When we were in Graf Friedrich Schule (GFS), we decided to use our Rich Tasks to look into students’ views and opinions on outside influences on their lives, and the skills they are being equipped with to deal with these now and in their futures. As well as a RT specifically on Global Issues, we wanted to find out about how they viewed the media, and the bias present in its treatment of news stories. We decided that an interesting way to investigate this with our class, an 11th grade English class, was to create a fictional scenario, and separate them into pairs and groups of three, giving the groups each a form of media with a specific angle, and get them to report on it from different approaches. After explaining our task, we gave them an hour to create their articles, and once they had finished we distributed question sheets on media literacy for them to fill out, and then asked them to tell us about what they had created.

We had a few technical problems at the beginning of the task, on getting the projector arranged, and although we had a double period, 1.5 hours,
this meant that the rest of the task was a bit rushed. Even if we’d had the full time, more would have been preferable to have longer, as although there was a lot of creativity evident in the articles produced, they were more like a first draft, and if they had longer they could have made a properly finished product, which would, I am sure, have been excellent. One of the feedback comments mentioned that there was ‘not enough time for the task’, and we all agreed that this was so. Other comments mentioned that they enjoyed the class and its creativity; the results were diverse and showed a good understanding of the task in hand.

The responses to the question sheets were also interesting. There was a good core knowledge of the presence of bias and spin in the media, and we were told by several that they are taught media literacy in their 9th grade politics class. The Learning School group were impressed by this fact, and felt that it would be a very good idea if this were to become a trend in other schools. As one of the respondents said it is “very important, because media gets more and more and more important in everyday life, so we have to learn media literacy”. It was also seen as important that it is the school that teaches it, as “parents often can’t teach it”, which is an important point. There will be a proportion of students in any school who come from families who are highly aware of the problems inherent in news media, but it is for those who do not grow up in such an environment that media literacy classes are important. Young people also need to understand this aspect of life for work as “it’s very important for young people’s future because in many jobs you have to work with computers or new technology. Furthermore it’s important to tell especially younger ones the danger of abuse on the internet.”

Overall, the task was a success. It was evident as the students worked that they were attentive and interested in the task, as they were debating quietly in their groups, and in just an hour each group had produced their own interpretation of the work. One example of this is the group who chose to write a blog, whose sheet was drawn to look like a website (see below), complete with task bar. There were some problems at the beginning, as we had a mix-up over the projector, and so read the scenario out while we waited for the teacher to bring us one. As the scenario was necessarily rather long, this caused confusion in the class that can not be dismissed as being due to the language barrier. However, once we were able to put the slide with the scenario up on the screen, so that they could refer to it as they composed their articles, this uncertainty was cleared up.
We would like to thank the staff and students of GFS for being so welcoming, enthusiastic and patient with us.