I’m thrilled to be writing my last post for the COETAIL program! I can’t believe that we’ve reached the end already. I signed up for COETAIL kind of on a lark, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. And I have to say that it’s meant more for me, both personally and professionally, than I ever expected. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to learn with such an incredible cohort of peers, and indebted to our teacher, Robert, for being our ever enthusiastic and knowledgeable leader through this process. I’m proud to count myself as a soon-to-be COETAIL graduate!
Course 5 Project – Gender in Advertising
I’m going to be relatively brief in my discussion of the 10 points, since I feel like I’ve covered a lot of them in previous posts (follow the links to read them). For my project, my Grade 7 students studied Gender Stereotypes in Advertising. My goals for the project were to develop media literacy skills by analyzing and creating digital media, in addition having students collaborating on a complex task.
My unit consisted of first guiding students to become aware of the high volume of ads they are exposed to every day. We then analyzed the messages that ads send to an audience- both explicitly and implicitky- as well as the specific techniques that they use to persuade. We talked in depth about how ads target particular audiences in order to sell products more effectively.
Next we talked about the concepts of gender and gender stereotypes. What is gender?Where do we get our ideas about what it means to be male or female in our society? We took a close look at advertisements through this new lens. How are males and females portrayed in print ads? Is this realistic? We determined that the answer is no. After analyzing several ads, students determined that women in ads are mostly light-skinned, slender and beautiful, while men are handsome and muscular. Women are featured in static poses, while men are shown doing active activities like climbing a mountain or playing sports. Even their clothes are different; men are shown in business suits while women are shown in party clothes. We tried, but could find very few women in ads wearing anything that would be suitable for the workplace (Even the pseudo business clothes feature plunging necklines that no one I know dare show up in at the office.)
When do these messages start? We took a look at toy ads to see what types of messages about gender were being sent to kids. Students analyzed the grammatical structure of these ads and found that overwhelmingly, commercials aimed about boys use use dark colors and intense music to convey ideas about action, violence and competition while ads aimed at girls emphasize homemaking, beauty, cooperation, and of course, the color pink.
In response to these ads, students created their own spoof ads that played on these same stereotypes. They had to choose a typical boys’ or girls’ toy and market the product to the opposite gender. In other words, they had to take a doll, for example, and create a commercial persuading boys that they just can’t live without it. By creating these ads, students demonstrated an ability to read and write using the grammar of new media. They worked together on a complex task, solved problems, and developed technical skills.
However, simply observing that ads use gender stereotypes wasn’t enough. I wanted my students to understand that these ads messages have serious implications for how we come to view men and women in the real world. I created a Google survey containing questions about both the impact of ads and ideas about gender, which my students and I shared via a variety of social media platforms. In one week, we tallied 327 responses. We found that ads affect everyone, but that women reported being being affected by them far more than men.
I used a variety of digital tools in the completion of the unit. Throughout the project, I used Wikispaces as a place to collect and display student work. It served as a central hub to showcase students’ learning. It’s where they posted ads they collected, their video projects, survey results, and reflective posts that they completed along the way. I used Google forms to create a survey and analyze the results. I was able to graphically map those results using Google Maps. Students were free to use whatever vide-editing software they chose, however most opted to use iMovie, which they were able to access in the school’s Mac Lab.
If I were to do the project again, I would make better use of the class wiki. Rather than simply posting their reflections, I’d encourage students to read and respond to one another’s posts. Once their videos were posted, I’d have encouraged students to share them far and wide, perhaps setting up some sort of contest wherein people vote on their favorite. We could have begun by asking other classes in the school to visit the wiki and check out their work.
I would have also included students in the process of gathering and analyzing the data. It would have been interesting to see what kinds of questions they came up with for the survey, and I’m sure that if they had, they would have been more invested in sharing it. While several students did share the survey, I think they would have made more of an effort had it been something they had had a hand in creating.
Finally, I would have created some sort of culminating action piece at the end of the unit, wherein students develop a plan to raise awareness about gender stereotypes in ads. This could have been anything from creating a hosting a screening of their films, to surveying the school, to teaching workshops to classes in other grades. While I think that my project did reach the redefinition stage of the SAMR model through the survey (tapping hundreds of people from around the world for their ideas about gender and advertising- and then sharing the results- would be inconceivable without technology), I think this piece could have been a lot stronger.
All in all, I had a great time teaching this unit with my students. I think they learned a lot and had fun doing it.