Media Literacy – #saskedchat

Media Literacy is our topic for #saskedchat Thursday May 25th at 8pm CST.

The Power of Media

Too often, when discussing media literacy, the concept is often framed as just a set of skills but, in a world that is constantly changing and requiring people to do things differently, Media Literacy goes beyond just a set of skills. It requires individuals to be critical of media in all it’s forms and to be aware of the influence and impact of what they not only watch but also what they create.

Alvin Toffler’s quote above captures the essence of learning of the 21st century. As so many seek to provide a list of skills or actions or observations of a “21st Century student, classroom, teacher, school, ….” often missed is that there is no “one” list or skill or framework that can comprehensively capture the complexity of learning at this time. And that is key – it’s not about some time in the not-to-distant-future but the here and now.

According the Media Literacy Project

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media. Media literacy skills are included in the educational standards of every state—in language arts, social studies, health, science, and other subjects.  Many educators have discovered that media literacy is an effective and engaging way to apply critical thinking skills to a wide range of issues.

Notice it says “Media literate youth and adults”. This isn’t just for children and youth but for everyone – continuous and ongoing. It covers all forms of media, some of which are just beginning to become mainstream like Virtual Reality. In Literacy in Virtual Reality: a New Medium, Sherman & Craig (1995) discuss the “new” medium of Virtual Reality. 

There are many forms of communication, each has specific issues of literacy, as well as general issues that pervade all media. As a new medium, the “language” of VR is still in its infancy, therefore, the study of VR literacy must look both at the content receiver and the content creator. 

This continues to be true of VR plus many of the other forms of communication that have spawned in the past two decades. With access to the internet becoming easier for many people on a global scale, continuous learning is necessary for people of all ages.

Media Literacy

With all media, there are behind-the-scenes things going on that are often not initially obvious and can be easily obscured/overlooked by the consumer.  Individuals require a critical understanding of media as both consumer & producer. Marshall McLuhan’s quote – “The medium is the message” – is maybe more important today than ever. As McLuhan states

The message of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure. This happened whether the railway functioned in a tropical or northern environment, and is quite independent of the freight or content of the railway medium.  

(Understanding Media, NY, 1964, p. 8)


According to Media Smarts, there are 5 Key Concepts for Media Literacy

  1. Media are constructions
  2. Audiences negotiate meaning
  3. Media have commercial implications
  4. Media have social and political implications
  5. Each medium has a unique aesthetic form.
These concepts are help to examine and explore the media in a critical manner. Media literacy is found in different areas of the Saskatchewan curriculum – the Cross Curricular Competencies K – 12 chart from Media Smarts shows these and includes resources at various grade levels.  There are resources and lessons to help teachers plan and develop media literacy across the curriculum.

Today’s information and entertainment technologies communicate to us through a powerful combination of words, images, and sounds. As such, we need to develop a wider set of literacy skills helping us to both comprehend the messages we receive and effectively utilize these tools to design and distribute our own messages. Being literate in a media age requires critical thinking skills that empower us as we make decisions, whether in the classroom, the living room, the workplace, the boardroom, or the voting booth.

Media Literacy is important and is an essential part of being an informed and critical consumer and user in a digital age. The Media Literacy 101 from offers videos and ideas for introducing Media Literacy in the classroom as part of helping students to be informed digital citizenship.
The Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools authored by Dr. Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt outlines and highlights the need for digital citizenship education, of which media literacy is a part, for all students.

