Teach Diversity to Me!

 

In April 2012 the Canadian Media Awareness Network (MNet) launched That’s Not Me – an online tutorial to help educators and community leaders approach diversity issues through key concepts of media literacy. The tutorial examines how entertainment and news media, including the Internet, depict diversity, i.e. ethnic and visible minorities, such as religious and ingenious people, LGBT or persons with disabilities. It further studies the negative impact these media portrayals can have on the young people’s perception of diverse populations, such as stereotyping or othering. The tutorial also explores changes in the media industry conditioned by social developments and provides strategies for challenging negative representations and engaging young people in advocating for more realistic and positive media portrayals.

 

That’s Not Me Tutorial is part of the Diversity and Media Toolbox developed by the MNet with the support of the Canadian Department of Justice. Apart from media representation of diversity in media, the toolbox also looks at online hate and targets a broader audience, including law enforcement representatives and the general public.

 

Contents


That’s Not Me Tutorial is designed for high-school students. It is broken down in several classroom lessons, one to four hours each. A kit for every lesson, including a plan, interactive student modules, handouts, overheads and background reading, is freely available online.

 

The lessons build upon key media literacy concepts, such as “media are constructions that re-present reality”, “media contain ideological messages”, “media have commercial implications”, “audiences negotiate meaning” and “each medium has a distinct aesthetic form”. Through these concepts, the students explore the issues related to bias and crime in media; minority participation, representation and ownership in media; ethics and guidelines in journalism; diversity representation in films, TV shows and video games; as well as consequences of underrepresentation and inaccurate portrayals of diversity.

 

Bringing diversity challenge to the classrooms


That’s Not Me lessons are far from being purely informative as they aim to challenge the students’ perception and expression with regard to diversity. Within this framework, the students are invited to consider, for example, whether and when a person’s religion should be mentioned in a news article, how to recognise bias in news reporting or how to take action on issues relating to diversity in media by stating and supporting their opinion. In addition, each class calls for the students’ active participation, ranging from reading and evaluation of a variety of news sources, research, discussion or debate to creating media products, such as a public service announcement, an intentionally biased news report, a comment on a blog, a letter to the editor or a design for a video game.

 

The Media Awareness Network(MNet) is a Canadian non-profit organisation that has been pioneering the development of media and digital literacy programs since its incorporation in Ottawa in 1996. MNet focuses its efforts on equipping adults, such as parents or teaching professionals, with information and tools to help young people understand how the media work and how the media, including Internet, may affect their lifestyle choices. The MNet products are supported by original research on media-related topics such as stereotyping, media violence, information privacy, Canadian cultural policies and online hate. The resources are available in English and French.

 

Visual presentation of That’s not Me

 

Christina BAGLAI