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"Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed" 

— James Carey, Ph.D.

Communication Across the Curriculum

Clio’s interdisciplinary program, ‘Communication Across the Curriculum,’ is designed for integration into the traditional subject areas offered at independent secondary schools in grades 6-12. 

Clio's program:

  • Rests on a foundation of media history to help prepare students for the media future. 

  • Is informed by research and theory in neuroscience and moral psychology.

  • Focuses on free speech and communication ethics.  

  • Provides training for students and faculty in media mindfulness.

Curriculum Overview

‘Communication Across the Curriculum’ is comprised of six KEY THEMES, which consider fundamental dimensions of human and mediated communication. Clio’s curriculum is designed to fit into and across the traditional subject areas. The questions and subject matter investigated increase in complexity and depth as students move up through the grade levels. 

Cross-Curricular Themes:

The following 6 themes can be woven into the the courses offered at your school, across subject areas and grade levels.


What is communication? Why does it matter in human experience? What happens when it is mediated?  How does the medium influence the experience of communication for the sender and the receiver of messages? Does the language we speak change the way we think and understand reality?   How does spoken language differ from the written and printed word, and why do these differences matter?  What are the relative merits of one media form over another?  What changes in society when people adopt a new medium–like the smart phone–on a widespread scale? What can we learn from studying the history of new media? How is life different for us today than for our ancestors who lacked the communication technologies we now consider so essential?  In a symbolic environment heavily reliant on commercial sponsorship, how does economics influence communication in contemporary society?  

Mind and Media


How does mediated communication impact mental health? In order to understand our relationship with electronic communication and our media consumption behavior, it's necessary to learn about how our brains respond to mediated stimulus.   What does neuroscience reveal about why we are so captivated by certain types of media? Why do we seem to be so vulnerable to digital addiction? What are the parallels between social media and slot machines? How does moral psychology shape our responses to advertising and political messaging? Why do particular words and images have the power to trigger such powerful emotional responses, and how are they used to influence attitudes and behavior?  How does drug and alcohol advertising contribute to the use of these products?  How does advertising and social media marketing influence body image and self esteem? How can mindfulness techniques help us become more intentional about our attention?

Narratives and Society


Why do we tell stories?  What role do they play in our lives and human experience?  How are our minds uniquely ‘wired’ to respond to stories? How do stories help shape and reflect society? What stories do we tell about ourselves, our tribes, our communities, and our nations? What role do various genres of storytelling play in our understanding of the world around us?  How does media economics play a role in which kinds of stories get told, produced and distributed?  How are different groups of people represented in mediated narratives?  What are stereotypes and how can we learn to recognize them? How do media stereotypes impact our perceptions of ourselves and each other?  What functions do stereotypes serve in commercial media content? How do new communication technologies alter the experience of ‘consuming’ stories?  What changes when adapting a story from page to screen?  Why do superhero stories matter in contemporary society?  During times of national crisis or global health emergencies, how do dominant narratives shape beliefs and behavior?

Freedom of Expression


How should governments regulate the symbolic environment? What is the history and theory of freedom of expression?  The principles of freedom of speech, press,  religion, assembly, and protest protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are considered fundamental to democracy. These ideals were developed at a time when the only mass medium was the newspaper. Today we are linked together electronically in ways the founding fathers could never have envisioned.  Images and ideas can now reach millions of people in a matter of hours, posing new kinds of free speech challenges.  Should freedom of expression apply equally to everyone, under any circumstances, through all media forms? In an age of unprecedented digital interconnection, when, if ever, should exceptions be made?  Should social media be regulated, and if so, by whom, according to what standards?  What legal principles should inform the regulation of new communication technologies? In what ways do the twin American ideals of freedom of expression and the free market come into conflict with one another, and how can these tensions be resolved?