Given the changing state of communities, knowledge, and education, however, citizenship is no longer contained by physical location, so we need to expand our definition of citizenship to take into consideration who we are as members of the global, online communities in which we now find ourselves. Digital citizenship asks us to consider how we act as members of a network of people that includes both our next-door neighbours and individuals on the other side of the planet and requires an awareness of the ways in which technology mediates our participation in this network. It may be defined as “the norms of appropriate and responsible online behaviour”14 or as “the quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities15

The I Am Stronger site offers resources and ideas for implementing the guide within school and divisions.
Media Smarts outlines 10 ways teachers can integrate media literacy in the classroom.
  1. Exploit “teachable moments”
    When students have free time, take an opportunity to listen to what they’re talking about. Most likely, it’s related to the media they watch, play and listen to! Breaking news stories, blockbuster movies, and celebrity meltdowns are all great opportunities for media analysis.
  2. Give students a chance to create media, not just analyze it
    Although there’s more to media education than just creating media, this is a key part of it: there’s no substitute for hands-on experience to help kids understand how things like editing and music can influence the way a movie or TV show affects us emotionally. Camera phones, storyboards and even magazine collages are all affordable and easy options for bringing media production into your classroom.
  3. Start and end with the key concepts
    Media education, and the media world, can feel overwhelming when you start to analyze it. By always coming back to the key concepts of media literacy you can keep from getting sidetracked as you analyze media products or cultural artifacts.
  4. Recognize that kids – and adults – enjoy media
    It’s important not to take a negative approach to media education. Teach kids that critiquing is not necessarily the same thing as criticizingand that we can identify and talk about problematic issues in the media we love without losing our enjoyment of them. Don’t forget to look at positive examples when discussing things like gender, stereotyping and so on.
  5. Teach about media, not just with media
    It’s not enough to use media in your classroom unless students are learning about media as well. Any time you’re using media in the classroom, look for a media education opportunity: for instance, if you’re showing the movie version of a play or book, have students analyze the differences between the two using the key concepts. How are the commercial considerations of a movie different from those of a book or a play? What technical differences change how the story is told? How are the expectations of a movie audience different from those of a play or a book? How are the film-makers’ values and assumptions similar to, or different from, the original author’s? How do all of these differences affect the explicit or implicit meaning?
  6. Make media education about asking questions, not learning answers
    Even though you may feel strongly about an issue or a media product, give your students room to come to their own conclusions. This is especially important when you’re dealing with issues such as stereotyping or body image, where your students (and you!) likely already have strong opinions: you need to model the practice of keeping an open mind and using a critical analysis, not your emotions, to lead you to a conclusion.
  7. Fight the perception that “It doesn’t matter”
    Students often try to avoid talking about the implications of media products by saying “it’s only a TV show” – or a video game, or a music video, or so on. Remind students that media can have meaning even if the creators didn’t plan it, and that we rely as much on the media as on anything else to tell us about the world. For instance, research has shown persuasively that media consumption can affect how we see others and how we see ourselves, even if we don’t realize it – a condition known as implicit or unconscious bias – and the presence or absence of different groups in media has been shown to affect how people feel about those groups.
  8. Assess and evaluate media literacy work
    “Will this be on the test?” By doing formal assessment and evaluation of the media literacy work students do, you communicate to them that it is valuable and important. Make sure that your evaluations are as well thought-out and objective as they are for all your other assignments, and keep them consistent: when in doubt, return to the key concepts to gauge your students’ knowledge, understanding, insight and skill. See Assessing and Evaluating Media Literacy Work for tips on how to do this.
  9. Let students bring their own media to the table
    To get students more engaged, look for opportunities for them to do media literacy work with their choice of media products. You can deal with concerns about content issues by making your expectations clear and a part of the evaluation scheme (ethical and responsible use of media is a key part of media literacy) and by having students only present excerpts of media products in group or whole-class settings.
  10. Keep up-to-date with media trends and developments
    You don’t have to be a media expert to teach media literacy, but it helps to be current about what kids are watching, playing, reading, wearing and listening to, not to mention what they’re doing online. This is a great opportunity to let kids be the experts and teach you about the latest thing!

What do you do to integrate media literacy in your classroom?

What tools do you use to support student media literacy?

How important is media literacy in your teaching?

What are some ways you can begin to integrate more media literacy in your own classroom?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about media literacy in your classroom and school.

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