Testing the Media: Media Literacy and the Scientific Method

Categories:  Lessons and Activities, Michael Lachney
Tags: ,

Using the scientific method(s) students test the claims that brand name products are better than the generic brand. Many students will find that the brand names did not live up to the commercial claims.

Lesson Summaries:

Lesson 1 – Students will watch television commercials that make claims to a product’s superiority through comparing it to a competitor. Students will choose one commercial to study and critique. Students will answer question about authorship, format, audience, content and purpose. Using media literacy skills, students will deconstruct the commercial and ask a question about the company’s claim in the commercial. Based on information in the commercial students will construct a hypothesis, determine what materials and procedures are needed to test the hypothesis, figure out what data will be collected and how it will be represented/organized. Finally, students will need to outline what the experimental and control groups and independent and dependent variables are.

Lesson 2 – Students will conduct the experiment. Based on their previous experiment design, students will recall their choices for organizing and representing data. Students will test their hypothesis, record their results, and organize them for the “target audience” of their commercial.

Lesson 3 – Based on their findings, students will research what types of claims companies can legally make when advertising their products in TV commercials. Students will present their findings to the class alongside their organized and “targeted” data.

Media Literacy Skills: NAMLE Key Question, Media Critique/Deconstruction

Scientific Literacy Skills: Scientific Method


Windex Commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vMXzpxSJA4),

Bounty Commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruIpTQAIbLE)

Windex and two competitor products, glass surface, and towels

Bounty towel and two competitors and messy surface

Lesson 1

Time: 40 Minutes

Handout: Pretest (Do It now), CML/Science deconstruction questions, Scientific Method definition and procedure worksheets.

Introduction – 10 Minutes

Students will pick up the pretest as a Do It now. They will work on the pre-test for 8 minutes.

Collect the pre-tests and begin to explain the “Testing the Media” project.

First, introduce the project: Students will watch two commercials that make claim their product is better than a competitor. Students will choose one commercial and test the claim of that commercial using the scientific methods.

Second, introduce the concept of “media literacy.” Being able to analyze the purpose, target audience, and point-of-view of message/advertising. Explain that the scientific method can be used to become media literate.

Third, students will present their conclusions in a form that speaks to the commercial’s target audience.

Mini-Lesson – 6 minutes

Pass out the NAMLE Key Media Literacy questions hand out. As a class watch the two commercials. For each commercial go through the questions as a group.

What is the purpose of this ad?

What is the ad trying to persuade you of?

What visual and audio techniques do you think they are using  to get your attention?

Who is the target audience?

What stereotypes are portrayed in this ad?

Students should write answers down on their handouts as the class discusses.

Guided Practice – 7 Minutes

Pass out scientific method definition handout.

Ads often try to persuade you to buy their product. Often viewers either rely on past experiences with the product or take the ad at its word. However, the scientific method allows you to test the word of the ad and make a choice as to what to spend your money on in the store, as well as evaluate the truthfulness of the media. So lets take a moment to learn about the scientific method.

Ask students what they know about the scientific method. Write answers on board. Based on their answers, explain, The scientific method is the way scientists learn and study the world around them. It can be used to study anything from a leaf to a dog to even the media. It consists of a number of steps: that starts with a question and hypothesis, moves to experimentation and data collection, and finally evaluating and representing data in a conclusive form.

Watch the commercials again and go through step-by-step of the scientific method. Work through these procedures as a class.  Use the ad to form a question and hypothesis . How will you test your hypothesis and what data will be collected? What is independent variable and dependent variable? And, what is your experimental and control group? Figure out what materials are needed to test the hypothesis?

Activity – 17 minutes

Have students work in groups of 3. Pass out scientific method procedure worksheet, which includes the following question

•               What claim is the commercial making about its product?

•               What is your question about the claim?

•               What is your hypothesis?

•               What data would need to be collected?

•               What is the experimental group?  What is the control group?

•               What is the independent variable?  What is the dependent variable?

•               What materials will you need to test your hypothesis?


Lesson 2

Handouts: Data Recording Worksheet, Stereotype Handout

Resources: Windex and two competitor products, glass surface, and towels; Bounty towel and two competitors and messy surface.

Introduction – 5 Minutes

Students will take Media Survey, as Do It Now. Pass out students work from the previous class as they are doing do it now.

Introduce the lesson for the day. Today students will test their hypothesis about that is based on one of the two commercials.

Mini Lesson – 10 Minutes

Pass out the Stereotype handout. Have students read the definition of a stereotype. Ask students if they know any stereotypes.

Show the two ads. Have students write down what stereotypes are in the ads on the handout. Ask students to share their ideas.

Explain to students that Stereotypes are used by media for typecasting, it is an institutional problem with the media that we as consumers must face. Part of the problem with being a media producer and scientist is putting people into boxes or representing them as numbers in data.  As scientists and media producers we must be conscious of the fact that stereotypes can be harmful and that people are diverse in nature.

Guided Practice – 7 Minutes

Pass out the data recording worksheet.

