Media Literacy Online Project - Serving Educators Around The World
Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene

Review of Scanning Television

Author: Kathleen Tyner
Telemedium, the Journal of Media Literacy,
Volume 42, Number 2, Summer1996
Published by the National Telemedia Council
120 Wilson Street
Madison, WI 53703

Scanning Television: Videos for Media Literacy in Class by John Pungente,SJ, and Gary Marcuse produced by the Jesuit Communication Project and Face to Face Media with teacher's guide by Neil Andersen and John Pungente, SJ

Scanning Television is one of those classroom resources that forces me to re-examine my bias against educational "kits". With a few exceptions, I look at kits as a gross violation of resource-based education principles. While it is nice for beginning teachers to have some materials to "work" in the classroom, most kits, put together by those far away from the classroom, are quickly outdated and, worst of all, violate constructivist principles that beg for more local context, authentic approaches, and inquiry-based strategies. In fact, most of the kits I review are not much different in concept from the textbooks they purport to replace.

Scanning Television is a big exception. Whether you are an experienced media educator, or just beginning to teach about media in your subject area, Scanning Television contains a wealth of classroom activity suggestions, that stimulate students to become active media users in a world awash in information. It works for me because it is a freewheeling database of images that allows teachers optimum flexibility for use and re-use with a wide variety of activities. Better yet, the components of the kit take on broad concepts without preaching to students. The video segments are fresh and look like they have a long shelf-life.

Produced by John Pungente and Gary Marcuse, Scanning Television comes packaged with four one-hour videotapes and a teacher's guide. The tapes offer a rich video database of 40 student-centered video clips of about 2-12 minutes each, for a total of 4 hours, end-to-end. The Scanning Television Teacher's Guide (72 pages) written by Neil Andersen and John Pungente, provides busy teachers with valuable "tricks of the trade" for teacher tested activities that fit easily across the regular curriculum. There is no guesswork about how the Scanning Television video and guide work together. The book and tapes are designed with clear co-ordinates, including the use of a "video bug", an unobtrusive number in the bottom of the video frame.

The Guide introduces each clip and provides context and content for activities around broad themes: "Before Viewing", "Focus for viewing", and "After Viewing." All of the activities are valuable for teachers who want to use students' pre-existing knowledge, practice inquiry-based interventions, design collaborative and group work, and practice authentic assessment strategies. Activities especially designed for ESL students are included.

It gets even better for Canadian teachers. The material on the tapes is organized around the topic headings used in the second edition of Popular Culture by Barry Duncan, et. al. (Harcourt Brace, 1996). Scanning Television also follows the Ontario Ministry of Education provincial standards document for media education.

Produced in Canada, the resource uses footage form TVOntario, Warner Brothers, the National Film Board, YTV, and others. Although I feared that the clips would be too Canada-centric, I was relieved to find them to be of general North American interest. In fact, it took a Canadian video clip from Scanning Television "Multimedia Gulch," to tell me things I didn't know about San Francisco's epicentre for multimedia production, a place that is only two blocks from my workplace! Another clip took me to Chicago to view Niketown, a shopping mall and a theme park. Although Canadian-produced, the resource is completely appropriate to US classrooms.

Because most of the clips originated on broadcast TV that both elementary and secondary students already see and understand, they are useful for a range of developmental ages. But not all. As with any classroom resource, teacher preview and discretion is advised for a few of the more provocative clips. For example, "SuperModel's Super Envy" looks at the way models are used to sell cars in a British commercial. It also gets into issues of gender, representation and exploitation of the female body. "Watching TV" an excellent cartoon from the National Film Board of Canada is hilarious to me, but may be too scary for young children.

The bank of videos are organized into four thematic groups - Seeing Ourselves: Media and Representation questions the media's role and responsibilities in affecting social change. It includes clips about consumerism, media advocacy, and the role of filmmakers like Ridley Scott in creating advertisements. Each tape includes elements that point out how media are constructed.

  • Selling Images and Values examines issues of persuasion in the media such as consumerism, advertising, media ethics, and censorship.

  • Our Constructed Worlds: Media Environments looks at how the media tend to create separate worlds in the pursuit and marketing of products and services. Issues of audiences, and the ubiquitous nature of media in the environment prevail.

  • The Global Citizen focuses on how our political responsibilities are shaped by media influences, and how we respond to these messages.

  • New and Emerging Technologies looks into the future at likely developments in the age of information.