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Integrating Media Literacy Concepts and Skills into Teaching

Transforming concepts of media literacy into pedagogical practice can be a major challenge. Media Services program development has been inspired by three approaches to teaching media education highlighted in Douglas Kellner & Jeff Shares article, Critical Media Literacy is Not an Option (2007).

Approaches to Teaching Media Literacy

  1. Media Arts Education Approach
  2. Media Literacy Movement Approach
  3. Critical Media Literacy Approach

Media Arts Education Approach

"students are taught to value the aesthetic qualities of media and the arts while using their creativity for self-expression through creating art and media" (pp. 61)

In the 21st century, it is vital that all individuals develop the understanding and capability of creatively expressing their ideas through multiple forms, including multimedia. Beyond the benefits of media composition and creative expression, the skill sets students develop through media production are marketable and increasingly being integrated into courses with a focus on professional development or applied discipline research experiences.

Professional Development Examples:
Human Resource Development (HRD 5201)
IoE: Food Sustainability Google Map (SUST 4004)
Electrical Engineering PowerPoint Slide Show (EE 5601)
Science Ed. Student Teaching Video Capture (SCIED 5007)

Discipline Based Research Examples:
Architecture Video as Ecological Tool (ARCH 5110)
Linguistics Video for Conversational Analysis
Family Social Science Outreach (FSOS 2101)


Student produced media assignments are an excellent way to integrate this approach into your teaching and should be structured to align with articulated learning objectives. For further guidance, the Penn State Media Commons offers an excellent guide on developing media assignment instructional strategies. Minnesota also has a fair amount of campus media support infrastructure as Library Media Services often partners with other campus support services, such as OIT Consultation Services, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and various college/department level media services to support student media assignment develop and projects.

Media Literacy Movement Approach

"[the media literacy movement] approach attempts to expand the notion of literacy to include popular culture and multiple forms of media (music, video, Internet, advertising, etc.) while still working within a print literacy tradition" (pp. 61)

The media literacy movement approach is characterized by a more general level of media literacy concepts and outcomes. Though some are critical of this approach this level of media literacy is appropriate in many courses. Fundamental media literacy skills are an important foundation for becoming a critical consumer of media. Students should, at minimum, understand how media is used within their discipline contexts (in all forms), how to access relevant media resources, how to analyze information in multiple forms and evaluate its authority.

As an instructor, you can encourage students to develop foundational media literacy skill sets by encouraging a diverse use of sources, challenging students to consider the information being conveyed regardless of form ("read" images, sound), and to always consider the authority of a source within course and discipline contexts.

Critical Media Literacy Approach

"[critical media literacy] focuses on ideology critique and analyzing the politics of representation of crucial dimensions of gender, race, class, and sexuality; incorporating alternative media production; and expanding textual analysis to include issues of social context, control, resistance, and pleasure. A critical media literacy approach also expands literacy to include information literacy, technical literacy, multimodal literacy, and other attempts to broaden print literacy concepts to include different tools and modes of communicating" (pp. 61)

Media in all forms conveys information purposefully constructed from a specific perspective (bias) that stems from individual experience and context. Though certain disciplines have established understandings and methods of examining media through a critical media literacy lens, many do not but are nonetheless greatly influenced and impacted from both mass media and discipline specific representations. As mentioned earlier students should be expected to develop at least a foundational understanding of how media relates to their disciplines. However, we suggest that critical media literacy is particularly needed about specific issues, for example the debate over genetically modified food.

Instructors can aid in student development of critical media literacy skill sets by encouraging critical analysis of how discipline specific issues are represented in the field and mass media. For example, instructors can ask students to consider:

  1. Who is conveying this message?
  2. What incentive might they have to convey information from this perspective?
  3. What language and media (e.g., text, audio, video, graphics) are they using to describe this message?
  4. What audience is this message crafted for?
  5. How is the media and language displayed tapping in to commonly held stereotypes or representations (e.g., the polar bear on the melting ice cap to represent global warming)?
  6. How are these points valid or in opposition to current research?
  7. What communication strategies and representations might the field take to refute misinformation?

In addition to screening media and class discussions, instructors in some disciplines like Linda Buturian's Water Sustainability course (PSTL 1906), have had their students produce multimedia projects to reflect on and communicate these complex issues through multimedia.

Additional Media Literacy Materials:
Beach, R. (2006). Teachingmedialiteracy.com: A Resource Guide to Links and Activities. New York: Teachers College Press. Website: http://teachingmedialiteracy.com

Hobbs, R & Jensen, A. The Past, Present, and Future of Media Literacy Education of Media Literacy Education http://bit.ly/61HiDf.

Kellner, D. & Share, J. (2007). Critical Media Literacy is Not an Option. In J.W. Hunsinger and J. Nolan (Eds.) Learning Inquiry. Springer. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11519-007-0004-2

Myers, J. & Beach, R. (2004). Constructing critical literacy practices through technology tools and inquiry. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education 4 (3). Available: http://www.citejournal.org/vol4/iss3/languagearts/article1.cfm

Myers, J., & Beach, R. (2001). Hypermedia authoring as critical literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 44(6), 538-46.

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