Saturday, November 01, 2014

Literacies for the digital age: Media literacy

This is the third in a series of blog posts highlighting the digital literacies our students will need to succeed. This post will provide you with some ideas on how to infuse media literacy into the curriculum.


There are many areas of media literacy.  Media Literacy Project has a wonderful document that presents the components of media literacy in a straightforward fashion and includes useful lists of the various concepts of this literacy. Their definition of media literacy is “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media messages of all kinds.” They go on to state that media literacy skills can help students–
  • Understand how media messages create meaning
  • Identify who created a particular media message
  • Recognize what the media maker wants us to believe or do
  • Name the “tools of persuasion” used
  • Recognize bias, spin, misinformation and lies
  • Discover the part of the story that’s not being told
  • Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, beliefs and values
  • Create and distribute our own media messages
  • Become advocates for change in our media system
The modern study of media literacy is not new.  I studied his media theories in communication classes during college in the mid-1970’s. But the aspects of accessing, analyzing, evaluating, and creating media goes back in history even more!  The Museum of Hoaxes site includes timelines of historical media hoaxes from as early as 1874 and photography hoaxes from 1861 and everything in-between! The ability to make a viewer or reader believe a fabricated story still exists today. And, as technology evolves. there are many more ways to fool the viewer with mash-ups, video and audio editing, and fabrication of images.


How does media literacy fit into the curriculum? One way, suggested by Frank Baker of the Media Literacy Clearinghouse, is including the critical viewing of videos in teaching and learning. Since there are various Common Core standards around this concept, this might be a good place to start since students are avid consumers and creator of video.
Steve Trowbridge, of the University of Houston-Victoria, has created a viewer document that includes ideas for students as they view photographs, videos, plays, and other forms of expression. Making students aware of the “message” of the media being presented or shown can help them develop the critical skills necessary to recognize bias and untruths as well as question their own beliefs. Trowbridge suggests a simple list of questions for students to think about during and after viewing media content. Of course, when creating their own media, students should apply this same set of questions to understand how others might view their message.
  • What is the message?
  • Who is the message for?
  • What is the purpose of the message?
  • What have I learned about the topic, about myself, and about others?
  • Whose point of view is presented?
And he suggests students need to ask themselves more pointed questions as to why and how the media was created, such as —
  • What individuals are most often represented in the media and what individuals (e.g., gender, culture, age) are absent?
  • From whose perspective is the story or image shown?
  • Who owns or supports this medium (e.g., television, newspaper, Internet) and what impact does such ownership have on visual content?
  • For whom is this message intended? Who wants to reach this audience and why?
  • What visual elements are used to get my attention?
  • How do my values and life experiences coincide with the visual messages to produce meaning for me?
Trowbridge provides activities educators can use to strengthen students’ viewing abilities including gallery walks, viewing centers, drama and puppetry plays, and more,
Andrea Quijada, the director of Media Literacy Project, presents a compelling case for the inclusion of media literacy skills training in the curriculum to help students become critical thinkers. Her TEDx talk follows–


With the new mediums comes a suggested list of the new media literacies. Project New Media Literacies focuses on the participatory culture we now live in, and identifies the skills for the online environment. These include:
  • Play
  • Performance
  • Simulation
  • Appropriation
  • Multitasking
  • Distributed cognition
  • Collective intelligence
  • Judgment
  • Transmedia navigation
  • Networking
  • Negotiation
  • Visualization
You can find out more about these on their site and download the teachers strategy guide to learn more.


There are tons of sites focused on media literacy in K-12 available. Some of the most-often referenced (in addition to the ones mentioned already) include:
What media literacy resources do you use? Share with us on Twitter! #kathyschrock