“…media literacy is a very important tool for reinvigorating teachers.” – Assignment: Media Literacy
Both media and literacy have been part of society for longer than any of us alive today have been around to see. The World in Data website tells us that in 1820 only 12% of the world’s population could read and write while today, only 17% of the world’s population cannot read and write. The conversation about what it means to be literate is not new but the context that we apply to that conversation has changed drastically with the addition of media. When discussing literacy in today’s society, as opposed to 1820, we must also remember to consider what is classified as media. Media is defined as “the means of communication” and literate is defined as “able to read and write.” We live in a media-rich society and the ways in which we are able to communicate our intended messages change on a daily basis.
So in 2018, what does it mean to be media literate?
Trying to keep up to date with the ways in which our world is able to communicate messages is almost impossible. At times it feels like there is a new tool, trend or format for communicating introduced every day. I would venture to guess this likely isn’t just a feeling, this probably does happen! In order to classify ourselves as fully literate individuals, I believe we need to place value on all forms of media. Whether it be a book, digital book, website, podcast, magazine (digital or paper), app, social media or advertisement, we need a set of skills that allows us to safely and critically navigate all forms of media. If this is the case how do we prepare ourselves and our students to be able to critically understand these means of communication and determine what is valuable and what is not? Jaque shared that the Ontario Ministry of Education suggests that being media literate does not mean we should teach students to avoid the media but rather teach them how to, “watch carefully [and] think critically.”
Media Smarts provides educators with tools and strategies for teaching students how to be a critical consumer of media literacy. In the Media Literacy Fundamentals section of the website they highlight the 5 key concepts for media literacy:
- Media are constructions
- Audiences negotiate meaning
- Media have commercial implications
- Media have social and political implications
- Each media has a unique aesthetic form
As a teacher, I would look at this resource thinking it most certainly would be helpful for my own knowledge but I would also be wondering where I can find the tools and resources to use this with my students. They have you covered for this too! Right in the introduction to the 5 key concepts section, there is a link to their Media Minutes program that has videos and lessons ready to go and use in the classroom! The very first video asks students to think about imagining a day in their life and all the different media that they encounter. I think it would be interesting to then have students take the media that they see/experience each day and then categorize them into areas such as advertisements, commercials, public information, educational, etc. I wonder what that sorting activity would look like?
We can provide our students with the tools to be critical consumers but we also need to give them the opportunity to practice what it means to be critical. This needs to be done in a way that is relevant to their everyday lives. As teachers, we know that when we engage students with material that they have a vested interest in, their engagement can skyrocket! In my reading and research for this weeks post, I found a video that one, made me feel a little nostalgic for my high school days (see the video quality) and secondly made me realize that when we take what we know about student engagement and apply that to media literacy education we can truly create authentic learning opportunities for our students. I also found it interesting that the video below is from ten years ago, yet it applies in many ways to our current conversation in class.