Explain to students that they will need to work in their group of 3 to test their hypothesis.

Go through the materials with the students. What materials are for what commercial. Also, demo an experiment and show students how to record their data.

Activity –  18 Minutes

Students will work in their groups of three to perform the experiment and test their hypothesis.


Lesson 3

Resources: Poster board to represent finding to the target audience and law and advertising handout

Introduction – 2 Minutes

Handout students past work.

Introduce students to the lesson for the day. Students will need to make an ad that reports their experiments conclusions.

Mini Lesson – 7 Minutes

Handout the target audience and law and advertising handouts.

Remind students what a target audience is. Have students share who they think their target audience is for advertising their conclusions. Their target audience should be the same as what they through for the commercial.

Watch commercials, ask student to write down and share what techniques the commercial uses to get the target audiences

As a class read through the law and advertising handout, which explains why companies can make erroneous claims in commercials.

Guided Practice – 5 Minutes

Explain to student that they need to make a billboard to advertise their findings to their target audience. Show students materials.

Activity – 18 Minutes

Students will create billboard ads for their target audience.

Post-Test – 8 Minutes

Students will take Testing the Media post-test

Lesson: Self-expression through Graffiti with Throwies

Categories:  Andrew Ellis, Ellen Foster, Lessons and Activities

Overview: Students will learn about simple circuits by creating a Throwie and consider possible modifications to the original design, who might want to use these objects, and different ways they could be used.

What are Throwies?
LED Throwies are an inexpensive way to add color to any ferromagnetic surface. A Throwie consists of a lithium battery, a 10mm diffused LED and a rare-earth magnet taped together.

Vocabulary: LED, Closed Circuit, Open Circuit

Challenge: Create a Throwie; Learn about expression through graffiti/public art

Resources: Throwie instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Throwies/
and Graffiti Research Labs: http://www.graffitiresearchlab.com/blog/projects/laser-tag/

Tools: Tape, LEDs, Magnets, Batteries

Lesson Time: 50 minutes

Introduction – 5 minutes
Introduce students to the lesson and goals of today. Tell them they will be making a simple light up device with simple circuitry without soldering and thinking about how this little device might be used or modified.

Mini-Lesson – 10 minutes
Ask students what they know about Graffiti. the beginnings and purposes of graffiti and what it means to them. Possibly have them play around with Graffiti Writer. Then have them consider involving lights, projections and removable grafitti. Why? Who uses this tyupe of graffiti?

Guided Practice – 15 minutes
Show them an already made Throwie (pass around). Explain a closed circuit and how their Throwie creates a closed circuit. Show steps for making.

Activity – 5 to 10 minutes
Students will create their own Throwie and explore possibilities for modifying the throwie. They will work with other students to rethink the throwie and consider who might want to use their modification to the throwie.

Reflection – 10 minutes
Students will share with other student groups their modifications They will also record their modifications and ideas down in a journal.

After school Re-Using Technology Club – Working with E-Waste

Categories:  Ellen Foster, Lessons and Activities, Science Club
Tags: , ,

Toward the end of last semester and for the past weeks of this new semester, a group of 7th graders have committed time to meet after school to learn more about issues of E-Waste and physically appropriating technology for new uses.

The end goal of this after school group is to encourage kids to think about technology obsolescence and how they might creatively remix and reuse technologies that are considered unusable or unwanted. They have had fun making old printer motors run, learning about how sound waves look, and exploring issues of chemicals leeching from E-Waste into ground-water supplies. They have also watched a short documentary on “DJ Focus,” a young teenager growing up in Sierra Leone who has taught himself to build a radio and other technology out of throw-away materials – his hope being that radio communication will foster discussion and connections within his community. The overall intention is to think about technology’s implications, uses, and shaping in society as a whole and within locally situated communities.

The kids were excited to take apart old electronics (mainly old printers and radios) and check out their insides — the circuitry, the gears and moveable parts. We focused on getting out usable components, such as the motors, while talking about the differences between stepper motors and DC brushless motors — how they each function, and might contribute to different projects. One day I brought in some old computer towers with the DVD player motors still intact. Two kids worked diligently to expose the motor power connections of the player and hook it up to a 9 V battery. Here is the result!

They also had fun hooking up the DC brushless motors to batteries and seeing them run on their own, separate from the equipment they were helping to cool.


It was a raucous good time for kids to tear things up, but sometimes it was hard for them to focus on the task of extracting the motors and getting them to run. This has since made me realize that I need to give them more concrete projects for creation and instruction beyond exploration and play – although I think enabling them to work in this mode is important.

Teaching them the basics of component parts (what is a resistor, capacitor, motor, circuit, etc.) by looking at E-Waste was a helpful foundation for them to think about what parts are salvageable from E-Waste, and which are potentially dangerous immediately or to the environment. These foundational skills will hopefully keep them building in the future, or at least give them pause when thinking about throwing out old electronics and the possibilities for what those objects could become.

For more about education, e-waste and “making” see http://e-wastetomakerspace.wikispaces.com