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Media literacy

Media literacy refers to identifying different types of media and understanding the message. Today’s learners absorb a huge amount of information from many sources, far beyond the traditional media (TV, radio, newspaper, magazines).

Whether it is traditional media, text messages, video games, or advertising, all media shares a common element: someone created it for a reason and a specific audience. Understanding that reason and the audience is the basis of media literacy.

The following are some viewpoints, taken from Center for Media Literacy (2006, June 21) and  Media Awareness Network (2006, June 21), on how media literacy is defined.

After the definitions are suggestions for further reading.

Definitions of media literacy

Media literacy is a 21st century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyse, evaluate and create 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.

Today's definition of literacy is more than reading and writing. In order to be functionally literate in our media-saturated world, children and young people – in fact, all of us – have to be able to read the messages that daily inform us, entertain us and sell to us. As the Internet becomes a fact of life, the critical thinking skills that help young people navigate through traditional media are even more important.

Understanding media now requires far more than traditional media forms such as film, television, radio, and print texts. It also requires an understanding of how new digital media forms have transformed or "remediated" (Bolter, 1998) these traditional media forms. And, it requires an understanding of how students can learn to use these new digital media forms as tools for producing their own media and participating in media culture.

Further reading

Provide more information about what media literacy is.

Association for Media Literacy
A not-for-profit, charitable association of teachers, librarians, media professionals and others concerned with helping people develop an informed, critical understanding media.

Center for Media Literacy
An educational organization that provides leadership, public education, professional development and evidence-based educational resources nationally and internationally.

MediaSmarts (formerly Media Awareness Network)
Canada's Centre for Digital and Media Literacy that has resources for teachers and a section "Explore Digital and Media Literacy".

Timeline of media literacy

History of Media Literacy in the USA – Decade by Decade
Starting at 2010 and going back to pre-1960, the site trace influences on the growth of media literacy in the USA.

Provides links to some of the historical papers, original source documents, conference reports, and articles listed in the timeline.