Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene
Two New Sites on the World Wide Web
Bill Walsh, Contributing Writer
The Internet is sporting at least two new (very different) Web sites this week as more and more people see the benefits of making access to what they have to say easy and quick. One new site belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence; the other is mine. An odd pair, isn't it?
It seems that the recruiting coordinator for the Providence Diocese, the guy in charge of signing up new priests, went out and asked male high school students how the church could reach them. They told Rev. Marcel Taillon that teens do two things: watch cable TV and surf the Internet. So the Diocese immediately started a Web site, and the commercials urging kids to consider the priesthood will be running on MTV and sports channels shortly. Who said that the Catholic Church isn't a good listener?
I checked out their Web site (http://www.catholicpriest.com). It opens with full color pictures of the Bishop and Auxiliary Bishop of Providence, along with a short message about how you can contact them. Then there are seven pages you can click on to find out more about particular items. I chose the FAQ'S (Frequently Asked Questions), and found 33 questions-and-answers about becoming a priest. To the credit of whomever put the page together, the questions are frank and timely, much like those real teenagers ask. The answers, too, are honest and straightforward.
"What does a priest do all day?" "How long does it take to become a priest?" "What kind of grades do you need in the seminary?" "How much does the priesthood pay?" These are questions which are asked - and answered - on the Web site. There are other pages about the seminary, vocation ministry, and events in the Diocese.
My own Web site (http://users.massed.net/~wwalsh/) isn't about trying to attract students to the vocation of teaching, but it is designed to try to make their job as students easier, give them fewer possible excuses for not being prepared in class, put the best research tools in the world at their fingertips, and make them more at home on the Internet.
Although there's no picture of me (!), there is a section for each class I'm teaching, with a class calendar, course description, and official proficiencies for each one. There are also links to various sites which focus on media literacy, American literature, grammar, SAT preparation, scholarship information, the Town of Billerica, and even to my e-mail address. Sitting in front of a computer at home, at school, or anywhere else, a student can find out tomorrow's assignment, see when the next test is, register for SAT's, apply for a scholarship, look up something in an encyclopedia or dictionary, or even ask the teacher a question.
That being said, I hasten to point out that the site is still "under construction," not very fancy, and certainly not the only one of its kind in the Billerica School System.
When I mentioned my little project to a high-ranking school administrator, he said that he thought that in the future, every teacher would have a Web site along some of the same lines.
It's axiomatic to say that media is about communicating with people. And that the best way to communicate with people is to communicate with them where they are, where they spend their time, and where they're comfortable. It's also important to make that communication as easy for the recipient as possible - that's why we get newspapers delivered to our doorsteps, TV news brought into our living rooms, and Web sites just a few keystrokes away.
As it gets easier and easier to develop Web sites (it's now so easy, even an English teacher can do it!), we're going to see more and more organizations and individuals turn to the Internet to get their message across. We're not talking cutting-edge technology here, nor even complicated or esoteric content. Whether it's a church in Rhode Island looking for priests or an English teacher in Billerica making assignments and research tools easier to access for students, the fact that these very ordinary, very diverse, and very non-technical matters are finding a home on the World Wide Web signals a dramatic change in the way we're communicating today.
If it can be said that years ago we witnessed the birth of the Information Age, perhaps today we're seeing it come of age. First came the high-tech folks putting stuff up on the Internet. Shortly thereafter, regular people like you and me learned how to receive those media messages. Slowly but surely, we're now learning how to construct our own - to be the designers and hosts of Web sites as well as simply readers of them.
It's the difference between learning how to read and learning how to write, the difference between watching TV and shooting your own video. As more and more of us learn how to write and design pages for the World Wide Web, media literacy continues to grow.
Maybe I'll even include a link on my site to the priests at the Diocese of Providence. After all, there may be more than one way to pass English.
Bill Walsh is the A/V Media Specialist at Billerica High School, Billerica, MA.