Diversifying Cultural Curriculum Through Media Literacy & Film: An Ethnographic Exploration of Teaching Media Literacy in Wisconsin Public Schools
By Philo Films and Issues April 2016


Philo’s hope is to provide an opportunity for local students to learn about diversity and other cultures through film, by teaching students how to be media literate and interpret the messages portrayed through digital media. At Hamilton Elementary School Philo is responding to a push from the community and educators to diversify cultural the curriculum. The community is in search of lessons that authentically educate on the minority populations of La Crosse Wisconsin. The Hmong and Laotian history and perspective get very little attention in the present curriculum, even though a growing active Hmong community exists in La Crosse. Similarly the Latino and Native American perspective do not receive much attention. The nonwhite and immigrant populations of the U.S. are steadily growing in number and so is access to digital media. The community wants their youngsters to be educated on the trends and tools of the modern world they live in. Anything on TV, social media, video games, the radio and music are examples of digital media. Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms. It is a valuable skill that allows people to evaluate how different groups and cultures are portrayed in the media, a theme that lacks authenticity in our modern media platforms.
Media literacy is a valuable tool to becoming a compassionate, positive and educated member of society. For better or worse the majority of elementary school children can turn on the TV or access YouTube on an iPhone. Once they access that digital media platform they could easily be exposed to the countless biases and underlying messages of the mass media. Nike, Apple,Coca-Cola, the NFL and political pundits are not worrying about whether or not the child is media literate enough to critically analyze motive ridden messages. For that very reason we must prepare the children with the proper preparation and education to becoming independent, empathetic, critically thinking community members. One form of digital media they will frequently be exposed to is film, movies and television shows. Film specifically, provides valuable information about an elusive history by acting as a vehicle for historical analysis, personal discovery, transmission of tragedy, entertainment, and education. Our presentation focuses on teaching the students to be media literate through analyzing film techniques, in hopes they learn to think for themselves.