Developing Media Literacy in the classroom

To be a media  literate person in the 21st century, you must know how to read all forms of media and produce them, including visual media, digital media, social media,  Internet media, mobile media, etc.  In other words, today  Media Literacy is more than  what used to be called  “the media”, i.e. television, newspapers, magazines, radio and cinema. We need to be concerned about  this huge variety of new media and become aware of how they share the same goal  as traditional media:  to communicate a message to the intended audience. Plain old reading and writing of words on paper just isn’t enough any more.

The logical consequence of the statement above is that  Media Literacy  cannot be separate from education any longer. If we train students in basic skills such as reading and arithmetic, if we teach them about their native languages, and the history of their countries, if we do all these things so that they may be useful adults and productive citizens, then we must teach them about the media as well.

There are many definitions of Media Literacy but for the scope of this post I have chosen one from Canada, where the Ontario Ministry of Education wrote:

“Media Literacy is concerned with helping students develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of mass media, the techniques used by them, and the impact of these techniques. More specifically, it is education that aims to increase the students’ understanding and enjoyment of how the media work, how they produce meaning, how they are organized, and how they construct reality. Media literacy also aims to provide students with the ability to create media products.”

Hence,  media illiteracy would be really dangerous because those who are not media literate, do not question media messages, or do not seek out reliable, trustworthy information, are destined to be tricked, misled and fooled by advertising, politicians, propaganda and so on.

Now the question is: how can we help students to develop their Media Literacy skills? The job is not easy but some essential clues provided by experts on the topic can turn out really helpful.   Nick Peachey, Learning Technology Consultant, writer and trainer, developed this topic at Macmillan’s Teachers’ Training Conference in Barcelona some days ago. You can follow his presentation below these lines:

I would like to finish this initial reflection on such a challenging issue by recommending you a book by Cyndy Scheibe and Faith Rogow: “The Teacher’s Guide to Media Literacy: Critical Thinking in a Multimedia World”. In it the authors provide concrete, innovative ways to integrate media literacy across the curriculum. A companion website provides tools for analyzing all kinds of media.
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