What ethical standards should govern communication? What are the ‘boundary conditions’ - the areas in interpersonal and mediated communication that are potentially harmful? How should communities regulate potentially problematic forms of expression? Some of our oldest ethical and moral codes contain guidelines regarding communication, such as the strictures against graven images, blasphemy, and gossip. New forms of media create new kinds of ethical dilemmas, from hate speech online to digital surveillance and facial recognition software. What does it mean to ‘do the right thing’ online?  What are the social and political implications of taboo words, images, phrases, and memes?  Is ‘cancel culture’ the proper response to those who engage in communication that some find offensive? Can we develop a universal set of communication ethics in a global information economy?  If so, how would that be enforced, and by whom? How do we balance social responsibility in technology design with both the free market and freedom of expression? 

Communication Ethics
Representation and Reality


What is true, and how do we know? Two of the oldest philosophical questions have new urgency in an age when so much of our understanding of the world is derived from information we receive through screens. Much of what we believe to be true about the world beyond our immediate environment is now learned through mediation–words or images representing reality. Since there is always a gap between reality and its representation, this raises significant questions.  Does the language we speak influence our understanding of reality? How does mediated communication influence what we believe to be true? How can digital media be used to intentionally mislead or manipulate? How is persuasion different from propaganda? How do search engines influence which kinds of ideas and information are most widely consumed?   How can we learn to identify fake news, and how can the spread of misinformation be countered?  What role do the economics of the media industry play in shaping the symbolic environment and thus our understanding of the world around us?

Clio in Action

Each of the 6 KEY THEMES can be integrated into courses in a variety of ways. Clio adapts the curriculum based on factors including grade level, ongoing classwork, and even current events.


The following sample topics are examples of what Communication Across the Curriculum looks like in action. 

  • American History: New Media and Political Communication
    (Key Theme: Mediated Communication)
    Analyze the roles of pamphlets (Thomas Paine) in the Revolutionary War, newspapers in the Civil War, television in Vietnam War, and social media in contemporary politics.

  • European History: The Impact of the Printing Press on Western Europe, 1450-1700’s
    (Key Theme: Mediated Communication
    An in depth examination of how the printing press contributed to the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the spread of ideas that fueled the American and French Revolutions. Students explore how new media help spread new ideas.

  • History/English: Book Banning in America
    (Key Theme: Freedom of Expression)
    Various types of literature have been suppressed throughout US History, a practice that continues to this day. Reflect upon the complex relationship our society has with freedom of expression.

  • English/Social Studies: Media Representations and Stereotypes
    (Key Theme: Narratives and Society, Representation and Reality)
    A careful look at stereotypes, their role in storytelling, and a discussion of how they shape our perspective of different demographic groups and social identities, including our own.

  • Social Studies: The Politics of Cartography
    (Key Theme: Representation and Reality)
    Study the role of maps, the evolution of map making, and the way in which the representation of territory can distort our perception of the relative importance of different nations and different demographic groups.

  • Science: Science Communication and Public Understanding
    (Key Theme: Representation and Reality, Mind and Media)
    Discuss the importance of clear science communication in an age of widespread scientific illiteracy. Delve into the challenges faced by scientists attempting to convey their findings to the general public.

  • Math: Data Visualization and Public Policy
    (Key Theme: Representation and Reality, Mind and Media)
    Journalists and politicians often rely on charts and graphs to convey statistical data to the public, which in turn can influence public policy. Learn about the ways in which data visualization can be used to distort findings.

  • Health/Wellness: Digital Distraction and Device Addiction
    (Key Theme: Mind and Media)
    The teen brain is especially vulnerable to digital distraction and addiction.Training in mindful media use as a healthy antidote can help young people learn to be more intentional in their attention.

Custom Curriculum Integration: Designed for Your School—and Your Students

The Clio program can be tailored to meet the unique educational mission of your school and to integrate concepts of Communication and Media Studies into your existing curriculum. For example, at a school interested in promoting a deeper understanding of the role of free speech in democracy, students could encounter the theme of censorship in their history, social studies, and English classes.  

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