting to smuggle in a gun. Entire drill plans like a tornado or fire drill have been invented in case of a school shooting. The media blew Columbine out of proportion in a sense that is was over covered and saturated everyone’s TV screen for the next 2 weeks, it did place this element of fear in parents heads that their children are no longer safe even at school. All because the media decided to show how horrific the event at Columbine was and repeated it time after time after time. Community recovery was hampered by a common response among those with responsibility for Columbine, especially members of the school staff and journalists who continued to mine the story (Cote, Simpson, 2006).

Role of Media in Education Revisited[edit | edit source]

As the reader can see, media plays a large direct and non-direct role in education. Through the advent of new technology the world has been brought closer together in attempts to share knowledge and educate the masses. Media can help and hinder in an educational environment, but as long as its use is monitored by someone who is media literate there should be limited problems. As this paper has highlighted media is everywhere in today’s world. One cannot help but be exposed to it at all times. Logically, it would make sense that media would play a role in education around the globe. From violence to sharing global ideas in a virtual community it is because of media and the recent media explosion i.e. the internet lately that education can thank for helping push young minds forward at an accelerated learning pace. Although media literacy is a problem students seem to be finding their own ways in the world of technology and are making the best of it to really better their minds.

Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. How do television shows, movies, and video games teenagers watch interact with their education?
  2. What if a school is unable to afford computers or current technology?
  3. With students becoming more able minded with technology does that not make it easier for them to cheat?
  4. Are there any differences between public and private schools use of media?

References[edit | edit source]

  • Bates, A.W. and Poole, G. (2003). N Effective Teaching in Higher Education, retrieved September23, 2007, from
  • Cassidy, M (2004). Book Ends: The Changing Media Environment of American Classrooms. New Jersey: Cresskill.
  • Cote, W & Simpson, R. (2006). Covering Violence: A Guide to Ethical Reporting about Victims and Trauma. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Moore, Melody, (2005). Safe Schools. Michigan Chronicle, retrieved on September 20 2007, from
  • Muschert, Glenn, (2003). Columbine Coverage Shook the Nation. USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), retrieved on September 20 2007, from
  • Poston, Teresa. (1978) Concept of school media center and its services. Peabody Journal of Education, 55, 188-204. Retrieved on September 23 2007, from JSTOR Database.
  • Rolls, A. (2007) The Reference Shelf: International Perspectives on Education. USA: The H.W. Wilson Company.
  • Schwarz, Gretchen, (2001). The Role of Media Literacy in Teaching Education. Teacher Education Quarterly, retrieved on September 20 2007, from
  • Williams, Susan, Technology in Education, retrieved on September 23 2007, from

No Author, (2002). Influence on Children Media Etc, retrieved on September 23 2007, from

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