Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 5 – Media Literacy

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 5-Media Literacy - In our modern world students need to understand and be proficient in 5 Essential Literacies, and School Librarians need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit. In Part 5 we look at Media Literacy as a way that students can be successful in future coursework and as global citizens.In our complex, information-rich, culturally diverse world, students need to understand and be proficient in these Five Essential Literacies:

  • Reading and Writing (the original literacy)
  • Content/Disciplinary Literacy (content & thinking specific to a discipline)
  • Information Literacy (the traditional library curriculum)
  • Digital Literacy (how and when to use various technologies)
  • Media Literacy (published works—encompasses all other literacies)

As School Librarians we need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit to the library, so I’m addressing each of these literacies in a separate blog post to offer examples/suggestions about how we might do that. Previous blog posts covered reading, content/disciplinary literacy, information literacy, and digital literacy, so this final post of the series looks at Media Literacy.

Media literacy during the last half of the 20th century focused primarily on print and television advertising, but in the 90s, with the growth of computers and the Internet, organizations such as the Center for Media Literacy appeared and promoted an expanded view of media literacy. Still, for the first decade of the new millennium, media literacy took a backseat to digital literacy and digital citizenship.

When introduction of the iPhone (in 2007) and Android phones (in 2008) put ready access to social media in the hands of teens & children, media literacy became a major issue for educators. And the “fake news” epidemic surrounding the last presidential election thrust media literacy into the spotlight and brought about its current “hot” status.

Defining Media Literacy

  • Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. Common Sense Media
  • Media literacy encompasses the practices that allow the media consumer to access, critically evaluate, and create media to improve their communication effectiveness. Wikipedia
  • Media Literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, communicate and create using all forms of communicationNatl. Assoc. for Media Literacy Education

Here is the definition of Media Literacy in our National School Library Standards:

  • Media Literacy is…a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms—from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy. Center for Media Literacy

Media is one of 5 specific literacies defined by our new National School Library Standards. Along with information literacy and digital literacy (defined in earlier posts in this series) the NSLS includes:

  • Text literacy: ability to read, write, analyze, and evaluate textual works of literature and nonfiction as well as personal and professional documents. [related to my earlier post on reading]
  • Visual literacy: ability to understand and use images, including the ability to think, learn, and express oneself in terms of images. [related to my earlier post on content literacy, i.e. charts, graphs, maps, etc.]

Media literacy encompasses the other 4 literacies—either by type of material or by skills needed—as well as civic responsibility, so I believe we can have a broader appreciation of media literacy by encompassing it within UNESCO’s definition of Literacy (as do the National School Library Standards) and its 5 Laws of Literacy.

The United Nations 5 Laws of Media & Information Literacy

click to enlarge

Literacy: the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and compute, using materials associated with various contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society. (UNESCO 2006)

Integrating Media Literacy

School Librarians may wonder why the sudden pressure for media literacy—surely our Information Literacy lessons on evaluation help students decipher the true from the not-true resources. Such is not the case for two reasons: first, school librarians rarely have an opportunity to deeply immerse students in Information Literacy skills, and second, students often lack the command of subject matter that sifting information requires. No amount of website evaluation—RADCAB, or CRAAP, or my own ABC—overrides well-rounded knowledge of a topic or issue, and a particularly interesting article explaining that is Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?

A lack of full understanding makes it all the more important to integrate our Literacy Lessons with classroom content, with the standards and objectives the teacher is using for the unit, and to coordinate our lessons with classroom activities. We need to not only teach students how to analyze media, but also how to effectively and ethically communicate their own narratives through various forms of media.

As I said earlier, media literacy encompasses all other literacies: reading skills for printed media, information literacy for analyzing information, content-area literacy to understand concepts and place them in context, and digital literacy because so much media is now digitally presented. Thus media literacy can be incorporated into any and all of our other literacy lessons whether we have students using print, audio, video, or graphic media presented through books, newspapers and magazines, social media, games, radio and television, or videos and movies, and particularly when students are creating products using these presentation formats.

Integrating media literacy can be a 5 minute “media moment” or an entire unit, depending on the purpose of the library visits. When creating these lessons, I focus on the 3 concepts of Media Literacy:

  • Media Forms – including signs on businesses and billboards on the highway
  • Media Messages – including ads and celebrity endorsements to persuade us to purchase
  • Media Memories – personal communication, using social media

Recommended Online Resources

I haven’t yet created many media literacy lessons for students, but I am curating online resources for creating them and have a few that I can recommend to help you construct your own Library Literacy Lessons.

Civic Online Reasoning or COR uses everyday digital content, the COR paper, and online assessments to engage learners in credibility decision-making around three COR Competencies: Who’s behind the information? What’s the evidence? What do other sources say? The free assessments include Google Docs assessments to copy and digital rubrics to download. These tasks are perfect for learning across the curriculum and especially for librarian-led learning.

Common Sense Education's News & Media Literacy Curriculum Resources Common Sense Media’s News & Media Literacy Curriculum Resources offers strategies to equip students with the core skills they need to think critically about today’s media. Built on more than 10 years of expertise and classroom testing, these lessons and related teaching materials give students the essential skills to be smart, savvy media consumers and creators. From lesson plans about fact-checking to clickbait headlines and fake news, we’ve covered everything.

Project Look Sharp is a media literacy initiative of Ithaca College that develops and provides lesson plans, media materials, training, and support for the effective integration of media literacy with critical thinking into classroom curricula at all education levels, including integration with the new common core standards.

In an EasyBib blog post Identifying Fake News: An Infographic and Educator Resources10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Article, Michelle Kirschenbaum states, “You want to be informed, but a good deal of the information out there is incorrect or biased. Here are some things to keep an eye out for when reading a news article.” The infographic at right was created from the article.

The National Association for Media Literacy Education sponsors a yearly Media Literacy Week in the U.S. and Canada during the first full week of November. They have events and resources that can help introduce media literacy to your students early in the school year.

I hope this blog article is helpful. I’ll continue adding resources to this list as I develop my own media literacy lessons for middle school students.

This concludes my series of blog posts on the 5 Essential Literacies for Students. I invite readers to offer comments and suggestions about any or all of these literacies.

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