Media Literacy & Classroom Technology

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday we provide a resource, activity, or methodological conversation to help you bring film analysis into your classroom. This week we look at a video produced by Edutopia that talks about technology in the modern educational process.

Edutopia is run by The George Lucas Educational Foundation, an organization that aims to improve K-12 learning by documenting, disseminating, and advocating for innovative strategies that enable students to succeed in the classroom.


The Modern Teacher & Technology

When used in an innovative manner, technology has the potential to reinforce critical thinking skills and enable students to be active participants in their own education.

When you create you take ownership of your learning. You understand it in a very different way. . .

—Adam Bellow, Outstanding Young Educator of the Year, ISTE 2011.

What are your thoughts?  

Do you use technology in your classroom?

Would you like to bring a Labragirl Film Project film production & film analysis camp to your students? Click here.

For information about Edutopia and integrated studies: Click here.

You can also find Edutopia on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Follow Labragirl, too! 


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Film Shaping Minds

Welcome to the ’13-’14 school year.

This week we are kicking off our ’13-’14 AY Moving Images-Moving Forward blog.

The mission of our blog is to provide film and media literacy resources to middle school, high school, and college educators.  In this space, we will create conversations about film analysis related resources, classroom activities, and pedagogy.  We will also provide interactive discussions that you can use in your classrooms.

Every Monday at 9AM (Mountain) we will post a film literacy resource, classroom activity, or educational discussion.

This week Executive Director, Laurie Chin Sayres discusses:

  1. the importance of being film and media literate; and
  2. why it’s important to bring film analysis into history classes.

Please comment below or discuss with us on 


Film Shaping Minds

by Laurie Chin Sayres


Film camp student explores moving images and lighting.

In many years of teaching students at multiple levels, one truth has become clear to me: students, even those having the benefit of strong curricula and innovative teaching methods, often lack the ability to effectively understand how images shape their understanding of events and how they view the world.

Therefore, it is critical that we bring film and media literacy into our classrooms to:

1) equip students with critical thinking skills;

2) engage students with the educational process; and

3) provide students with the skills necessary to be capable citizens.

We often downplay or even ignore the influence moving images have on our understanding of the world because we consider movies and TV to be entertainment only.  Although I agree that film and television primarily serve as entertainment in our society, making the assumption that movies and TV do not shape the way see the world simply because these moving images may not influence our factual reality is dangerous. This dismissive perspective prevents us from bringing film into our educational system in any meaningful capacity.

Our understanding of the world is formed by personal interaction with people, places, and things, and in large part, by movie and TV images.  Once we see something it becomes a visual reality—even if not a factual reality.  For example, we know that Jaws is not a real shark, yet the moving images of the animatronic shark have clearly shaped our collective image of great white sharks and our behaviors towards the ocean and beach culture.

Similar to reading illiteracy, students who cannot decode or think critically about moving images are at a disadvantage because they do not have the ability to navigate a world saturated with moving images.  To help students become media literate and understand the role of images in shaping the way they see the world, it is important to shift from talking about thematic content to analyzing moving images from a visual and technical perspective.

Helping students read and decode moving images includes teaching them about the components of images, from camera framing to lighting to editing. With this knowledge, students will be able to see and discuss the ways images convey certain ideas and attitudes. An effective hands-on vehicle to teach these lessons is film production. This tactile approach adds an important dimension to students’ understanding of film literacy.

Armed with film literacy skills, students will then be able to engage in critical thinking conversations about how moving images shape our ideas and perspectives, providing students with valuable education and life skills. For example, students will be able to discuss the ways extreme close-up (XCU) shots have the ability to convey more intimate emotion and the ways lighting can shape the attitude we have toward the subjects in the image.

It is no secret that once we leave the classroom we find ourselves in a world where its understanding of history is largely shaped by media images, not academic study.  So, let’s bring film into social studies classrooms to help students navigate both the academic study of history and also our collective popular culture image of the past—the version of history our society uses to make many of its decisions.

A discussion example can be found in Glory.  This 1989 film ends with the camera first zooming into a close-up of several dead African-American Civil War soldiers, then the camera moves in even closer to see the one white officer who agreed to lead this regiment, dead in the trenches. Would the idea of the past have been different if the film ended a few scenes earlier with a medium shot of soldiers both charging their enemies and also falling to the bayonet? Both scenes can be construed as “factually accurate,” yet visually each scene leaves audiences with a very different picture of the past.

Once students recognize that film images have influence on the ways we think they respond with enthusiasm. For they are now able to think critically about the moving images that surround them in the classroom and as they move throughout their lives.


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Reading Film

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last time a guest blogger from the film production company, Labragirl Picturesour sister companytook a critical look at historical fiction movies.

This week we will talk about a resource that teaches us how to read film and other forms of media images.

What do you think about film reading? Do you use film analysis and film reading in your classroom?

Please comment below or discuss with us on .



Classroom Resource Suggestion:

How to Read a Film: Movies Media and Beyond by James Monaco

A Labragirl suggested text for learning how to analyze and read film. {Click on image for source info.}

Third edition. {Click on image for source info.}

About How to Read a FilmOriginally published in 1997, How to Read a Film is now in its fourth edition. This work takes a look at how to read films and other forms of media.

Why How to Read a Film?  

Being able to interact and think critically about film and visual images is an important and necessary skill—especially as our society becomes more saturated with media images. One of the first steps to acquiring these skills is learning about the technical aspects of visual images. How to Read a Film takes a detailed look at how to read visual images within a framework of creating conversation about how we communicate visually.

Suggestions for use:

Because of the detailed nature of the work we would suggest using the text in the following ways:

  • As an assigned text in college classes
  • Assign parts of the text in high school classes
  • The concepts and ideas can be used at many additional grade-levels. To use this work in K-Middle School we recommend that the teacher read the text and then use information and ideas from the text to create grade-appropriate exercises.

Do you teach film reading and film analysis?

What are some exercises you use?

Have you used How to Read a Film in your classroom?

We’d love to hear from you.

Please comment below or discuss with us on .

*Disclaimer: All movie clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 


UP NEXT 3/18: Downton Abbey in Your Classroom!

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Previous Blog Entries

Fictional Projections of History

Think Globally Using Film

Our Relationship with Movies

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images


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