What is media literacy?

“Media literacy is not just important, it’s absolutely critical. It’s going to make the difference between whether kids are a tool of the mass media or whether the mass media is a tool for kids to use.”

Linda Ellerbee, producer/host, Nick News

Today we live in an environment completely saturated by media messages – too many messages even to process consciously.  And we don’t think about it much.  According to most media theory experts, that can lead to serious consequences on a personal and cultural level.

Media literacy is an essential skill for everyone in the 21st century.  The ability to take apart a mediated message, to identify the storytelling techniques utilized, and to question the validity of the message itself are all key to living in a democratic society as well as a capitalist economy.  Without critically analyzing the ubiquitous media messages we unconsciously internalize, it is impossible to know if we are making good choices that are in line with our goals, values, and beliefs.  Media literacy gives us the language to describe, assess, and critique the media-saturated environment in which we live.

Media Literacy, and its partner Digital Literacy, involve studying the norms, tools, and syntax used by the media to convey an idea, as well as the skills needed to both code and decode media messages.

While media literacy programs have historically encouraged students to analyze television content and magazine ads  for embedded meanings, the trend has moved toward teaching students how to use the tools of the trade to produce their own media messages as well.



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