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Editorial Introduction

Critical Uses of Media & Technology: Teaching for Social Justice with and about 21st Century Tools

In the 21st century it is imperative that we critically explore how and why our mediated lives shape our decisions and democratic life. Traditional notions of literacy that fail to engage current realities of a media-saturated, technologically dependent, and globally connected world are no longer efficient, effective or ethical. In this issue of Center XChange, we focus on the importance of engaging new media and technology through critical media and techno literacies that aim to empower students as active participants in society.

At Center X we believe that transforming public schooling to be more just and equitable demands increasing involvement and building interconnections with the local community and society at large. For this second issue of the Center XChange we explore the changing landscape of education for social justice as affected by new information communication technologies. We focus on transformative education through a 21st century approach that critically analyzes and uses these new tools of communication. Progressive work in this area encourages students to analyze and create media messages that challenge dominant ideologies and voice marginalized perspectives.  

In our XPress feature, we present a collection of theoretical ideas from scholars at UCLA like Douglas Kellner, Leah Lievrouw, Ernest Morrell, Jane Margolis and others. These authors analyze changes in popular culture, new media, new information communication technology, and the need for different pedagogical responses. In our Teacher Workroom feature, we include lesson plans and teacher guides with practical how-to information and examples of everything from podcasting to deconstructing television commercials. This material covers media literacy lessons for kindergarteners up to graduate students. In the Student Commons feature, we present six examples of graduate student work in urban schools that engages with critical media pedigogy. Most of the students are working in urban schools in which they have brought critical media literacy into their classrooms. A final section called On My Shelf provides short reviews of a handful of favorite media that I recommend from my shelf for teaching critically about and with media and technology.

There are currently more and more organizations supporting the teaching of 21st century literacy skills and critical media literacy pedagogy. In 2008, people from UCLA and around the country worked together to write a position statement on Media Literacy for the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) released in February 2009 and available online. Critical media literacy is an essential pedagogy to respond to the changes in society and more teacher organizations are recognizing this as can be seen in the inclusion of many media literacy objectives in the standards for English Language Arts by the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association (NCTE/IRA).

A critical media literacy framework is a powerful pedagogical tool that can guide teachers and students to embrace many literacies that are inclusive, culturally relevant and socially transformative. Democratic citizens in the 21st century need to know how to critically analyze the messages that bombard them daily and respond by creating alternative representations that heighten their agency.

We want to deeply thank all the contributors to this issue (authors, publishers, students, and artists) for their generous permission to share their work with others in this public forum.

Thank you for visiting and exploring our website. We hope that you find something useful in the theory and/or the practical applications for moving forward in the critical teaching with and about media and technology. If we can help, don’t hesitate to contact us.

All the Best,
Jeff Share, Editor Fall 2009

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