Students today are inundated with advertising from any number of sources, including television commercials, online advertisements, billboard and print ads. These advertisements are carefully planned to appeal to certain age groups, and make it seem as though the consumer can't live without the coveted object of their desire. Meanwhile, students are also faced with texts at school which seem to be the exact opposite. They are not marketed to appeal to student interests, and bring to light the "contradiction that exists between the educational system and the sociocultural environment into which students are born" (Funes, 2008, p.166). Schools need to shift their thinking and begin helping students become literate in the ways of audiovisual advertising.
It is no longer up to the teachers to be the ones with all the knowledge, while the students happily consume what they are told. It is more important than ever for our students to develop critical literacy skills. Teachers need to embrace the cultural norms of today, and use them in their teaching practice, rather than turning back towards the teaching methods of the past.
This means adopting new practices that go beyond simply reading and writing, and incorporate mediums like online texts and images. Schools need to meet students where they are, and bring the outside world of Instagram and Twitter into the classroom. Students are in need of guidance about how to navigate our sound-bite, image-obsessed culture. School should be the place where we provide our students with guidance about how to navigate the world.
An example of this is using commercials for popular products, for example McDonald's food or iPods, to develop critical thinking schools. The goal is to present the images or commercials free from any implied bias on the part of educator and allow the students to reflect on what they are seeing. "The aim is to achieve an action-reflection-action process in which the student starts from his or her own experience...The teacher's role is to stimulate the analysis and reflection process" (Funes, 2008, p. 170). Instead of being the all-knowing disseminator of knowledge, the teacher steps back and allows students the freedom to develop their own ideas about what they are being presented with. In this way, our schools need to become places in which students are guided as they learn how to think for themselves and become savvy analyzers of culture rather than innocent consumers.
Funes, V. S. (2008). Advertising and Consumerism: A Space for Pedagogical Practice. In D. Silberman-Keller, Mirror Images (pp. 159-177). Peter Lang AG.
Further Ideas for the Classroom: