Today, there is no questioning the prevalence of media in day-to-day life. People in the United States spend an average of 4.5 hours a day watching some form of entertainment media. Lasting solutions to health equity require buy-in from a range of individuals and communities, including those who are not typically engaged in educational or movement-building efforts. The broad-reaching scope of media and the strength of storytelling as a learning medium allow individuals to learn valuable lessons from television characters outside of traditional learning environments. By leveraging readily available entertainment mediums, those looking to advance health equity can bring together individuals and communities to review and discuss health in the media. These opportunities can lead to in depth reflections, surface discussion topics and biases that otherwise may not come up in a more traditional learning context and enhance learning outside of traditional formats for a range of communities.
Why entertainment media?
While you could leverage various types of media for learning, the recommendations here are intended specifically for entertainment media. Entertainment media includes things like TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos, and is often fictional in nature. This type of media is more approachable for general audiences and tends to be more engaging. This heightened level of engagement allows conversations to be continued beyond the learning environment.
Media drives learning. Research has reported the potential of pictorial mass media to influence behavior and provide opportunities for analysis and reflection through the examination of real life through concrete visual examples. Media has lasting impacts on human development across the lifespan, ranging from development of sense of self, identity, and self-concept, to the internalizing of stereotype beliefs. As a result, media can affect how people view and subsequently treat others. This is particularly relevant in thinking about the treatment of marginalized populations such as those that typically experience heath inequities.
Media is easy to talk about. In addition to providing a novel way to react to concrete examples, discussions about media are natural. Regardless of educational background or developmental state, talking about what you saw in a TV show, movie, or other form of entertainment media is second nature for most people. People are more likely to talk about something they saw on TV than the latest research findings, making the conversation more accessible to those outside of the research and academic space.
How can I use media entertainment media for learning?
Once you decide to use media as a learning tool, consider how you will select the media and how you can best leverage it to meet your learning objectives.
Select the Right Media for Use. With the expansive options available in entertainment media today, it is easy to get overwhelmed by choices when determining what clips to use for a learning engagement. When selecting media, keep audience and focus in mind.
- Audience. Select media that is the appropriate developmental age for your audience. This is also an important consideration when drafting discussion prompts for your learning engagement. You may also consider your audience’s experience, for example, if you are engaging a group of students, choose media they may relate to.
- Focus. Make sure that the selected media aligns with your focus and learning objectives by working through specific discussion prompts. To do this, make checklist of features you are looking for in each clip prior to selecting them. For example, you may decide a clip used for discussing health equity should have some representation of a health-related condition, issue, or policy.
Ensure Quality of the Media. While the varied selection of media clips is a crucial tool in sustaining learner engagement, the quality and accuracy of the writing or portrayal in the clip does not directly affect the quality of the resulting discussion. The more important focus is on the discussion questions and familiarity of the media to the discussion facilitator.
What are best practices for media engagement?
The following are our suggested practices for using entertainment media in learning and engagement.
Be Intentional. Choose media that aligns with your objectives for learning. Acknowledge that not all entertainment media is accurate, and some may also perpetuate stereotypes. Address this up front by framing the media for your audience, acknowledging its pitfalls, and allowing for reflection on these issues. While it may be tempting to only include media portrayals that discuss health accurately and positively, discussing poor examples allows for critical thinking and critiques of these portrayals. Ensure that the media you select is familiar to you so you can provide context when asked by participants, develop discussion questions and talking points, and pivot as needed when the discussion evolves.
Prime Learning. Priming familiarizes learners with the material in advance so they are comfortable with the subject and more ready to learn. It has been shown to impact learning and memory. Prime learning by linking back to any previous discussions or related content and providing context prior to showing your selected media. Provide contextual framing and call learners’ attention to specific elements of the clip, such as individual characters or behaviors, before viewing to ensure your participants pay attention to the specific elements you are hoping to discuss.
Set Engagement Expectations. Provide learners with concrete expectations for engagement to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Overview the general format of the learning experience and explain what will happen, and in what order, to set the stage for all participants. Encourage the type of learner engagement you expect from the beginning, letting participants know that their reflections and opinions matter, and sharing the ways in which they may participate (e.g., if the learning takes place virtually, review the multiple ways a participant may contribute, such as chatting or unmuting to speak).
Ensure Accessibility. Take time to design your media learning engagement in a way that is accessible. Do this by providing discussion prompts, allowing for multiple means of participation, using closed captioning for all media and using clips with the highest available picture quality. Older videos or videos with grainer picture quality often have less contrast and sharpness, which can make videos more difficult to see.
Think of entertainment media as a tool you can add to your toolbox for engaging a range of collaborators in the health equity space. Using media can help you carry these types of discussions into informal spaces and expand your reach to audiences outside of academia and healthcare practice. Engaging voices from the general public will be critical to advancing collaboration and next steps in health equity.
When engaging nontraditional audiences through media, remember to select the right media based on your audience and foci. Choose media that you feel comfortable talking about and have familiarity with, prime learning and set expectations up front, and ensure accessibility. Below are two next steps you can take to advance health equity through digital equity.
Be Creative. Think outside the box next time you look to engage collaborators in the work you are doing to advance health equity. Using media is one way to do this; consider other novel approaches you may take to expand the dialogue.
Share your Knowledge. Share your ideas and successes with others so that they may expand their own engagement efforts. Connect with us to tell us how this strategy works for you.