Learning to Encode and Decode

Encoding and decoding are part of everyday life.

Now that we know that licensed library media specialists improves the analytical abilities of children when they are using the internet (and other media types), let’s take a look at what these specialists teach.

Media specialists can teach children how to encode and decode media symbols. First let us define the terms encode and decode. To encode means to put something into code (a systematic format). To decode means to take a systematic format and put it into standard interpretation. Though these concepts sound quite difficult, we encode and decode messages all the time in our daily life. For instance, to standardize traffic patterns a system of signals was created to convey messages to drivers. The stop sign is one of those signals. The stop sign is a code that, when placed at an intersection becomes encoded. A driver must, then, decode the message that the sign indicates. When seeing the stop sign, a driver converts the meaning of the signal into the action of stopping.

The key to successful encoding and decoding is education and experience. If, for instance, a person from the colonial period saw a stop sign it would hold no meaning because a standardized format for coding that specific message had not yet been established in the eighteenth century. Looking at encoding and decoding in this way allows us to further see the importance of educating Pennsylvania children in relation to this form of analysis, and then allow them to experience the process themselves. In Deconstruct, decode, analyze and create!, Lee Burton provides a few suggestions on how to teach children about encoding and decoding media messages so that they are better able to understand, analyze, and produce such content. Additionally, Zanin-Yost and Donaldson (2005) illustrate a few ways that library media specialists can enable children to better analyze media content in their article How to Speak Out (Visually) at Your Library.

Such training tools are frequently utilized by library media specialists to support teachers, children and parents in analyzing more effectively the content they encounter everyday. This makes the role of these specialists a vital one in making Pennsylvania children more media literate.

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