Return to Screen Free Week (May 5) in the Activities Calendars.

What is media literacy?

“Nonprint texts are an essential part of students’ reading experience….Opportunities to study and create visual texts…are crucial.” (NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts)

What is media literacy?
Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a variety of forms. Television, radio, and the internet have replaced text-based sources as the primary information tools for most Americans. Media literate individuals are better able to critically understand and react to complex media messages both with regard to surface content and the embedded meanings below the surface (New Mexico Media Literacy Project, 2001).

Core concepts of media literacy
The following observations serve as guides for thinking about media consumption:
    •Who created the message?
    •Different people experience the same message differently. Although media makers attempt to convey particular messages, people interpret them according to their needs, interests, and backgrounds. Our perceptions of reality are shaped by media.
    •Media use identifiable techniques and a creative language that has its own rules. Messages are intended to influence attitudes and behavior, thereby gaining profit and/or power for someone.
    •Media have embedded values and points of view. Messages may be positive or negative, intentionally obvious or hidden. Media is most powerful at an emotional level.
    •Media messages can be decoded. We are capable of becoming active consumers of media by “deconstructing” the messages, identifying persuasive techniques, and recognizing how media makers are trying to influence us (Center for Media Literacy, 2003; New Mexico Media Literacy Project, 2001).
Deconstructing media: the key questions:
A basic media literacy skill is “deconstruction,” the careful analysis of a piece of media with the intent of understanding its deeper meanings. These ten questions may provide a beginning point for deconstructing a media sample:
    •Who created the message?
    •Who paid for it?
    •Who is the target audience?
    •What kind of lifestyle is presented?
    •What values and points of view are represented?
    •What techniques are used to attract the attention of the consumer?
    •What is the literal meaning of the message? The underlying meaning?
    •How might this message be interpreted differently by different groups of people?
    •What related lifestyles, values, or points of view have been omitted from this message?
    •What is the goal of this message—profit and/or power?  Is it healthy or unhealthy?   In what ways? (Center for Media Literacy, 2003; New Mexico Media Literacy Project, 2001)

The goal of media literacy education
Media literacy enables people of all ages to be both critical thinkers and creative producers of a wide range of messages through the powerful combination of words, images, and sounds. As communication technology continues to transform our culture and causes us to reexamine not only our understanding of ourselves but also our roles in an increasingly global society, media literacy becomes an essential life skill (Alliance for a Media Literate America, 2003).

Media Literacy--Selected Internet Resources

The resources below represent only a portion of the available materials for educators on media literacy. Background information about media literacy and the importance of appropriate instruction, teaching strategies, and activity lessons for students are included.

Don’t Buy It: Get Media Smart
Good information on advertising “tricks” and buying smart; Teacher's Guide with lessons for grades 3-5

I Read It on the Internet!: Teaching About Web Literacy
Lessons and resources for students about critically evaluating what they read on the internet

Arthur’s Guide to Media Literacy
Lessons based on the popular Arthur character on PBS (includes printable items needed for lessons)

Center for Media Literacy
Information as well as lesson ideas

Community Learning Network: Instructional Materials in Media Literacy/Studies
(Select "Media Literacy") Information and links to lesson plans

Media Awareness Network
Includes lessons and games

Media Literacy Clearinghouse
Resources and lesson ideas

Digital Media Literacy, on PBS
Lesson plans and related programming

New Mexico Media Literacy Project
Primarily an informational site about media literacy

Resources on Media and Media Literacy—University of Michigan
Many resources and links

Helpful Media Literacy Resources for Parents
Links to a variety of media literacy resources

Web English Teacher
Links to resources and teaching ideas



Last updated 04/19/14

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