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Digital and Media Literacy Curriculums

 

TO PREVENT DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE AMONG MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL LEARNERS

(Free and Downloadable)

 

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs participated in the development of curricula to help young people make healthy choices in a media- and technology-rich society. For young people to thrive in a media- and technology-saturated society, teachers and parents must help students critically evaluate the information they receive from the mass media and learn how to reflect upon and analyze their media consumption choices.

Digital and media literacy emphasizes the skills of analyzing, evaluating, and creating digital and media messages.
 
Digital and media literacy skills are basic, 21st-century literacy skills that everyone needs in order to navigate the world today. Digital and media literacy skills help students to evaluate the quality and accuracy of what they watch, see, and read. They help them recognize how and why media messages appeal to us, sharpening our awareness of unstated but implied messages. In addition, digital and media literacy skills increase students' ability to select the media they consume more thoughtfully.
 
The core concepts of digital and media literacy are:
1)      Media messages are constructed.
2)      Media messages are produced within economic, social, political, historical, and aesthetic contexts.
3)      The process of message interpretation consists of an interaction between the reader, the text, and the culture.
4)      Media use language and other symbol systems with codes and conventions associated with different genres and forms of communication.
5)      Media representations play a role in people’s understanding of and participation in social reality.
6)      Media messages reflect and shape individual and social behavior, attitudes, and values.
 
These curricula were last revised in 2014 (middle school) and 2015 (high school) and will no longer receive updates or revisions; therefore, please be advised that those downloading and using the curriculum may need to revise certain outdated content and links with more current and up-to-date examples, etc.  The PowerPoints and supplemental resources referenced in the middle school curriculum are no longer available.
 

​Middle School Curriculum

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 Media Straight Up! Critical Thinking Skills for Pennsylvania’s Youth

The Media Straight Up! is designed to be flexibly used in the context of middle school English, Language Arts, Health Education, Communication Arts, or Technology classes. These lessons can also be useful for after-school programs. Each lesson is a stand-alone activity that may require from one to six class periods, depending upon student response.

The Media Straight Up! consists of twelve lesson plans, handouts, and visual support materials. Multimedia materials help teachers create a dynamic learning experience for students, and many activities are designed to strengthen reading comprehension and analysis skills while building students’ knowledge of health-prevention issues. Some lessons are designed to take advantage of the media that middle school students tend to consume (such as online videos). However, we recognize the limitations that many teachers face in incorporating online media in their classrooms, and have included alternative options for all online activities.

In this downloadable guide, you will learn about how the skills of digital and media literacy can contribute to young people’s abilities to understand how media messages affect their perceptions of drugs and alcohol, and may influence the choices they make.

Adolescents are big consumers of media—in particular, music, television, video games, and the Internet. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that American youth between the ages of eleven and fourteen spend nearly nine hours per day using media. And when multitasking is taken into consideration, youth consume almost twelve hours of media in any given day. Over the last several years, cell phones have significantly changed the way young people consume and create media, with 69% of eleven- to fourteen-year-olds now owning their own cell phones. Youth use cell phones not only to communicate with friends but also to play games, listen to music, and look at, create, and share photos and videos.

Most parents and educators have a love-hate relationship with media, as they see how it influences the day-to-day lives of young people. The positive influences of media contribute to our students’ formal and informal education. But the negative influences of media can promote unhealthy and risky behaviors among teens, including sexual activity, violence, alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse.

For young people to thrive in a media- and technology-saturated society, teachers and parents must help students to critically evaluate the information they receive from the mass media and learn how to reflect upon and analyze their media consumption choices.
This curriculum helps students:
• Recognize how media messages influence them. Students will internalize the skills they need to protect themselves against messages about drugs or unhealthy lifestyle choices.
 
• Develop critical thinking.
When youth learn to analyze media, they uncover the messages about drugs that are embedded in media. Students can decide for themselves whether to accept or reject those messages.
 
• Foster healthy self-esteem.
Students who are skilled and knowledgeable about media and advertising techniques can use media to creatively produce messages of their own.

​High School Curriculum

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PUSHING BACK:  Responding to Representation of Drugs and Alcohol in Popular Culture

This twelve-lesson curriculum, designed for high school learners in grades 9 through 12, can be used in a variety of in-school and out-of-school settings. In addition to health classes, it can be used in digital media and technology classes, English, Social Studies, and arts courses. It is also easily adaptable to co-teaching or cross-curriculum integration. It is aligned to Common Core standards (see Appendix C for a lesson-by-lesson breakdown), and lessons in this curriculum also align to standards in multiple disciplines. (For example, Visual Arts Educators can readily identify connections to the National Core Arts Standards.)

This guide helps learners analyze representation of drug and alcohol use in media and popular culture and create media productions that talk back to inaccurate, dangerous, or incomplete portrayals of risky behaviors. These media talk-backs are flexible to a number of different pressing issues facing young people, including behaviors involving illegal, prescription, and recreational drugs.
 
In order for teens to make healthy choices in our media- and technology-rich society, they must learn to critically evaluate the information they receive from media and reflect upon their own media choices—in other words, they must learn key digital and media literacy skills. Digital and media literacy can help young people develop the critical thinking skills needed to understand how media messages affect their perceptions of drugs and alcohol in today’s drug culture.

Research has shown that a digital and media literacy approach can support substance abuse prevention goals by increasing media literacy skills in general and specifically with regard to:
• substance abuse and skepticism toward media messages;
• increasing the ability to resist pro-drug messages;
• increasing the ability to produce counter-messages; and
• decreasing the intention to use drugs and alcohol in the future.
 
In addition, digital and media literacy skills empower youth to be positive forces of substance abuse prevention efforts by teaching them how to understand, interpret, create, and share media messages.
This guide is designed to help high school educators build learners’ skills in both analyzing and creating media messages, helping learners better understand how media affects them, and how to make healthy lifestyle decisions that will improve the quality of their lives.  This guide is designed to help high school educators build learners’ skills in both analyzing and creating media messages, helping learners better understand how media affects them, and how to make healthy lifestyle decisions that will improve the quality of their lives.

We WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

Share your thoughts on the middle school and high school curricula. We would appreciate feedback on your experience with the curricula.